September 17, 2016


Europe is full of wine countries both old and new, but surprisingly many of them are ones no-one knows very little to none of. For example before the last year I would've had no problems pointing out Bosnia-Herzegovina from the map of Europe (it's the country inside the "banana" that is Croatia), but if asked what kinds of wine they produce in Bosnia-Herzegovina, I would've been dumbfounded: "They make wine in Bosnia-Herzegovina?"

Sure they do. The grapevine itself is originally from the Georgian-Armenian region and it came through Turkey to Europe, and as the vines are incapable of teleportation, they had to go through the Balkans to reach Italy, France and Spain, right? So of course they have been growing vines and making wines in the Balkans for thousands of years. If the country is not known for their wines, it does not necessarily mean that they don't make wines there.

Traditionally the wine production of Bosnia-Herzegovina has been centered on small producers making simple wine for local consumption. Only in the recent years there has been a small resurgence of interest on making wine in more commercial style. Though the wines are still mainly consumed locally, the best wines of the country show a lot of promise and potential.

The wine production of Bosnia-Herzegovina is centered on two regions: the more important one is situated in the southern parts of Herzegovina (and Herzegovina, in turn, is the southern half of Bosnia-Herzegovina), with most of the production centered around the city of Mostar. This region is situated very close to the Adriatic sea, only the thin, mountainous strip of Croatia standing between. The lesser wine region is situated in the northern parts of Bosnia.

The most prominent characteristic of Bosnia-Herzegovinan wine is the locals' insistence on using two local varieties: red Blatina and white Žilavka. There are some other varieties grown as well, red Vranac and Alicante Bouschet being two popular ones, but even their plantings are minuscule compared to Blatina and Žilavka. In the past Žilavka was the most popular white variety in the Yugoslavia, but after the collapse of Yugoslavia, it has been found very rarely outside Herzegovina and even then almost always as a minor constituent in wine blends. However, the variety has found its home in Herzegovina, where it is the most planted grape variety. Blatina is similarly encountered mainly in Bosnia-Herzegovina as well, with a few plantings found in Croatia. The biggest problem with Blatina is that it produces only female flowers, so the plants can't self-pollinate themselves – unlike a vast majority of world's vines. Instead, producers need to interplant their vineyards with some other varieties so that the grape flowers become pollinated by the flowers of these other varieties with the help of insects in the spring and they start to produce grapes in the summer. This is why varietal Blatina wines are often not 100% varietal wines, but so-called "field blend" wines with always a little amount of other varieties in the mix. This incapability of self-pollination makes the variety a bit unreliable – if there is no cross-pollination during the period of inflorescence, the producer is left with vines that bear no fruit, only leaves. This is why many producers have started to replant some of their Blatina vineyards with more reliable, international varieties – which is a real shame, because this variety can make really wonderful, bright and focused wines with good identity and lovely freshness, despite them coming from a relatively hot wine region.

Grge Vasilja Carska Blatina 2013
My first contact with Bosnia-Herzegovinan red wine. I don't have much background information on the producer, because Google offered me very little help and as my Bosnian is a bit rusty (*ahem*), the few pages that I found were of rather little help. But from what I could gather, is that Grgo Vasilj operates a combined hotel-winery in the village of Međugorje, located a bit southwest from Mostar, the heart of local viticulture. I didn't find any specifications for this wine, so I don't know whether it is a 100% Blatina or a traditional field blend with some other varieties in the mix.

The wine's color is clear but quite dark cherry color that light passes through quite easily.

In the glass the wine offers an intense and slightly wild nose with complex aromas of pronounced peppercorns, smoke, blackberry, ripe dark cherry, some tart red forest berries and a hint of earth. To be frank, this really doesn't feel that unlike a Northern Rhône Syrah.

In the mouth the wine is medium-bodied with medium acidity. The palate exhibits spicy flavors of black pepper, ripe cherries, fresh blackberries, some herbs, a little cranberries and a hint of chocolate – the latter suggesting that the wine has seen a bit of oak. The tannins are very modest, and with only medium acidity, the wine hasn't got that much structure – fortunately the wine isn't a big and bold monster wine, so it never feels dull or ponderous.

The ripe and sweet finish leaves flavors of succulent dark cherries, sour cherries, some pepper and a hint of sweet oak. Towards the end a touch of tannic astringency becomes more noticeable.

All in all, this is an interesting effort, not quite unlike a Crozes-Hermitages, but with sunnier, darker fruit flavors and less pronounced acidity and tannins. It smells and tastes like a cool-climate Syrah, but drinks like a warmer-region one.

Summary: Nice! This Blatina is a good and tasty wine that is easy to pair with a big range of different dishes. I especially enjoyed that the wine was not obfuscated by oak but the fruit was allowed to shine all the way through. Enjoyable stuff, though nothing special to write home about. My friendship with this variety started with the right foot.


Nuić Blatina 2013
  • Vinogradi Nuić
  • Country: Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Region: Herzegovina, Herzegovina-Neretva, Mostar
  • Grape(s): Blatina (85%), Trnjak (10%), Alicante Bouschet (5%)
  • Price: 13,00€ / 75 cl
  • Tasted on: Oct 29th, 2015

This wine comes from the Mostar wine region, where crushed calcareous rocks (or karst) form the soil, giving the wines good setting for growing and producing high-quality fruit. The Nuić winery was founded in 2004 and they started by planting 7 hectares worth of local Blatina, Žilavka, Bena and Krkošija varieties with Croatian Trnjak and Plavac Mali varieties and international Cabernet Sauvignon and Alicante Bouschet varieties. Currently the vineyards span some 35 hectares and now they include Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Touriga Nacional and Croatian Pošip as well. The vineyards are tended as naturally as possible with good emphasis on organic viticulture; instead the wines are made in a modern, state-of-the-art winery built partially underground. All the wines are fermented with natural yeasts in stainless steel tanks, where most of the wines are aged as well – only the best wines of the winery are moved into French oak barrels to age.

The wine has a youthful, slightly purple, reddish black appearance.

The bright, youthful and moderately expressive, dark-toned nose is full of aromas of blackcurrant, blackberry, sweet plum and chokeberry with some ripe grapey notes and inky and meaty nuances in the background.

In the mouth the wine feels juicy and medium-to-full bodied with nice, mouthwatering acidity and very meager tannins. The palate shows ripe, fruit-forward and a bit grapey flavors of dark forest fruits, some ink, a bit of ripe damsons and a hint of raw gamey meat. There is also lovely, fresh complexity of freshly picked raspberries and toasted spices underneath. Interestingly enough, the wine has soft, smooth and surprisingly sweet overall expression – despite the wine being quite high in acidity and most likely almost-to-completely bone dry, residual sugar-wise. Unfortunately the wine loses some of its freshness and complexity when it gets warmer, so I'd suggest going for rather cool serving temperature.

The wine finishes with pure, juicy and bright aftertaste that leaves very lengthy, sweet flavors of ripe dark berries, black-skinned grapes, some spice, a bit of meatiness and a hint of honey. There is also a hint of tannic grip that gives some welcome roughness to the finish.

Now this was a really positive surprise, even though the Grgo Vasilj's wine was pretty attractive little drop already, setting the bar rather high. Nuić still manages to go a step or two further, resulting in a very lovely, tasty and moreish Blatina with impeccable purity, brightness and drinkability. This is not overtly complex wine (and I'm not sure if Blatina can make such wines), but for an honest, straightforward little red wine this is definitely an overachiever.

Summary: In my view this wine is not unlike the simpler wines produced by good natural Beaujolais wineries – although stylistically this is a more dark-toned, meatier wine than a good Beaujolais. All in all, Nuić Blatina is a superb everyday wine and I'd love to have some more of these in my fridge ready for some poppin' and pourin'! This "Balkan Bojo" was really a wonderful purchase at 13€.

No comments:

Post a Comment