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Wine of the Week: I Love Croatia

Sat Feb 14, 2009

Bibich RiservaI love Croatia. I’ve never been there, sure, but there are plenty of places that I love that I’ve never been: Argentina, Japan and Greece, to name a few. But before I wanted to climb the mountains of Patagonia or eat Argentine beef, before I learned about tiny village sake makers in Japan or imagined eating fresh feta as salty as the Aegean, I wanted to visit Croatia.

When I first learned about Croatia, it was the bullet-marred neighbor of Bosnia and Serbia, suffering amid the turmoil of the Yugoslav wars. Needless to say, it wasn’t somewhere I wanted to go. But, the next time I heard about Croatia was from some friends who had gone on Semester at Sea. They came back with “I heart Croatia” bumper stickers, and told of the cerulean waters of the Adriatic Sea, more beautiful than anything they had seen in the world. I decided I wanted to paddle up the Dalmatian Coast from Dubrovnik to Split, eat fish harpooned from the clear blue sea, and explore a civilization that has survived since the first millennium BC.

Now I’ve discovered yet another reason to want to visit Croatia—wine! The country is home to more than 300 diverse wine regions, producing whites (about 70%), reds and small amounts or rosé. The wines are similar in style to northeastern Italy, Austria, Hungry and Germany and include some of the same varietals, particularly Frankovka, also known as Blaufränkisch. But Croatia also makes some incredible, acid-driven wines from native varietals like Plavac Mali, which is an ancient relative of Zinfandel, and it seems that the best wines come from the Dalmatian Coast.

This Valentine’s Day, I’m paying tribute to my love of Croatia with a bottle of 2006 Bibich Riserva from the town of Skradin in North Dalmatia. A blend of three native varietals—Babich, Plavina and Lasin—the wine is full of fresh cherry and raspberry fruit, hints of clove and cardamom from aging in American oak, and an undercurrent of spicy black pepper. What I really love about this wine is its vibrant acidity and lighter body. It’s perfect for an evening when the meal might ordinarily call for a white wine, but you’re really in the mood for red (Dungeness crab, anyone?). I first tried the wine at Providence, for my birthday dinner, and it went remarkably well with the Black Bass and truffles I ate. It’s also equally tasty with a hearty roasted chicken or braised short ribs or stinky cheeses. Better yet, it’s got something for everyone—a little oak for the California wine lover and plenty of acidity for Old World wine geeks. And fortunately, since my enthusiasm for Croatian wine isn’t shared by many people, you can get this, and most Croatian wines, for less than $20.

Try it, and I think you’ll love Croatia, too.

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6 Responses to “Wine of the Week: I Love Croatia”

  1. Food Woolf Says:

    I heart Croatia too! I tried this wine with pan fried trout the other night and thoroughly enjoyed how the wine’s acidity and balanced juiciness played against the fish. Thanks for the beautifully written wine write up–you say it all so eloquently!

  2. Frank Vinko Mustac Says:

    I like this wine a lot, too. Below is a link to an article I wrote about Bibich wines after interviewing winemaker Alen Bibic and NY importer Daniel Pedisich. The story was published in the Croatian Chronicle newspaper on July 14, 2006.


    Frank Vinko Mustac

  3. Alan Says:

    I send most of my clients to wonderful Pelegrini restaurant in Šibenik for a special slow food/wine tasting dinner. I insist on Bibic wines being local but being simply great with food! Besides mentioned Riserva, I would highly recommend his Debit and Shiraz wines.
    We also did few wine tastings at Bibic wine cellar in Plastovo. Alen is not only a good wine maker but a great cook as well!

  4. Leah Greenstein Says:

    Thanks for the comment, Frank and Alan. I’d really love to try more of Bibic’s wines; and will add Šibenik to my list of places to go when I get to Croatia.

  5. Alan Says:

    If you need something specific, contact me through my web site (just click on my name) and I will be happy to share lots of “insiders info” so you get the best Croatia offers! I would really like to hear your opinion on several local wines!

  6. Mary Luz Says:

    I agree- Croatian wine can be VERY, very good- and like you say, very under-represented. Here in Canada, my Croatian husband and I discovered Zlahtina – a white from the island of Krk- at a Croatian owned seafood restaurant in Toronto called Joso. We fell into like right away with this crisp, clean white. We found it at the LCBO (our liquor store here)- and we buy it up when ever we find a few stray bottles! 🙂

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