New Issue of The SOMM Journal Features Zinfandel from Croatia

The Sommelier Journal, recently re-launched and re-branded as The SOMM Journal, just published its October/November 2014 issue (Vol. 1/ No. 3), which includes an article entitled “Zinfandel – A Sort of Homecoming”, written by Wines of Croatia founder, Certified Sommelier, and regular contributor to this blog, Cliff Rames.

SOMM Journal_cover

The article’s teaser, or subtitle, reads: “Croatia’s Prodigal Grape Finds Its Roots. Can It Go Home Again?” – alluding to the article’s focus on the search for and discovery of Zinfandel (AKA Primitivo, Crljenak Kaštelanski, Tribidrag, Pribidrag) in Croatia, and the subsequent efforts to repatriate the grape to the vineyards of Dalmatia.

Read more

Call for Entries: IceWine du Monde 2014

The Czech Tourist Authority, in association with the Czech Association of Sommeliers and the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), has announced the 4th Annual IceWine du Monde competition, which will be held in the historical chateau complex, Lednice, in Moravia, Czech Republic, from August 29 – 31, 2014.

Czech ice wine venue_Lednice screen shot

According to the IceWine du Monde website, the goal of the event is to “conduct an evaluation and comparison of ice, straw and other sweet wines from various countries of the world on a high professional level”.

The competition is designated for sweet wines with a residual sugar content of minimum 45 g/l. The competition is not designated for fortified wines.

Wineries in Croatia that produce “Predikatno vino”, i.e.: Ice wine (ledeno vino), late harvest (kasna berba), botrytis selection (izborna berba;  izborna berba prosušenih bobica), Prošek, or other sweet wines that meet the criteria are invited and encouraged to participate.

The deadline for winery registration is March 31, 2014, and the deadline for the entry of wines is August 08, 2014.

For more information and complete instructions for registration, please click on this link: or contact Alena Badžgoňová at

Cheers and good luck!



A Report: The Croatian Wine Story Presentation in Imotski


As it should, the Croatian wine story continues to unfold in wonderful and exciting ways.

Indisputably the best way to experience the story is to visit Croatia and taste the wines in their native setting. Only then, as you inhale and taste their ambient aromas and flavors, do you fully understand their pedigree of origin and expression of terroir. Along the way, hopefully they will warm your heart and soul too.

And so it was on February 17, 2012 in the snow-covered medieval town of Imotski, in the cool dim light of “the Courts” (an event space with stone walls and vaulted ceilings that was built by the Croatian priest and missionary, Don Ivan Turić). There over 40 winemakers, sommeliers, wine enthusiasts and buyers gathered to taste and experience the Croatian wine story as told via a selection of 35 regional wines.

(Photo courtesy of Udruga Mediterra)
Don Ivan Turić (photo courtesy of Udruga Mediterra)

The event was organized by Udruga Mediterra (the Mediterra Association) and co-hosted by Grabovac Winery. Udruga Mediterra is a promotional association founded in 2010 by Miroslav Mirković, who also produced the beautifully-filmed Croatian Wine Story DVD released last year.

“The Croatian Wine Story event is one of the most important wine festivals in Croatia” says Mirković. “In one place we gather some of the most significant Croatian winemakers and present what is new in the Croatian world of wine.”

(Photo courtesy Udruga Mediterra)
(Photo courtesy Udruga Mediterra)

To assess the export potential and price-to-quality value of the wines that were presented, Mirković assembled a panel of judges to taste and score each wine, with winners announced at the conclusion of the event. This year’s panel included judges from Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro. They were:

Franjo Francem, president of the Croatian Society of Enologists
Ante Grubišić, enologist, Croatia
Vito Andrić, a wine journalist, Croatia
Dejan Živkoski, vice president of the Association of Sommeliers of Serbia
Žarko Radonjić, president of the National Association of Sommeliers of Montenegro

(Photo courtesy Udruga Mediterra)

The wines were judged in four price categories:

1) White wines priced 7 Euros or less.

2) White wines priced more than 7 Euros.

3) Red wines priced 10 Euros or less.

4) Red wines priced more than 10 Euros

Here are the top wines in each category, as chosen by the jury:

~Best white wine (7 Euros or less): Enjingi 2007 Graševina Late Harvest.

~Best white wine (more than 7 Euros): Iločki Podrumi 2009 Gewurztraminer.

~Best red wine (10 Euros or less): Badel 1862 Korlat 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon.

~Best red wine (more than 10 Euros): Plančić 2006 Pharos Grand Cru.

The runner-up (2nd place) wine in each category was as follows:

~White wine (7 Euros or less): N/A

~White wine (more than 7 Euros): Bodren 2009 Rajnski Rizling Ledena Berba (Riesling Ice Wine)

~Red wine (10 Euros or less): Josić 2009 Cuvee Ciconia Nigra

~Red wine (more than 10 Euros): Korta Katarina 2007 Plavac Mali.

Guests of the event were also treated to a variety of local food specialties, including Gligora Paški cheese; Bilaja extra virgin olive oil; Marko Polo extra virgin olive oil (Blato1902); and Grbić extra virgin pumpkin seed oil.

Udruga Mediterra’s members include over 60 winemakers and related producers from regional countries such as Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Austria. The main objectives of the association are to market regional wines in Croatia and in foreign markets; to develop wine and food brands; to assess the potential of products for export and increase the number of exports; to promote and develop regional cultural-wine tourism; and to educate consumers.

For more photos, please see Udruga Mediterra’s Facebook page.

Two Croatian Wine Stories Published in New Book

“In a recent column in Wine Spectator magazine, Matt Kramer mentioned a fabulous quote from the novelist Henry James: ‘There are two kinds of taste, the taste for emotions of surprise and the taste for emotions of recognition’. This story captures the taste of surprise perfectly.”

Dakovo cathedral

So begins the enlightening tale of drinking Ðakovačka Biskupija 1987 Trnavački Traminac Arhivsko Misno Vino, as recounted by sommelier and founder of Wines of Croatia, Cliff Rames, in the new book “Every Wine Tells a Story”.

Every Wine Tells a Story is a compilation of 39 stories – including two about Croatian wines – written by a number of notable international wine professionals and experts, including Steven Spurrier of Decanter Magazine; Joe Roberts, aka 1 Wine Dude; and Paul Kienan of Grapes of Sloth. The 131-page book was published in November 2011 and was edited by Tara Devon O’Leary, aka the Wine Passionista.

To check out the full list of contributors, click HERE.

Another passionate voice among Croatian wine lovers who contributed the second story in the book is Judith Burns, wine importer and founding partner of Pacta Connect, a U.K.-based import company specializing in Croatian wines. Her story celebrates her experience tasting Clai 2009 Brombonero, a 100% Refošk wine from the Istria region of Croatia that Judith refers to as the “Johnny Depp” of wines and a “truly special” offering.

Giorgio Clai

“In every wine-growing country there is usually one producer whose ‘hallowed’ name you hear above all. In Croatia, that producer is Giorgio Clai,” writes Judith.

To read the rest of Judith’s and Cliff’s Croatian wine stories, as well as the other 37 interesting and touching wine tales, please follow this LINK to purchase your copy of this keepsake book.

And to tease you a little further, check out this promo video for the book. Happy reading!

A Very Donkey Christmas: Vinarija Dingač 2005 Postup


Okay – just a quick post to share some happiness and holiday cheer. A couple nights ago I brought a bottle of the Vinarija Dingač 2005 Postup to the Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa at the Plaza staff holiday party. The wine, made from the Plavac Mali grape, was well loved by my colleagues who tried it. Mind you, this is a group that is accustomed to being around and drinking Grand Cru Bordeaux. Said one colleague, “I’m surprised by how smooth it is. It’s really delicious.”

(photo courtesy of Blue Danube Wine Co.)

Yes, the wine showed really well. Elegant and poised yet intensely aromatic on the nose. The light, translucent garnet color betraying its bold notes of dried fig, dusty dried cherry, black olive, iodine, wet limestone, and hint of black truffle. Oh yeah – and that alluring yet all-too-familiar hint of barnyard (our Dalmatian friend, Brett), faint but distinct, adding just the right amount of Old World charm.

At 6 years old, the fruit remained intact, the tannins softened, the wine “so smooth” that it simply slipped too easily down the gullet, leaving a medium, cocoa dust, dried fig and cherry, and seaside mineral finish.

As often is the case with the Donkey and similar Dalmatian wines, this style evokes in my mind images of dining at one of the many open air cafes and restaurants along the Adriatic Sea on Croatia’s Dalmatian coastline. On the table: local prosciutto and cheeses, olives, grilled Adriatic squid, seafood risotto, stewed chard, fresh tomato salad, and crusty bread….

In the background, a troupe of local “Klapa” singers sing songs of the sea, olive picking, lost love, and the beauties of Dalmatia. In the sky, the powdery white path of the Milky Way stretches across the heavens with a vibrancy unknown to many city-dwellers. The air is scented with sea salt, fig leaf, wild herbs, and wood-fires that roast fish to perfection. All is perfect, especially when the wine – made from Plavac Mali or other indigenous grapes – goes down as easy as this Postup.

(BTW: Postup is the name of the geographically-protected area on the Peljesac peninsula where the Plavac Mali grapes were grown. More on that at another time.)

Postup appellation on the Peljesac peninsula (in red)

Too bad then that the Vinarija Dingač 2005 Postup wine is SOLD OUT on the U.S. market. Justifiably so, it seems. Like real donkeys in Dalmatia, this donkey wine is a rare beast: only limited quantities are imported to the U.S.

But fear not, a new batch of Vinarija Dingač wines are on the way and should be available from Blue Danube Wine Company very soon. But if you really need a Plavac Mali wine for your holiday table, other options are available: according to its website, Blue Danube still has limited quantities of Dingač Vinarija 2006 Dingač, Bura-Mrgudić 2007 Dingač, Bura-Mrgudić 2007 Postup, PZ Svirče 2006 Ivan Dolac, Miloš Plavac, Miloš Stagnum, Zlatan Plenković Zlatan Plavac 2007 Barrique or 2007 Grand Cru, and Saints Hills Dingač. Please check with Blue Danube regarding holiday shipping possibilities and times!

In the spirit of the faithful Donkey, I wish you all a very happy, healthy and wondrous holiday season, with many warm memories and exciting dreams inspired by a perfect glass of wine.

To help you get in the spirit, enjoy this video (below) called BOŽIĆ NA MORU (Christmas on the Sea).


-Cliff Rames