Written by Saša Špiranec
The connection is actually not a secret at all, as today almost everybody knows that the easternmost Croatian town breeds excellent Traminac wines. However, why this aromatic variety took hold in such serious quantity in Ilok and why does it yield such results here is a secret. There are Traminac vines in all wine regions of continental Croatia, just like they are found in all wine nations of middle and eastern Europe, then in very serious quantity in Italy and globally famous in France, specifically in Alsace.
There are two Traminac varieties, scented and red, although in vivo they are hard to differentiate as the grape of the scented one, originally Gewurtztraminer, is also of red colour when completely ripe. Some sources claim it is the same variety, but in different clones, while others claim the varieties are separate. In nurseries they differentiate them as two varieties, but in any case they both have an equal or similar scent and same colour. The mysterious relationship of Ilok and Traminac lies primarily in the fact that this wine region is not customary for this variety, and despite this it yields some of the most successful wines. Traminac as a variety is special by several parameters which means it likes well insolated positions, but a climate as cold as possible. Traminac has an incredible ease in collecting sugars, which makes winemakers sometimes cease fermentation so the alcohols are not too high, so the wine is often semi-dry or semi-sweet, even with a regular harvest.
Indeed, Traminac when ripe has probably the lowest acids of all white varieties in general, which means we should never encounter a bitter Traminac. Thirdly, just like any aromatic variety it is sensitive to the climate conditions, providing more intense and richer aromas in colder regions. The paradox of Ilok and Traminac lies in the fact that Ilok is one of the warmest continental regions, something that should limit aromas, and yet, the wines have a more intense scent than elsewhere. Vineyards are on sandy soil which increases sugars in grapes more than the clay typical of northern regions, but too high alcohols are prevented with timely intervention in harvest time and grape selection. The problem of too low acids in Ilok remains unsolved, but the final wine breathes freshness and has no issues with dullness, on the contrary.
Wineries such as Ilok Cellars have proven this with countless awards at many competitions, but above all with the popularity of their Traminac on the market. Ilok Cellars are not the only ones in Ilok who create excellent Traminac, but are the only ones to make it in so many styles. The basic one with the quality label is the most affordable one and is usually dry, functioning as an everyday wine for those who find Graševina or Riesling too bitter. The more ambitious one with a superior label is a wine to go with food. Under the Principovac label is the lavish scented nectar which is in itself a gastronomical experience, and predicate wines are made from late or ice harvests, yielding some of the finest sweets in terms of wine, in general. The range of their Traminac wines offers a true small masterclass of this variety.
Translated from Jutarnji List.