The lineage of demons? By the sounds of those names, you might think so, but since this is a blog about wine and food, what we’ve got here are three grape names and a place. Specifically, the place (Sibenik) is the name of a town on the northern Dalmatian coast in the nation of Croatia which holds a thin and delightfully rocky sliver of land bordering the Adriatic Sea. And though wine vines grow all over the country, Dalmatia is Croatia’s viticultural epicenter.
Most of this region’s vineyard area is dedicated to the production of massive, rustic reds made from grapes like Plavac Mali and Babic, but though Plavina is just as much a part of this region’s oenological as these black-skinned bruisers, it is a very different thing in the glass. As stated in the title, Plavina has been found to be the vinous child of Tribidrag (a.k.a. Zinfandel which by now has become well known as a Dalmatian native) and a fairly obscure white grape variety (Verdeca) from just across the water in Puglia, Italy. Precisely where this coupling happened is still not clear, but both Tribidrag/Zinfandel and Vedeca can be found in Puglia, while Vedeca is entirely absent in Croatia, so it seems likely that the deed was done on the Italian side of the sea, and carried over to Dalmatia, though oddly, there is no trace of Plavina anywhere in Puglia.
As already mentioned, most of the red wines from the Dalmatian coast are quite dark, dense and rustic, but Plavina’s nature is something quite different. Where the typical Dalmatian reds are tannic, thick-bodied and low acid affairs, most likely due to Plavina’s white-skinned parent, it is lighter in color with fresher acidity and a elegance not seen in any of its red coastal cousins.
In the interest of clarity, I’m in no way slagging off Tribidrag or Plavac Mali or Babic, but as anyone who knows Zinfandel wines first hand, it doesn’t turn out the most versatile wines in the world, so finding such a feminine red from a place that is so well-known for callous-handed, masculine reds is a real treat. None of these wines are likely to turn up at your corner liquor store, but the family of Dalamtian grapes are quite peculiar and are well worth seeking out.
I paired this lovely little Dalmatian red with a first course of lentil soup flavored with veggies, marjoram, savory bay leaf and paprika, followed by Croatian-style sausages pan-fried with onions with ajvar sauce and roasted potatoes on the side.
Ivica Pilizota Winery North Dalmatian Coast Plavina 2013
Blackish purple garnet color. Fairly delicate nose of lightly smoky blackberry, raspberry and myrtle fruit notes underpinned by aromas of juniper, sweetened chestnut paste, and roasted beef. In the mouth the wine shows a medium weight and very well balanced mouthfeel with soft, smooth and elegant tannins and sprightly acidity that vaults flavors of black cherry, strawberry preserves, lingonberry, cinnamon, dark chocolate and black tea. Clean, “sweet” and polished finish. Nice stuff.