Indigenous grapes, various micro-climates, different approaches to winemaker, a range of professional egos – for such a small place the wine scene on Hvar is truly fascinating. Here are some winemakers (and wines) not to miss:
Andro Tomic (Jelsa) – One of Croatia’s most well-known winemakers, and certainly one of the most flamboyant, Andro Tomic is the ultimate Dalmatian bon viveur and the only Croatian winemaker to appear naked in Playboy. His Romanesque cellars in Jelsa are magnificent, as are his wines. A passionate Hvarophile with a wine education from France, Tomic produces outstanding local variery wines (Beleca in the white, Plavac Mali Barrique in the red), as well as working with international varieties, such as Sveti Klement, which is akin to a traditional claret. Don’t miss his Prosek dessert wine, regarded as the best in the country. The most popular wine tasting experience on Hvar.
Ivo Dubokovic (Jelsa) – Another winemaker passionate about the island, Ivo Dubokovic has been named as Croatia’s top boutique winemaker, and with good reason. Not afraid to experiment and faithful to the grapes of Hvar, Dubokovic has come up with a unique football team of 11 excellent wines from his annual production of 25,000 bottles a year. Coupled with his professional marketing experience, the Dubokovic range is highly sought after in the top restaurants of Zagreb, particularly the reds, and bottles to look out for include 2718 (sunshine in a bottle, after the number of hours of sun Hvar averages annually), Medvedica and Medvid. The Dubokovic tasting experience is the most intimate and seductive, conducted as it is by candelit is his wine cellar, and accompanied by a tasting of his outstanding flavoured olive oils.
Teo Huljic (Jelsa) – One of Hvar’s smaller but most talented producers, Teo Huljic produces about 6,000 bottles a year in his cellar in the back streets on Jelsa’s old town, next to an excellent restaurant which bears his name, but the quality is excellent. Passionate about the island’s indigenous grapes, his range of whites in particular celebrate the very best of Hvar’s white grapes. This year, he has added another local variety which is close to dying out, Mekuja, with just 350 bottles produced. He is also keen to experiment as well, and recently became the first to plant Chardonnay on Hvar, where he intends to blend with Prc and Posip and age in oak. If you can persuade Teo to do a tasting with his slow food menu, it is a divine experience.
Ivo Caric (Svirce) – One of the rising stars of the Croatian wine scene, the rise of Ivo Caric is a success story to be celebrated. Passionate about the traditions of the islands and the native varieites available, Caric has built up an excellent national (and increasingly international) reputation for his small range of wines, which are now exported to many countries in Europe, and as far away as California. His Bogdanusa was the first to get international awards for this signature Hvar white, while his Plovac Ploski and Plovac Ploski Barrique are regarded by a growing number of experts as among the best Plavac Mali wines in the country. Caric last year opened a tasting facility on the canal in Vrboska. He also has a shop in Stari Grad where you can buy his wines, as well as other island-made products.
Svirce Cooperative (PZ Svirce) – Don’t let the word ‘cooperative’ put you off, PZ Svirce oozes quality, as well as offering the most expansive range of wines on Hvar. The first winery in Croatia to have a certified organic Plavac Mali back in 2003, and they have an impressive range of organic wines today. Pride of the winery is the Ivan Dolac Barrique which has won international organisc gold two years running at Biofach Mundus Vini in Germany. Their standard Plavac Hvar is one of the best quality Plavac Mali wines at the more affordable end of the market, and do try and get to try their Posip Deluxe (only 5,000 bottles). PZ Svirce has shops in Jelsa, Stari Grad and Hvar Town, or you can visit them in Svirce (last building on the right as you head to Vrisnik – impossible to miss). PZ Svirce also has an arrangement with national drinks wholesaler Badel 1862, so you can pick up prime label spirits such as Bombay Sapphire and Bacardi Rum at the winery.
Vjeko Vujnovic (Sucuraj) – Sucuraj does not get as much attention as the rest of the island due to its distant eastern location, which is a shame, as it is a pretty place, as well as being home of one of Hvar’s better winemakers, Vjeko Vujnovic. If you are in town, tastings can be arranged at his waterfront cellars on the opposite side to the ferry. Three to recommend, the indigenous white Prc (pronounced ‘parch’) and two meaty reds, Plame and Ivan Dolac Barrique.
Zlatan Otok (Sveta Nedjelja) – Hvar’s best known and most decorated winemaker on the island, Zlatan Plenkovic is one of the biggest names in Croatia wine, his bottles exported as far away as Russia and China. With vineyards sloping down to his native Sveta Nedjelja, Zlatan has made the village an imporant wine destination in its own right. The first Grand Cru in Croatia, his Zlatan Plavac Grand Cru is a consistent international medal winner, while his Posip won the presitgious Decanter Best Regional White Wine. Add to that he has a cellar under the sea below the divine materfront restaurant on the marina he has built for the village, and no wonder more people are making the journey through the Pitve Tunnel.
If you would like to organise a Hvar wine tour, check out the excellent range of options from specialists www.hvarwinetours.com