There was more endorsement of the quality of wine from the Croatia's premier island of Hvar on November 6, 2015, as leading producer Zlatan Plenkovic was included in a prestigious top 10 list of the world's best oak-aged wines by respected French wine experts Alliances du Monde at their annual awards. Plenkovic, owner of Zlatan Otok on the southern shores of Hvar in the village of Sveta Nedjelja, was judged to have some ninth with his 2010 Grand Cru.
The Grand Cru is made from specially selected grapes from Dalmatia's most famous red variety, Plavac Mali (which literally translates as 'little blue'), a relative of Zinfandel, and an integral part of one of the more fascinating wine stories of the last 15 years. Reseachers at Davis University confirmed in 2001 that Croatia was indeed the home of the Zinfandel grape variety, after a 100% match with a local variety called Crljenak Kastelanski, a significant boost not only for the Croatian wine story, but also for its emerging wine tourism scene.
(Zlatan Plavac Grand Cru in 9th Place - Photo: Screenshot from Alliance du Monde website)
Plenkovic's home base of Sveta Nedjelja has some of the world's steepest vineyards, and its south-facing slopes (see lead picture) are among the best locations for the growing of Plavac Mali. A regular international medal winner for both his reds and whites (including best white wine in the region for his Posip at the Decanter awards in London), the French recognition came hot on the heels of another medal on November 5, at the annual Sabatini awards in Tucepi (see Plenkovic in the centre, below).
Not to be outdone, Hvar's Svirce Cooperative, PZ Svirce, also boasted international success with a silver medal at the annual organic Mundus Vini awards in Germany with its Ivan Dolac Barrique 2009. The wine, also made from Plavac Mali, was the first certified organic Plavac Mali in Croatia, and as an example of its consistency, both the Ivan Dolac Barrique 2007 and 2008 won gold at the same awards in previous years.
Known for its sunshine, nightlife, beaches and celebrity draw, the Hvar wine scene has been somewhat hidden on the tourism island until recently. Where once the island had 5,700 hectares of grapes under cultivation in the 19th century, today it has just 280, but what it lacks in quantity, it more than makes up for in quality, with other notable producers such as Andro Tomic, Ivo Caric and Ivo Dubokovic well-known not only in Croatia, but increasingly on the international stage.