Somewhere nestled in the hills of San Francisco, I found myself in a chilly wine cellar of my unassuming host. As the recognition of wine labels started to register on my face, my host realized he was in good wine company, resulting in a stellar line-up of open bottles. This lead to the discovery of one delicious and exotic wine from Croatia.
Being a stones throw away from France and just across the Adriatic waters from Italy, I'm pretty sure if you were to squint hard enough from the shoreline of Croatia, you can see Italians sunbathing and eating spaghetti across the wavy seas. (Stereotyping, I am not.)
Croatia is shaped much like a seahorse and vintners have somehow mastered planting neat and tidy square vineyards within this oddly shaped country. Croatian wines joined the international wine stage in 2004 when the press got their hands on some wines and were pleasantly surprised. Like many parts of the Mediterranean, winemaking actually dates back to Antiquity and having recently gained in popularity due to amiable prices and exceptional quality.
Along the tail of the seahorse, lie Dalmatia. A well known wine growing region where both indigenous and international grape varieties are planted. In the northern part of Damatia, (similar latitude to Tuscany), among the limestone, red, and rocky soils, near Skradin, lies Bibich Winery. (If you know where this is without the use of Google Maps, I'm impressed). With a family history of winemaking, but with little interest from other family members, Alen Bibic revitalized the family business in 1995 at the ripe age of 22. Pun intended.
When Alen's bottle of 2007 Bibich Reserva was pulled from my host's cellar, I immediately poured out the previous wine from my glass in anticipation, (well poured it straight into my mouth that is, don't want to be rude at a dinner party now do I?!) The Reserva is a blend of Babic, Palvina and Lasin, all native varietals rumored to be cousins with the Californian Zinfandel. Aged 12 months in American oak barriques. This wine is both recognizable and unique. Being rustic much like its Italian counterparts but completely different with elements of raisinated dark fruits, musty cellar, cranberry, pepper spice with a solid tannin structure. Being relatively light to medium bodied, there is a resemblance to Zinfandel. Overall, an exotic blend sure to excite your palate.
When I ventured to K&L's website, they are selling this wine for $17.99. A wine worth much more and absolutely worth all the conversation that will be had while tasting.
My casual Sunday dinner with friends has now sparked a strong interest to learn more about Croatian wines putting them front and center on my wine stage.