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DWWA 2014: Croatia insights

Hear from our Croatia Regional Chair Angela Muir MW on which wines to buy, which wines to leave on the shelf and what to keep an eye on from this year's Decanter World Wine Awards....

Our entries from Croatia largely went native this year. Lots of golden Grasevina from the lush, inland, hilly zones north of Bosnia-Herzegovina scored highly with dry, late-harvest and true dessert wines. These will surely contribute to a real change of image for a grape that used to be infamous, at least to the older British drinking public, as Laski Rizling. Grasevina’s broad, easily appealing fresh bread and lemon curd hallmark serve to make it Croatia’s most popular grape.

What should we buy from here?

On the coast, especially in Istria, there are various forms of Malvazija – a little firmer and crisper in style than those from other regions. In the past five years, the excellent and self-critical Istrian winemakers have learned how to best show off this difficult grape and quality is vastly improved. Further south, in Dalmatia, young Malvazijas are vivid and lively, cutting nicely through local seafood and the wonderful regional olive oil it is cooked with. Wines with more maturity no longer have the high macerations and high alcohols of the past but are now subtly lengthened and softened by skilful use of acacia or light oak to leave them herbal and gently spicy.

What should we leave on the shelf?

The white grape Posip did not fare as well as in past years. The wines were mostly hotter and clumsier than they have been, mainly because of vintage conditions. Dalmatia’s starred, Plavac Mali, which until now has consistently become cleaner and more visibly full of red plum fruit and finer tannins, reverted to its past slightly dirty and farmyardy style – at least as far as our entries were concerned. This was a shame; let’s hope it’s merely a blip.

What should we keep an eye on?

Teran from Istria: it can be tough but, when made well, it’s a cool, elegant red with pure sloe and elderberry fruit and a great partner in a blend with Merlot. Finally, two white wine pleas for producers: next year, can we see some deliciously fresh, Marastinas as well as more wonderful, rich, herb- and peachdriven Grks? Croatia’s native grapes need to be more widely known and appreciated. The second plea is to Decanter readers: the extraordinary dedication that goes into making dessert wines deserves your recognition, and Croatia makes them out of almost every grape going. Seek them out, sip, savour, smile and spread the word about these and the country’s other hidden gems.

Written by Decanter

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