On a Thursday afternoon in Carpaccio we emptied a bottle of 2007 Stagnum. Decanted two hours in advance, this Stagnum is free of volatile acids, turning into one of the best Plavac wines we tasted: balsamic, smooth, full of ripe tannins and fresh. The day before at Ab Ovo we had an equally old Piedmonte wine, with a similar texture, similar balsamic and deep fruit notes and similar authentic expression. Which got us into inventorying great wines of small Croatian wineries, ones alongside four large companies (Badel, Laguna, Belje and Ilok Cellars) which were crucial for the quality growth of the Croatian wine industry. This list is very discriminatory, as it does not encompass only the quality of wine, but also the influence of a certain winery (which is why the list does not include, for example, Branko Mihalj whose Graševina we fell is the best in Croatia, but he lacks market influence). The same goes for Madam Antunović in Erdut, as well as some expensive, good, but irrelevant Plavac and Dingač wines. Here is a list of the most important small Croatian wineries.
Gianfranco Kozlović is the largest small Croatian winemaker, whose basic Malvazija set the universal criteria for that wine type quality, while his ambitious bottles, primarily the new Santa Lucia and Selection, hinted at the possibility of Malvazija becoming a great global wine.
As we have written a million times, Ivica Matošević invented the ideology of Istrian winemaking, which conquered Croatian restaurants and hotels. And his Antiqua is one of the best Croatian wines ever.
Moreno Coronica defined Malvazija as a salty, mineral wine with a phenomenal gastronomy potential. But Coronica is much more significant due to his Terans. His Gran Teran proved Istria can be a land of great red wines, made from an indigenous variety.
Giorgio Clai is that borderline Istrian winemaker, without whose wines no wine industry is complete. Clai is the pioneer of natural wines in Croatia.
The Tomac family is probably the most important small wine producer in Croatia, as his experiments have earned international value. They are truly serious and hungry to learn, that we can with rather high certainty expect global accomplishments from them.
Velimir Korak is one of the best Croatian oenologist. Mister Korak taught the Croatian wine scene for years on the culture of producing superior wines. We still regret he did not devote himself passionately enough to Riesling.
Vlado Krauthaker is maybe the most important Croatian private winemaker in general. Krauthaker dominates in all strong genres: basic bottled Graševinas for mass restaurants and supermarkets, to brilliant red wines such as Mercs, to genial sweet wines bought by Heston Blumenthal. We regret he also went into a poor adventure with cheap and character-less wines, which do not deserve to bear his name.
Ivan Enjingi won the first gold medal for Croatia at the Decanter World Awards. Enjingi is among only a few winemakers who created the new Croatian wine industry.
DALMATIA AND PELJEŠAC
1. Frano Miloš
Frano Miloš was the first Croatian cult winemaker. His Stagnum broke past all price criteria over twenty years ago. Today Miloš is an established producer, who can mature his great wine for a full ten years. The 2008 Stagnum is now arriving to the market.
2. Zlatan Plenković and Andro Tomić
Plenković and Tomić joined forces 28 years ago, in order to produce Zlatan Plavac. They soon split up, which did no harm to either. Plenković and Tomić became the strongest Dalmatian wine brands, with truly many good wines.
The Bura-Mrgudić family from Pelješac is impossible to skip in any serious overview of the most important Croatian wines, as some of their bottles, such as Dingač Bura 2005, belong among the best wines ever produced in Croatia, changing the international image of the Croatian wine industry.
4. Ernest Tolj
Ernest Tolj brought Michel Rolland to Croatia, the most influential wine consultant ever, who introduced a line of new practices to our winemaking. Tolj’s Dingač wines are each year among the most precisely made Croatian wines.