23-08-2011

Croatian wine tasting at the Barrel Room

Last night we had the pleasure to attend a nice overview of Croatian wines at newly-opened the Barrel Room (more) in San Francisco. We were mainly along for the ride given that we focus on knowing all we can know about Croatian wines, but the official host for the evening was Eric Danch of Blue Danube Wine.

For those who attended (or didn’t and were curious) the wines poured were:

Daruvar – Graševina 2009
Krajančić – Pošip “Intrada” 2009
Terzolo – Teran 2008
Miloš – Plavac 2006
Zlatan Plenković – Crljenak 2008

We’ve tasted all these wines previously and are quite familiar familiar with them. They cover the wine growing regions (in order of the tasting list) of Slavonia, Korčula Island, Istria, Pelješac, and Hvar Island. That’s a pretty solid overview of the main growing areas in Croatia and the wines poured were very representative of the main Croatian grapes being grown, especially the now slightly-less-rare, Crljenak which is of course the same as Zinfandel, except the native to Croatia type.

The response was really overwhelming with a packed house at the Barrel Room. People were really interested in trying these wines. Some had heard references to them before while others had just heard that there was a region tasting at the Barrel Room and trusted that the owners, Sarah and Nikki were going to have something interesting and worth their while.

One of the most rewarding things in observing a tasting like this are the reactions to the wines from people. Because they have absolutely no expectations going in, they’re able to be a great deal more open and “varietal-curious”. It’s much different than if they were to taste a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon which most wine drinkers would infer to have certain qualities and they might be let down if it didn’t.

There really was no consensus among the crowd as to which were the stand out favorites, which is actually a good thing because it means the wines made people think and have an opinion instead of “Oh, it has 95 points, it must be good”. For us, our favorite in the group was the Krajančić Pošip as it offers a a great take on that grape with a good deal more personality than the Pošip produced by the larger producers on Korčula. It has a larger body, grapefruit aromas, and desire to open up even more when it breathes in your glass.

Of course, a base element to we humans is the fact that we like to associate the unknown with something that is known. In the wild, this works to tell us to fight or flee. In wine, we use it to judge tasty or shitty. Given that these wines were unknown to a most of the people at the tasting, folks had many comparisons such as comparing the Pošip to a Chardonnay. Obviously, this wasn’t meant as far as taste characteristics given that they’re very different from one another, but more in the place of the wine; what foods to serve it with and so forth. I certainly wouldn’t disagree with this, but it’s also the case that Pošip can fit it to many slots in a meal as it’s a relatively versatile, albeit strong white.

The Crljenak was also of interest to people, which was a given due to this tasting happening in California and Zinfandel being such a popular grape here. There were many who were most definitely fans of the wine. All along, it’s been one that we like, but wouldn’t rave about given the fact that it’s still a very young wine and the enologists in Croatia are still working with the grape to re-learn it due to Crljenak being nearly extinct and not produced.

Overall though, it was a really good, vibrant night of tasting for all who attended. We look forward to the Barrel Room’s Eastern Europe focus in the near future as well as these continued weekly tastings that they host.