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€