Croatian Winemakers: Anton Katunar in Vrbnik, Krk

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Katunar winery is one of the largest family-owned wineries on the island of Krk. The island is the well known wine-making spot, and that has been so since the ages of the Roman Empire, and in the first century AD Plinius I wrote about the wines made on the island as the best wine there is for the medicinal purposes. Katunar family has not grown grapes for exactly that long, but old land records show that they have been making in the grape business for well over a century, since they’ve been the owners of vineyards for at least that old.

However, until the early 1990’s the only way the local winegrowers made wine was giving it to the local cooperative winery, and it was in that period that the Katunar family decided to make their own wine. They invested in the newest technologies that allowed them to combine the grapes grown on the best wine-making locations on the island with the new winemaking practices, such as the controlled cooled fermentation (they claim they were the first winemakers in Croatia using that method). Anton Katunar, owner of the winery, also insisted they start making sparkling wine as soon as possible, using the Charmat method – and are still one of the rare wineries in Croatia that has the know-how, and are helping others implement it. They also started consolidating their vineyards, planting as many new grapes as they could and have since 1995 bought most vineyards in the winemaking locality around the coastal town of Baška, so nowadays they grow over 80% of the grapes used in their wines themselves.

Two thirds of their vineyards are vrbnička žlahtina, indigenous wine variety from the island, although obviously more famous in the Vrbnik region then in the south, and the rest of the vineyards are chardonnay, syrah (grown partially in their vineyards in the Zadar region), merlot, grenache and indigenous less-know red wine varieties from the island: debejan, sansigot and kamenina. Oh, yeah, we almost forgot one: supposedly, the Katunar winery has the norther-most grown plavac mali in the world, thanks to the specific location of their wineyards that provides the wines with enough sun even for the very demanding plavac!

The reds they sell are Kurkyta Nigra basic and aged in oak barrels, which is a blend of the three indigenous varieties we mentioned with syrah. The whites are mostly žlahtina and chardonnay, and the two sparkling wines they offer are Biser mora (the type of sparkling wine that would be called frizzante in Italy, made from žlahtina, pinot blanc and chardonnay) and Porin, mostly from pinot blanc. In addition to wine Anton Katunar and his family winery make very popular and highly regarded rakija lozovača, hard liqueur made distilling the grape residue remaining after wine production. It gets aromatised with local herbs such as rue, or walnuts and fig.


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