Madirazza Plavac Mali with a side of nostalgia
When it comes to what we imbibe, it seems that there are the instances where we’re just trying to fill our stomachs and/or get drunk. Then there are those instances where what we take in means so much more than just the sum of its parts.
Such is the case when I have a glass of Plavac Mali. This was the very first Croatian wine that I ever tasted–at least of those made in Croatia as, having grown up in California where Zinfandel abounds, I had been drinking a Croatian grape a very long time previously.
That first taste I’ll never forget as it was at the very cheesily named Carpe Diem bar in the old walled city of Dubrovnik. It was late April, a light rain was coming down outside and along with some local friends, we quickly polished off a bottle of 2003 Zlatan Plenković.
Since then, I’ve tasted many, many more variations on this grape. Some have been total and utter crap. Others were at the level of that first glass and others yet went beyond. Lately, as I’ve been working on an update of our Dalmatia wine guide, I’ve been tasting a whole lot of them and overall, many have left me unimpressed. Oak and heavy extraction have landed with a thud in Dalmatia such as with Saints Hills’ Dingač.
Then, I got around to this bottle from Madirazza in the Pelješac Peninsula village of Potomje–a veritable hub of Plavac Mali for Dalmatia. While overall it’s not as gracious as that Plenković bottle I had years ago, it reaches the similar level and again reminds me how great this grape can be. That and the price is considerably more bearable than some of the others that have come to market lately.
Madirazza Plavac Mali Barrique 2009 opens with an initially earthy nose with dried figs and a touch of licorice. The woody, herbaceous, eucalyptus nose of Plavac Mali can barely peak out. It’s a bright body with a burst of initial acidity that levels out in to a round fullness. As it decants longer, the Plavac character comes through more and more as it gets lighter on the palate, drifting in to a gummy, plush nose on the finish. The oak could definitely be much better integrated, but still, it’s a fine example of an aged Plavac Mali. 13.5% 10.50€
Álvaro Palacios - L’Ermita 2016
Very light red cherry, raspberry, tea leaves, dried fennel, light touch of anise, bay leaf, dried flowers, touch of fig compote, truffle. Exceptionally light and delicate on the palate, very very fine red fruits, integrated tannins, plush with a slightly buttery, velvety aspect, very long finish.
85% Grenache 14% Carignan 1% "Others" · 15% · 1160EUR
Ancestral Wine Cellar - Khikhvi 2014
First harvest of Khikhvi. Light apricot notes, peach skin, lemon peel. Citric in the mouth, fresh, lively acidity, vibrant. Very holistic, full and deliciously good.
100% Khikhvi · 12% · 30GEL
Álvaro Palacios - Les Aubaguetes 2016
Linear plum and dark cherry notes, powdery cocoa, orange peel and blossom, raspberry at the base along with minor vanilla and dark spice touches. Delicate on the palate, light touches of dark fruit, good wealth of tannins yet held in check, medium plus acidity, very long finish. Needs much more time in the bottle.
77% Grenache 21% Carignan 1% Grenache Blanc 1% Macabeu · 14.5% · 455EUR
Petriaant Marani - Khikhvi 2015
Bruised red apple, touch of lemon peel, limestone minerality, and some white pepper notes at the back of it. High acidity and full in the mouth. Luscious, involving, elegant wine.
100% Khikhvi · 14% · 25GEL
Aquila del Torre - Primaluce 2015
Bruised yellow apple, bit of fig compote, chalky mineral notes, and hazelnut. Light oxidized touches that work to embellish the wine. Rich palate that carries lovely texture with the age of the wine.
100% Sauvignon Blanc · 13.5%
Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Blanc 2016
Lemon and white peach, strong kick of salinity, and toasted notes. Very fleshy and full on the palate, peach notes more prominent as well as Meyer lemon, medium plus acidity and a lengthy finish.
100% Grenache Gris · 14.5% · 20EUR
AA Badenhorst - Secateurs Red Blend 2012
Forest bramble with ripe red fruit, touches of cherry, ripe red plum, tiny bit of prune, cumin, anise, black licorice, wet cement mineral note, underlying fig jam. Crisp medium plus acidity, medium tannins, medium plus length, medium alcohol, overall medium plus body that’s ripe and lively but super fresh and balanced at the same time. Bit of rugged wildness to it but doesn’t get out of hand. Easy to drink but with just enough underlying complexity so that it stays interesting.
56% Syrah 27% Cinsaut 6% Grenache 4% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% "Others" · 13.5% · 12EUR
Domaine Treloar - Motus 2015
Dark ruby, minor rim. Big, mighty bouquet of red cherry and other brambly forest fruit, vanilla, almond blossom, orange peel, and cocoa. Rich and full on the palate with a wealth of tannins still integrating, leading into a crunchy, lingering finish.
80% Mourvèdre 10% Syrah 10% Grenache · 14% · 14EUR
Terroir Sense Fronteres - Guix Vermell 2017
Crisp red cherry fruit, touch of spice, flecks of pepper, baking spice, compacted, wet earth. Delicate on the palate, stays fresh, surprising high wealth of tannins, long finish.
100% Grenache · 13% · 250EUR
Tchotiashvili - Khikhvi 2014
Apricot, yellow peach, orange peel, and a touch of honey. Quite complex aromatically. Orchard fruit much more prevalent in the mouth with young apricot notes. Rich and elegant, touch of astringency in the finish.
100% Khikhvi · 13.1% · 28GEL