For the sake of clarity, the now preferred name for this ubiquitous white grape variety is its Croatian one (Grasevina), make no mistake, this variety has more aliases than a con man. Vine researchers have settled on the Grasevina moniker because when its geograpical extension is plotted across a map, Croatia seems to be the axis of the wheel. Further, Grasevina is Croatia’s most widely planted grape, as well as the place in which the grape clearly performs at its highest level. None of these factors guarantee a Croatian homeland, but they do clearly point in that direction.
So to very briefly illustrate this phenomenon of ubiquity, this somewhat obscure grape (despite its pervasiveness) can be found growing in Spain as Borba, in Italy as Riesling Italico, in the Teutonic nations of Germany, Austrian and Switzerland under the handle Welschriesling, and as far east as Hungary where it is known as Olaszrizling, not to mention in various regions in Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, Slovenia and even in California and Australia. All of these names cited clearly imply some relation to the great German variety Riesling, but in truth, there is precisely zero genetic relation between the two varieties which provides yet another reason to favor the vine’s Croatian name which does not suggest the erroneous connection.
Lately, Croatia has become something of a darling for the tourist looking to get off of Europe’s more beaten paths. Croatia’s Dalmatian coast on the Adriatic Sea’s eastern shore is blessed with bright sunshine, craggy, rocky shorelines, clear blue waters and lots of charming historical towns and cities like the Roman-founded Split and the beautiful multi-culti city of Dubrovnik. With a quick look at Croatia on the map, the country’s borders give the nation the appearance of a pair of pants. Now if you were to imagine these “pants” facing you (at something of an angle) the left trouser leg would represent the coastal, Dalmatian region. The right leg however is entirely landlocked and together with the left one, Croatia essentially “straddles” the neighboring country of Serbia.
This evening’s wine hails from the “right leg” so to speak, and therefore has nothing to do with the now sexy Dalmatian coast. No, this “right leg” region, which goes by the name of Slavonia, is a place of heavily forested mountains (Slavonian oak has been the wood of choice for Italian coopers and winemakers for centuries) with a more rigid, continental climate than the sweeter, more Mediterranean one that prevails in Dalmatia.
As a variety, Grasevina is a grape that has no shortage of natural acidity which pushed it into the role of the production of less than carefully made sweet wines, but as the reputation and understanding of the grape has grown, more and more of the total production is being devoted to making high-quality dry wines, both still and sparkling. And though Grasevina’s calling card is its bright and refreshing acidity, in Slavonia, its wines add a depth and richness that most clearly demonstrate the great potential of this variety which had for too long been relegated to the role of an also ran. This particular bottleing perfectly illustrates this more serious side. The juice is macerated on the skins for three days to extract more pigment and weight, and the wine ultimately clocks in at a hefty 13.7% alcohol.
So to take advantage of this wine’s expansive character, I matched it with grilled chicken breasts that I had previously marinated in a paste of paprika, dill, caraway seeds, wine, garlic and yogurt with a side of roasted garlic and sour cream mashed potatoes and a sweet and sour cabbage, pepper, onion, cucumber and carrot salad.
Enjingi Croatia Kutjevo Region Grasevina 2012
Fairly deep golden yellow color. Big, intense and powerful nose of lemon merengue pie, yellow plums, mango, honey, buttered corn, and powdered ginger. The palate is full-bodied, rich and chewy balanced by a bright acidity with huge flavors of peach nectar, apricot jam, orange iced tea, pine oil, hazelnut and medicinal herbs. Long and very clean quinine notes on the finish.