Saturday, November 24, 2012

a taste of something new

And this is why the industry is in desperate need of good sommeliers. Despite the fact that we'd like to think we know what we're doing, we still need guidance from true wine professionals to introduce and teach us new things. New regions, new varieties, new producers. And this particular bottle is by far the greatest wine experience I've had all year. A Croatian plavac, served by the glass at The Spoke Club in Toronto, brought in by sommelier Ludo.

I've heard great things about Croatia. It's sort of a hidden part of Europe, a little gem that tourists haven't yet picked up on. It's wine history dates 2500 years ago to the Ancient Greek settlers, who arrived on the Croatian coast in the 5th century BC, with wine production on the southern Dalmatian islands of Vis, Hvar and Korčula. Empires came and went, and in the 1400's, the Ottoman Turks governed under Islamic law, which forbade alcohol. However, they allowed Christians to maintain Catholic traditions, and this was to have saved wine production, in the form of Sacremental wine. The Habsburg Empire came into power in the 18th century, and wine culture really developed during this time - it lasted until the early 1900's, with the onset of phylloxera, and then Communism under Yugoslavia, which decimated fine wine production by swallowing vineyards into large cooperatives. The early 1990's saw the beginning of a revival of traditional Croatian wines, after the Croatian War of Independance.

Plavac Mali is the most widely planted grape along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. In Croatian, mali means small and plavac means what is blue. It's the descendant of zinfandel - a cross between Crljenak Kastelanski (an ancestral Zinfandel) and Dobričić. The best quality is achieved on the southern slopes of Hvar Island, which is where this wine is from. This particular bottle, the 2010 Tomić Plavac Mali from Hvar, is stunning. So unique and utterly original. A bright crimson hue, showing lots of spicy, floral notes, with delicate red berries. This follows on the palate, showing great balance and texture. Finishes very dry, finely structured, with a soft kiss of cranberries and red currants.

We need good sommeliers. How else do we get to learn about, and experience wines like this? As winos, we always speak to the importance of keeping an open mind, and trying new things, but sometimes that's the hardest thing. Vintages and the LCBO certainly don't mind it if people drink only French/Italian/Californian/Australian. So the burden falls upon agencies, restaurants, sommeliers, and yes, wine consultants, to introduce people to truly unique wines from previously unheard of parts of the world. It's only when we step outside what we're familiar/comfortable/accepting of that we come to a  closer understanding of what wine is. Now - where do I find a bottle?


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