The Indigenous Grapes of Croatia: Kujundzusa

By , 06 Aug 2016, 12:18 PM News

Some Croatian grape varieties are hard to pronounce due to lack of vowel. That is not the case in the hills of Imotski - meet Kujundžuša.

Imotski is a town in the Dalmatian hinterland, and when you mention Imotski to a wine-lover in Croatia, the first thing that comes to mind is kujundžuša variety. An indigenous white-wine variety has historically occupied over 80 percent of vineyards in Imotski valley, and today the percentage is similar. The valley is a typical karst formation, and the soil there has a lot of sand, which is exactly the type of soil this grape variety needs to produce the best possible quality. It’s also known as Žutac or Tvrdac, and has not been genetically linked to any other variety. It is supposed that vines were brought to this region by the Romans, but there is some evidence that the Illyric tribes were cultivating vines and making wine before the Romans as well.

The odd name (try pronouncing it something like Ku-YUNDZH-u-sha) supposedly comes from the Turkish word “kuyun”, which means gold. This variety gives extremely high yields, and in order to produce quality wines it has to be controlled, as lower yields produce grapes with higher sugar content, although the acids are usually very low. Traditionally the wine was produced using very long maceration time, which created intense yellow, almost orange wine, strong, tart, somewhat dull (due to low acidity) wine that only local drinkers, used to that flavour, can appreciate. Luckily, in the recent decades modern winemakers started producing kujundžuša wine using more modern techniques and harvesting much sooner, thus creating dry, bright yellow (with greenish hue) fresh, light wine, somewhat mineral and salty, but with soft fruity notes.

The alcohol content is usually low (because of the somewhat lower sugars in the grapes), around 11.5%, which makes it an ideal easy drinking wine, very refreshing in the hot summer nights (served at around 10°C), as an aperitif or paired with noble fish and seafood. It does not gain much with aging, just like most other fresh wines, and should be consumed within several years. Some producers have attempted maturing kujundžuša in oak barrels and the results seemed somewhat promising, but have recently given that up, so it’s not going to be easy finding any barrique kujundžuša. You can, however, find kujundžuša created using sur lie method, with somewhat more complex flavours, citrus fruits and peach notes, as well as bitter almonds.

Kujundžuša is not an easy wine to buy, as it is not very popular outside of Imotski region, and most consumers are not even aware of quality wines that are being produced nowadays. In the stores you will probably be able to find only the wine produced by Imota d.d. company, which is an entry wine, and you should not have high expectations. There are other producers, family wineries, producing wines of much higher quality, and the best way to buy their wines is to go to Imotski region, take a tour of those several wineries (namely: Grabovac, Jerković, Šimunović, Sušić, Sočo, Maršić, Buljan i Glavota).

To learn more about the growers of Imotski, here is a report on an international wine press trip there.

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