Croatian Winemakers: Saša Senjković and his Dita on Brač Island

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Dita has become, largely due to the miraculous Cabernet Sauvignon – a wine miracle

Awaited for some time, offered at several wine manifestations for experienced palates to taste, on the wine list of the cult Šibenik Pelegrini restaurant for a while now, but only several days ago Dita is really here! Dita is the newest wine of the Senjković family from Nerežišća on Brač Island which gained an almost cult status even before it made it to the market. It was probably the most expected wine in Croatia, just as it can now be said the wait was worth it as Dita will be – for the lucky ones who get a hold of one of the only 2.000 bottles – the wine favourite of the year!

I love the Senjković family, both Saša and Magdalena, although I’ve only met Megi, as she likes to sign herself, as a Big Brother, talking on the phone, exchanging voice vibrations, but it was enough for me to conclude all the stories I’ve heard of her are true. From the warmth of her voice it became clear why she is adored by, for example, the renowned Novigrad culinary star Marina Gaši.

“When I first saw her in person, I immediately said she is the type I want to spend time with in my life,” said Marina to me after I asked her what she thinks of Magdalena as a cook.

“I don’t doubt she is perfect in that field too, as she is simply too creative!”

The same handpicked words are used about her by Rudolf Štefan, the driving force behind the Pelegrini restaurant where Magdalena is due to be an apprentice to perfect her culinary techniques. Just like she will spend additional time for a month in a Swedish restaurant brandishing a Michelin star…

“Maybe someone will see my culinary training as sudden and abrupt, but everything is spontaneous with me, ever since we started our winery. In the beginning it wasn’t something serious, but every year comes something new and gradually you outgrow what you did so far. So, everything had its growth and development, nothing came overnight and suddenly. On the other hand, when you see how much you have advanced to the edge of your ability, then you need to find someone bigger than you to guide you to the next small step. Something can be learned from anyone, from the common housewife, who cooks every day for her family, mother or a Michelin chef. It’s in the details, learning them and applying in your way. Going somewhere and bending to someone’s vision is wrong, but one can be perfected, softened or developed,” explained Magdalena the development of her culinary talent which, at the least, equally competes with the rising quality of their Spoža, Bosso, Bračka Rič and Dita wines.

Magdalena is not only the classic kitchen cook, she also cooked up the witty names which follow their wine story. On the back of Spoža, a premier Croatian rosé, is Magdalena’s poem in the Brač dialect “Brač Wife,” just like the labels of Bračka Rič and Bosso hold her poems “Brač Word” and “Heavenly Drop,” written as a hobby, already published in the anthology of Brač poetry! Some call their wines – wines with a dialect!

“A dialect is a treasure not only for us on Brač, but for all of Croatia and fact is it is being lost, almost unheard of in some Brač towns. It is sad, just like it is more and more seen as something peasants use. It’s a completely wrong perception of us who use it! It is a tradition and a cultural treasure and I say dialect is not only a word but an entire image one gets with such speech. When someone says pergola or dita, you can envision a child with a band in her hair, you can see they are a bit stuck up, standing straight…” says Magdalena.

To keep things less simplified, the Dita label has an explanation of the wine name: Dita is an “immaterial heritage of a family of noble descent.” Dita is the noblest thing a family has, something passed down. When you feel something is special, the best the family has, then you say: “You are from dita!” Judging by the photograph which dominates the label, the dita of the Senjković family are Saša’s grandfather Bosso, Saša’s grandma, also on the Spoža label, as well as Saša’s mother.

For those more ambitious it needs to be said Dita is made only in the best years, while this Dita, fresh on the market, is from 2012, after two and a half years in wooden barrels and two and a half in bottles…

“We will try to make Dita from the 2016 harvest, the wine is in wooden barrels and in five years we will see if the wine will be a Dita or not,” says Saša Senjković.

Dita is a coupage of Cabernet Sauvignon (40%), Syrah (40%) and Plavac Mali (20%) and this ratio, certainly, “is not the formula which will necessarily be repeated.” Saša Senjković says already in the second Dita edition the “ratios are quite different.” But, it remains to be seen if “Dita in the making” will truly become a – dita…

“Our first selection of the finest grapes are for the production of Bosso, while the best of that selection is for Dita. A selection of a selection! We made 2.000 bottled from the 2012 harvest, with maybe 1.500 from 2016, only for special restaurants, not available everywhere,” says Saša.

When I first wrote of Saša Senjković and an almost Prometheus story which he was in with his father and brother in the Šibena Njiva area near Dračevica, I compared him in one part with the legendary Ivan Enjingi. Just like Ivan Enjingi will probably never stop using his old Golf to tour the vineyard, Saša wouldn’t change his Fiat Panda for anything. I wrote this five years ago and it is the same today – neither Saša nor Ivan changed their car!

“Panda is all beat up, but still going. It just confirmed my conviction that the cars you take to the vineyard have no expiration date,” says Saša with a smile.

The arrival of Dita forced a new comparison of Saša Senjković with Ivan Enjingi. Enjingi created his famous vineyard in Venje literally on volcanic rock he took apart for years with various machines and adapted for planting. Cabernet Sauvignon, an important ingredient of Dita, comes from vines planted on rocks without an inkling of soil. Just as Ivan Enjingi knew that from Venje, when the time comes, he will get grapes for his best wines, so Saša said the Cabernet Sauvignon, from 1.300 vines which found water through rock, “will be a miracle!” And so it was – Dita has become, largely due to the miraculous Cabernet Sauvignon – a wine miracle!

For the original and more from Vinske Priče blog on wine, click here.


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