Rare Indigenous Wines: Teo Huljic in Jelsa Produces ‘Hvar Malvazija’

Total Croatia News

A visit to a small winemaker in the backstreets of Dalmatian town on December 21, 2015 reveals a passionate project to celebrate Hvar’s considerable indigenous grape heritage.

In a world of globalisation and international grape varieties, it is little wonder that the wine scene in Croatia is starting to attract considerable attention. With some 130 indigneous grape varieties and an extremely diverse terrroir, wine experts have been taking an increased interest in the wines of the ex-Yugoslav republic, enjoying the opportunity to become acquainted with a new range of refreshing varieties not available elsewhere.

The quality of Croatian wine is not in question. This, of course, is the home of Zinfandel, as was proved by the University of Davis in 2001, when the DNA of Zinfandel was shown to be a 100% match for an obscure Dalmatian variety called Crljenak Kastelanski just outside Split. The planting of new Crljenak is gathering pace, and a nascent ‘Original Zin’ wine tourism is slowly taking root

(Photo credit GoHvar)

While the Zinfandel story might be the most high profile of Croatia’s rich variety of indigenous grapes, it is by no means unique. The island of Hvar, famous as the sunniest in Europe and the most exclusive in Croatia, is a wine producers dream, with a range of terroir and local varieties. So much so for one Master of Wine that she decided to move to the island and make her own wine. Jo Ahearne MW’s small wine production in Sveta Nedjelja, close to famous Croatian producer Zlatan Otok, is one more dimension to the wine promotion of Croatia.

There are several quality winemakers on the island, who have organised themselves under the umbrella of the Hvar Wine Association. Among them is restaurateur Teo Huljic in the back streets of the ‘town of wine’ – Jelsa. Passionate about the traditions of the island and its grape varieties, but also keen to experiment with the new, Huljic has perhaps the most interesting wine project on Hvar, and one which is playing a small part in preserving some of the island’s indigenous grape varieties.  

(Photo credit Go Hvar) 

In addition to more generic varieties such as Plavac Mali and Marastina, Hvar has a number of varieties which are only grown on the island – Kuc, Prc, Bogdanusa (which translates as ‘a gift from God’) and Mekuja for the whites, Darnekusa for the red. Other varieties, such as Posip from the neighbouring island of Korcula, are also gaining in popularity.

Despite a production of just 6000 – 7000 bottles a year, Huljic has them all, and his selection of whites – 100% Posip, Prc and Bogdanusa, Marastina and Bogdanusa – reflect a fresh quality showcasing indigenous Hvar. Huljic may not be well known internationally yet, but he is being noticed

His latest addition to his range is the white Hvar variety of Mekuja, which can still be found in a blended wine from a miniscule amount of winemakers on Hvar, but Huljic is the only one to be producing a 100% Mekuja to his knowledge. The grapes have been bought from a nearby vineyard in Poljica to the east of Jelsa, and his annual production is just 350 bottles. Although he has not tested it, he is convinced that Mekuja is closely related to the more famous Mediterranean variery, Malvazija.

While he is passionate about Hvar varieties, he is also keen to experiment, nad his range now includes new wines from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and he has plans to plant Chardonnay and White Muscat. 

Such innovation and authenticity has not gone unnoticed by Hvar’s boutique tourism businesses, and Ante Lacman, director of Hvar Wine Tours, has added Huljic to his exclusive tours for the 2016 season:

“Our guests are looking for authenticy, quality and simplicity, and Teo’s wines and excellent restaurant are the perfect embodiment of that. For busy city executives, the simple chance of being able to pluck a lemon off a tree becomes a holiday highlight. The Huljic range is local, high quality and authentic, and I am confident our guests will have a visit they will never forget.”

And plenty of lemons… Above the uneven stone tables at the Huljic courtyard are lemon trees which produce more than half a ton of fruit each year, and it is not uncommon for the fruit to land on the dinner table during a meal. 

Huljic, an accomplished chef, takes the same approach to his menu as he does to his wines – local, authentic, innovative, as Total Croatia News can testify during a visit to the restaurant early this year, for a meal whose highlights included sea urchin caviar and the ‘Three Island Burger’ – Hvar boar, Brac lamb and Pag cheese.

A millionaire he may never be, but the efforts of innovators such as Teo Huljic will help to keep the tide of globalisation at bay for a little while longer, while preserving – in the words of the former official Croatian tourism slogan – the Mediterranean as It Once Was. 

Huljić Winery

OPG Teo Huljić

Teo Huljić

Jelsa bb

21465 Jelsa

GSM: +385 (0)91 178 8880

Email: [email protected]


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