Croatian wine: surprise gem of Europe’s crop

HEAD SOMMELIER AND MANAGER OF LUTYENS RESTAURANT

AUTUMN’S a busy time for the wine trade and the last couple of weeks have been hectic with several tastings a day. The less glamorous side of the business is tasting interminable numbers of similar wines in order to fill a certain slot on the wine-list, the sub £40 Bourgogne Rouge for example, or the Pinot Grigio for the by-the-glass selection.

Every so often, however, there’s a tasting that’s a bit more exciting, and last week it was Croatian wines. Croatia is a nation with a long and proud history of wine-making (in fact, it pretty much single-handedly built the New Zealand wine industry) and it’s eager to showcase its wines in the English market – you can find them at Waitrose, Sipp on Brompton Road and Slurp Wines. The grape varieties have scary foreign looking names, all consonants and strange punctuation (Graševina, Grk, Dobričić) and so most people, who I imagine would enjoy them if given the chance, will never try them. It’s a familiar problem for countries (Portugal and Greece are another two that spring to mind) who, commendably, stick with their indigenous varieties rather than join the Francophone mainstream.

When times are tough people become less adventurous in their choice of wines. Whenever I read in the paper that the markets are down I know I’ll be selling only Chablis and Sancerre, Claret and Crozes-Hermitage. Wine becomes a comfort blanket, an island of security in an uncertain world. But sometimes you need to embrace the new. What are you really risking when you try a new type of wine?

So embrace novelty, go out this week and drink a bottle of Croatian wine. Take a deep breath, pass on the Sauvignon Blanc and drink a Malvasia Istriana, put down the Shiraz and pick up a Plavac Mali. Not only will you be supporting a dynamic and exciting industry but you’ll be bringing some adventure into your life.

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