Plešivica is an oasis for lovers of traditional gastronomy and wine-making, a longtime favourite destination for many of Zagreb’s residents, Plešivica is famous for its many vineyards, wineries, sparkling wines and traditional food. Several Croatian family wine stories are attracting attention even from across the Atlantic.
As Marta Duic/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 18th of January, 2019, the Šember Winery, located in the village of Donji Pavlovčani, is famous for its sparkling wines that have been produced in their vinery for years. Ivanka Šember, the wife of a winery owner who helps him run the family business, says their sparkling wines are produced from old varieties which grow only on Plešivica. They have an old vineyard with fifteen different old and almost forgotten varieties, to which winemaker Zdenko Šember gives his special attention. He inherited this vineyard from his late grandmother and has since turned it into a flourishing business.
This year, this Croatian family winery business also produced a variety of new wine sparkling wines, a white sparkling wine from a black pinot, a sparkling wine of the old varieties which were kept in clay pots originating from Georgia. The production of amphora wines deeply buried in the ground is an extremely old tradition over in Georgia, and today many Croatian winemakers use this method. This method of wine production makes each wine, including sparkling wine from the assortment of this winery, completely different in flavour when compared to others.
“My husband loves experiments, and some of them also get to see the market!” said Ivanka Šember. The Šember Winery is one of the few in the Republic of Croatia which manually produces its sparkling wines, each step done with their own hands and without any machines. As the Croatian family say themselves, everything has been made even easier since they obtained a new 320m cellar. In the construction of the cellar, which was co-funded through the National Wine Sector Support Program, this wine oriented Croatian family invested more than two million kuna, and their plans for this year are to further expand their vineyards by another three hectares.
“When it comes to our sparkling wines, our best sellers are rose, this year we have doubled our production, and we’re currently producing 40,000 bottles. We’re the first winery to have been producing sparkling wines from old Plešivica varieties, explained Ivanka Šember.
Located in the village of Lokošin Dol, the Braje Winery is known for its homemade food served with homemade wine. Robert Braje is the winemaker in this Croatian family, and his wife, Sandra, is an expert in local gastronomy and has been the chef in their restaurant for the last eight years. In this Croatian family business, their son shows interest in wine production, and Robert says that if this continues, he will soon expand his vineyards, which today already stretch to 3.5 hectares.
They purchase only a very small amount of their grapes, and from varieties that have a special emphasis on Red Waltz, an Austrian variety which is only offered by very, very few here in Croatia. As is the case with many Croatian wineries, the Braje Winery also serves numerous homemade dishes which pair well with the selection of wines that they produce and offer to their guests.
“From the very beginning, we’ve been doing everything business-wise as a real family. We produce 15,000 to 18,000,000 litres of wine, and a third of all that is sold right here at our very door. We also prepare meals from either our own or other locally grown vegetables, we make our own apple and pear juices. We have ducks, chickens, pigs, and a cow,” explained Braje.
Their goal is to locally produce food and wine for their guests, in order to get them to notice and appreciate the distinct differences. “I cook and prepare everything, which is almost all made from local ingredients, we have a cow so that we can have our fresh cheese, cream and milk, eggs from our chickens, sausage and bacon from our pigs, and if we don’t have enough of our own vegetables, we buy it from other producers in the neighbourhood. I make homemade bread, pasta, noodles… Our guests come either individually or in small groups, and we have many guests from the USA,” noted Sandra Braje.
Režek Winery is yet another traditional Croatian family business that Damir Režek inherited from his father, Drago. “Our story began with my great-grandfather Roko, who had 40,000 vines, and the most famous type he had was a Portuguese variety. That Portuguese variety is the very story of my family and I’m glad that this slightly forgotten variety has now been revived, and my grandfather later brought new varieties, such as sauvignon, and was one of the largest producers in this region,” stated Damir Režek.
The last vineyard was planted back in 2005, so now they have four hectares and about 20,000 vineyards.
Vinarija Kolarić in Hrastje Plešivičko is known for its rich homemade food, wines, and sparkling wines. Franjo Kolarić has a restaurant and since 2009 a mini hotel with sixteen rooms in which he has invested more than three million kuna. As he says, he’s typically full from May to October. A warehouse for sparkling wine was built back in 1997 and Franjo is currently working on a new line of sparkling wines, in which he planning to invest 1.5 million kuna.
Thanks to the extension of the restaurant there is now seating for more than 170 people, and in addition to the sixteen rooms currently available, he plans to build an apartment this spring. In addition to all of the above, one of his plans is to build a small brewery and produce small quantities of craft beer.