Fine wine, an excellent restaurant, and a most bountiful lemon tree. The discoveries of post-Christmas Hvar.
Not that I spend a lot of time wondering how I might die, but I will confess that the thought did cross my mind over a rather excellent dinner in a very unusual restaurant in Jelsa this summer.
I wrote about the wonderful evening at Konoba Huljic, with its magnificently uneven stone tables under a massive lemon tree groaning with fruit. And not just groaning. Every ten minutes of so, a lemon would fall from the tree onto the floor (and occasionally table) below. Death by ripe fresh falling lemon – what a way to go.
It was a thought which came back to me this lunchtime, as I returned to the scene for the first time since. The season over, the restuarant closed – there was something familiar about the tree, especially as I saw a lemon fall.
“I think it must be the most fruitful lemon tree on the island,” said owner Teo Huljic, before disappearing to slice a freshly plucked lemon in two, so that we could taste its freshness, ” as it yields more than a ton a year, two lots of 500kg.”
Having seen the price of lemons in Sainsbury’s last time I was back in the UK, that is a lot of lemon revenue potentially, but the reason we were back at the restaurant in late December was to take a closer look at Teo’s rather excellent wines.
Proving that Jelsa could – and should – be a year-round tourism destination, we were delighted to welcome a very nice Hungarian couple between Christmas and New Year, who had come to explore the island and its wines out of season. That one of them just happened to the editor-in-chief of the Hungarian version of Good Food magazine made hosting them a little more interesting, and Jelsa winemakers were very accommodating in showing them round, despite the time of year.
Just three wines from Teo Huljic to start were enough to persuade them that they were onto a very good thing. All three wines were very young, from the 2013 vintage, but all three impressed considerably. First up, an indigenous island white (80% Bogdanusa and 20% Parc), which had a nose of a Sauvignon Blanc. This was followed by Teo’s first experiment with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – Bordeaux, watch out – before a young Plavac Mali to finish. All three were already excellent, and I predict that this man Teo Huljic is one to watch for 2014.
If you survive the falling lemons over dinner…