Among the most fascinating wine tasting experiences of my life – the secrets of the konoba. A visit to Ivo Duboković in Jelsa.
For such a beautiful town, the entrance to Jelsa is not that stunning, but one gets the impression immediately that one is in the wine town of Hvar, as the Dalmacijavino winery – which has unfortunately seen better times – is one of the first things to greet you on the left as you enter.
There is another winemaker in the immediate neighbourhood, a much smaller and much higher quality producer called Ivo Duboković. One of the star names of Hvar’s wine story, I will openly admit I had no idea exactly where his konoba was until this week. We met properly for the first time a few days ago to discuss, among other things, our Hvar Wine Time Traveller project, and he invited me to visit his konoba the following day.
I have had some memorable wine tastings in my time as a wine merchant, trawling the vineyards of Bordeaux and Burgundy, the bodegas of Rioja and the Tuscan villages in Italy, but there was nothing quite like this tasting, for it was not just the wines and the setting, both of which were outstanding, but a journey, a philosophy and a story of how a hobby led to his elevation as one of the country’s top producers, and a member of the recently formed Grand Cro association.
The only clue that there is anything wine-related as you drive past the house is the pallet of bottles to one side. The house is very nicely built from the outside, but there is no hint of the treasures that await on the inside as you enter the konoba.
I wish I could figure out how to use this smartphone camera to do the place justice, but the candlelit konoba that awaits is probably the most fascinating tasting experience on Hvar, certainly when accompanied with winemaker Duboković in attendance. That is quite a claim, given the fabulous Romanesque experience at Tomić and tasting under the sea with Zlatan Otok, but there is an intimacy in the Duboković konoba which really brings one into contact with the wines.
American oak, French oak, Slavonian oak. Case upon case of stylish wooden boxes. Stainless steel vats. Rack upon rack of quality wines ageing quietly on the walls. And the candles, the decanters, the presentation – a superb experience not to be missed.
I will write about the wines another time soon. There were so many things that surprised me going through the whole range of wines, and hearing the stories of how it all began, the pivotal moments of that journey. All of these I will write about in due course.
Here is an innovative winemaker following his instincts, indulging his hobby, and producing an astonishing eleven different wines from an annual production of 25,000 bottles a year. Each wine has its own story, a personal story, and one can feel the wine’s personality before one has even tried them.
The second thing that really surprised me were the prices. Duboković has a reputation for being expensive – and his wines can be, with the top wine setting you back 50 euro for a bottle, but the price range was very variable, and one of his better known Plavac Mali wines – 2718 (named after the average annual hours of sunshine on Hvar – sunshine in a bottle) – sells for just 60 kuna plus VAT. A major surprise, and one I will be taking advantage of when the time comes to top up supplies…
A range of eleven wines, but also ten different flavoured olive oils, of which the chilli olive oil to accompany the last magnificent red was the undoubted highlight. And what a perfect souvenir – a boxed wooden set of three different oils on a sliding wooden tray for 200 kuna plus VAT.
The secrets of the konoba. It never ceases to amaze me how many amazing stories and great experiences lie undiscovered on this island. A fabulous late afternoon, and one we will be returning to in subsequent blogs.
Thank you Ivo for one of the most interesting experiences in Jelsa in the last ten years. It is experiences like this, combined with Tomić in Jelsa and the producers and story in Svirče that give me growing confidence that developing Hvar wine tourism could be the most interesting project for Total Hvar yet on this great island.