Continuing TCN’s look at the indigenous grapes of Croatia on September 17, 2016, Iva Tatic on the white grape Vugava from the island of Vis.
There are quite a lot of wine varieties that are indigenous to various Croatian islands: for obvious reasons, there are a lot of Croatian islands to begin with, they’ve been populated for centuries and can be described as quite distant from one another, which explains why they would have their separate local varieties. One of the more distant ones is the island of Vis, the variety that holds the title of the local favourite is vugava, a white grape grown almost exclusively on that island, which is believed to have been brought to Vis by the ancient Greeks. There is, however, no evidence of the variety existing anywhere else, so it might have been cultivated on the island by the Greeks during their colonisation.
The renowned French variety viognier is believed to be linked to vugava genetically, although the research has not unequivocally proven that. In the past the variety was losing its popularity (partly because, although high-quality and ideally with excellent yield, the vines are rather prone to various diseases and the yields are very dependent on the factors such as disease, weather, insolation etc.), and in the early seventies of the twentieth century it occupied less than 5% of the vineyards on Vis!
Nowadays people on the island understand the importance of having a local, indigenous variety preserved, as well as the qualities of the vugava wine, so since then it has gotten more present. Usually grown on the stony and very sandy soils on Vis, the best wines coming from the vineyards on the hills, the variety ripens rather early and needs to be picked during a very narrow window of time, usually fully by hand. The grapes tend to have very high sugar content and relatively low acids and somewhat overripe aromas, and traditionally have been used to create dessert wine prošek or to be blended with varieties with lower sugars and higher acids, but nowadays some fresh dry varietal wines are also being made.
The wine is golden yellow, has a specific varietal aroma, fruity, reminiscent of green apple and apricots. It is less mineral then what you’d expect from a grape that has grown on the sand, and the dry wine that can be produced with careful vinification is well balanced, at around 14 percent alcohol content, nice acids and a flavour that is sometimes described “retro” and honey-like. It is not meant to be kept for a long time, and can be enjoyed on its own, as an easy drinking wine, or with shellfish, and meals made with lighter meats (chicken, turkey). The most notable producers of the varietal vugava wine on the Vis island are Lipanović (probably the winemaker whose vugava will be the easiest to find outside Vis, as he has the largest production), PZ Podšpilje and OPG. And, as an exception to the rule, there is a vugava wine grown and made on the island of Brač, called Stina.
Want to learn more about Vugava? Why not take our Vugava wine tour of Vis?