08-10-2011

The “Vinski Puti” of Vis

Vis Island has had a storied military history that ultimately led to a great deal of isolation. In WWII, it was the staging ground for British troops as well as the hideout for Tito and the Partisans. After the war, it became a very important naval base for the newly-founded Yugoslavia, and it was at this point where access to the island became extremely limited.

Following the breakup of Yugoslavia, Croatia decided not to use the island for a naval base and the travel restrictions were lifted in 1989. With this, regular ferry service started and all those who wanted to, began to visit the island and tourism has slowly started to develop over the years.

This isolation had a heavy impact on all facets of life for those who live on Vis. In regards to wine, it severely stunted the growth of the industry, as the main source of income was fishing. Despite this, there are a great many grapes grown on Vis and about 20% of all the land suitable for farming is dedicated to growing wine grapes. But, with a perimeter erected around the island for so long, there was really no outside market that the wine could be produced other than some small exports to the mainland. Thus, wine production stagnated. The technology that producers were using froze in place from the 1940’s and a good deal of wine land stopped being farmed.

Fortunately, there is now a rebirth of wine on Vis. Growers are planting more grapes and producing more wine than ever before. This is in no small part to the dearth of tourist money that has started coming in to the island. The beaches are still rather secluded even in high season, but in addition to sunbathing, people explore this island more than the others. They head out to neighboring Biševo island for the Blue Grotto tours, they traipse around the whole island on organized tours and there are even some agencies that organize hiking excursions to Mount Hum, the highest point in Vis at 587m. The island lends itself well to these activities being quite compact at 90 square kilometers in total area and 10 kilometers in width at its widest point.

Vis is the only island that has an established Wine Route. These exist in other locations on the mainland to varying degrees and are usually called Vinska Cesta, or literally, ‘wine road’. Whether it is to make it sound diminutive and cute (Vinski Puti literally translates in to ‘wine path’) or just a dialectic inflection, it is a very good wine route.

The Vinski Puti is easily followed on the main road that goes around the island in a loop from one end at Vis city to the other at Komiža (the two main towns in the island). If one is the slightest bit fit and able to deal with some inclines at each end, it could readily be covered on bicycle. The wine business isn’t quite as booming on Vis as in other parts of Dalmatia, so there isn’t someone waiting at a desk to receive people like you see in places on the mainland. Thus, dropping in can have mixed results with the winemaker often out in the fields or sometimes enjoying a midday nap. Still, people are generally always hospitable even if one is visiting on short notice.

Wineries such as PZ Podšpilje, Sviličić, and Lipanović are just a few that you’ll encounter along the way that are producing reliable Plavac Mali reds as well as Vugava, a white that on Vis is called Bugava. The Plavac tends to run rather dry and a good deal lighter than that on the mainland. The Vugava is also quite light, drifting towards fruity with soft honey tones and is quite pleasant on the hot days that Vis sees. Some of the wineries make a Prošek from it as well.

We talk a great deal more about the wineries of Vis Island as well as the other Croatian wine regions in our Dalmatian enotourism guide.

WINES

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
97+ 3 Stars

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
95 3 Stars

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
95+ 3 Stars

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
94 3 Stars

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%
93 2 Stars

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
93 2 Stars

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
93 2 Stars

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
93 2 Stars

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
93+ 3 Stars

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
93+ 3 Stars