Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Zlatan Otok Winery: Croatian wines with a view



 
After a morning of winding roads, one-lane mountain tunnels, and a disturbing lack of guard rails, I came to the third and final stop on a wine tour of Hvar in Sveta Nedjelja. It’s a small village nestled along the coast overlooked by slopes of grape vineyards of Zlatan Plenkovic's family winery, Zlatan Otok.

Their Bilo Idro Marina and Restaurant was a couple days away from opening during my visit, so instead I tasted a few of the wines and enjoyed fresh octopus salad and prawns under a shady tree on the terrace of the Tamaris restaurant up the hill. A better choice, in fact, thanks to the beautiful views overlooking the Adriatic. 

The winery is best known for its Plavac Mali, a rich, full-bodied wine with a high alcohol content (12%-17%) that is native to the Dalmatian Coast. Genetic testing revealed that it’s actually a cross between Zinfandel and Dobricic grapes. In fact, those Napa Valley Zinfandels you’ve probably enjoyed actually originated Croatia. They are also the only producer of Grand Cru in Croatia.

On the already sunny Hvar island, grapes on the south slope receive an additional boost of light from the sun's reflecting of the water. The climate, soil type and shape of vineyards means pesticides aren't necessary to protect the crop, though the rough terrain means harvesting must be done manually.



While much of Croatia's wine production is consumed domestically, the wines of Zlatan Otok are available across parts of Europe and through a distributor in New Jersey. They have also been negotiating a deal to bring their wines to Trader Joe's. 

Of course, nothing beats enjoying a glass on Croatia's most beautiful island.