The best way to experience wine is of course going to the source – a vineyard. However while in Zagreb recently I found the perfect solution for someone who doesn’t have the time to get out to the wine roads but wants to taste some great Croatian wines in the perfect setting. The House of Croatian Wines (THOCW) is a retail store adjoining to their restaurant where lovers of wine can go and relax whilst having the best of Croatia’s wines all under the one roof, 1600 of them to be exact.
The director of THOCWs has put his heart and soul into the business and a lot of the wine motifs and decorations come from his very home and collection. The area of the store is divided into 4 sections, each representing the main regions of Croatia (Central, Slavonia, Dalmatia & Istria). Each area is decorated with that region in mind – from the type of shelves used to the beautiful photos and bits and bobs around the place. The 5th section joins all the 4 regional rooms, this houses some little souvenirs as well as liqueurs from around the country.
The connecting restaurant is like a family homestead. Equipped with an open kitchen, fireplaces, live band and oversized wooden furniture, you’re bound to loose yourself in this place for an afternoon or evening. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to try out the specialties of the restaurant however I heard through the grape vine that the dishes are based on local traditional and modern cuisine and of course you can match it to any of the wine’s at the store for the retail price, not some extravagant restaurant wine list price.
If you don’t have time for a meal, like myself you must stay for a tasting. I was lucky enough to be shown around by Tamara who has her Masters in Viticulture and Enology. The energy and enthusiasm she has for her job are so refreshing that you will leave THOCW with not only new knowledge about Croatian wines but also a huge smile plastered on your face.
My tasting consisted of 4 wines, 2 whites and 2 reds. Here is what I thought:
Grape Variety: Skrlet
Region: Central Croatia
Tasting note: Straw coloured on the eye, this white is candy for anyone of the female sex. The nose is absolutely intoxicating with notes of flowery perfume and fruit salad. It slips down the throat with complete ease, low-medium bodied with a lot of green apple and pineapple flavours coming through. Truly scrumptious and at 9 Euro a bottle you can’t bet it.
Grape Variety: Chardonnay
Tasting note: I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one as Chardonnay is a chamillion in the grape world when it comes to wine styles. However once that bottle was opened and I have one whiff from the glass I could tell this is more new world styled than old world. Oak, oak and more oak this is one bold little fella. Alongside the oak on the palate you also get that beautiful creamy butteriness that completely covers each inch of your mouth with faint hints of peach coming through. This is a big fat wine that reminds me of those big Aussie Chard’s – it definitely is a meal in a glass so your sure not to waste your money on this 11 Euro bottle.
Grape Variety: Cabernet Franc
Tasting note: Cabernet Franc has never been a single-variety wine that I rush to, as quite simply I just find it plain and boring. What I found different with this Croatian attempt at a good Cab Franc is the zealous nose on the bugger. It ignites the senses with aromas of the whole spectrum of black fruits from blackcurrant to blackberries with injections of coffee, tobacco and a sweet cedar wood. This is one wine I would prefer to have a party with on the nose however on the palate there was something lacking – no oomph that I like in a red wine. But at 9 Euro a bottle I may simply buy it just for the nice perfume, it surely is cheaper than Chanel #5.
Grape Variety: Plavac Mali
Tasting note: Being the traditional grape of Croatia you cannot skip trying a Plavac Mali (PM). Who you will know more about than you actually think you do as one of it’s parents is the famous Zinfandel. Having only tried a couple my opinions are soully based on these middle to lower end styles. The Madirazza PM was very interesting – the nose was a mixture of red fruits with vanilla sauce and a background of farmyness. The palate was like flavoured water with a bite of tannins at the end, which sticks around, giving you the false illusion of a long lasting finish. I don’t know if I will be rushing out to buy this 9 Euro bottle again but I guess the only way to truly understand this Croatian grape is to try more and more… it’s a hard life, but someone has to do it!
I had a fabulous afternoon with Tamara and the team at THOCW and next time I am in Zagreb I will definitely be going back to visit. If you are interested in Croatian wines, or wines in general I would definitely suggest you stop in for an afternoon. Make sure you keep the full afternoon free though, as I am sure like me, you will end up losing track of time and end up staying not 1 but 4 hours!
For further information on THOCW, please click here. Everyone is welcome to visit, you can show up or simply send the team a quick e-mail or give them a call to let them know your coming.