08-11-2011

The wines of Brkić

It’s often the case these days that many wineries in smaller European regions work to produce “international style” wines in that they’re usually heavily oaked, high alcohol, and lacking much in the way of character. In other words, they’re wines for the current US market.

The wines of Brkić are about as far-removed from this approach as you can get. Located in the small town of Čitluk (which doesn’t even appear on Google Maps), at basically the heart of Herzegovina wine production, Josip Brkić is turning out bottles of Žilavka and Blatina that are not only as close to truly representative of the region as you can get, but also quite good, and unique. We picked up several bottle from Blue Danube Wine to review.

The 2009 Čitlučka Žilavka is the kind of light, white wine that this region produces extremely well. Only aged in stainless tanks and obviously best when served chilled, it has all the qualities of a wine to drink on a hot day and at 12% alcohol, it won’t really slow you down. The nose has honeydew aromas as well as a white peach that comes out as it breathes. The body has a strong acidity, but is overall quite light with just a hint of lime. The finish is clean with just a touch of the lingering acidity. For pairing think lobster, oysters, pear & arugula salad, or any light meal you’d have in summer–preferably sitting in a terrace overlooking the Adriatic.

The 2008 Greda is also a Žilavka, but it receives a bit of oak aging. Due to this, it takes on more of an amber quality to the color which is very evident when looking at it side by side with the Čitlučka Žilavka. There is an immediate aspect of vanilla on the nose as well as straw undertones. The oak sets up a body that is a good deal more tannic and loses the acidic qualities seen in the other bottle. There is a strong presence of dried apricots. A decent comparison, for those who have had it would be the Lučica that Alen Bibich produces although the body of this Greda has more of a medium degree of meatiness and is a bit less rounded. The finish is smooth, but lingers a bit giving a somewhat “woodsy” quality that speaks of juniper berries. It would be a good wine to have with creamy cheeses like Brie or slightly heavier meals like grilled pork.

The 2008 Plava Greda (not to be confused with Plavac Mali) is a Blatina with 12% alcohol. Grown all over Herzegovina, this red wine has reliably standard qualities between all the wineries and Brkić manages to pull out all the good ones. The color is a light garnet, somewhere between a Zinfandel and Plavac Mali. Oak is present in the nose of the wine, but quite downplayed. The one advantage of this is that it seems to knock out the cloying cherry elements that can be present in lesser Blatinas. As it breathes, the typical dry elements set in to the nose and then carry in to the body which is neutral and balanced with touches of white pepper, raspberry, and a hint of black olive. The finish comes up quite clean. Most any grilled meat and/or vegetable would work well with this wine, which makes sense given the dominance of the roštilj (grill) in food preparation.

While there may be those out there looking for 90 point bottles of “fruity oak bomb”, wines like these from Brkić are, to coin that popular phrase, for the other 99% of us. They’re easy to drink, but not the least bit dull. They have strong, elegant flavors, but don’t overwhelm the palate. They are in essence, the kind of wine you’d want to drink all the time and it’s a wonder to us that Herzegovina wines haven’t reached a larger audience as they have many of the popular qualities of wines found in Oregon’s Willamette Valley or New Zealand.

You can read more about Herzegovina wines in our guide that talks more about other wineries in the region and the quality bottles that they’ve been producing year after year.