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“Dingač therefore not only represents a prime example of one of Croatia’s premium quality red wines, but of a viticulture adapted to the particular circumstances of time and place.” 

Dingač (pronounced ‘dingach’) is one of Croatia’s most famous wines, made from the Plavac Mali (literally, ‘Little Blue’) variety of grape. Its reputation dates back to the fifteenth century, when its wines would demand prices three to four times higher then those from surrounding areas. When wine producers from the Potomje region realised that competitors were falsely claiming to produce Dingač in order to boost their profits, they requested protection of the name and origin of Dingač wine; which was duly granted by the former-Yugoslavia in 1962. Today, only wine produced from grapes grown on the famous ‘Dingač’ vineyard can take the same names; one of the few examples in the region of a wine from a controlled origin denomination. Leading Dingač produces include Vinarija Dingač, Matuško, Bura-Mokalo, Miloš, Kiridžija and Bartulović.

Dingac_WoB

Photography provided courtesy of Wines of Balkans.

Dingač adorns the southern-facing slopes of the Pelješac peninsula on the Dalmatian Coast; stretching out from just north of the famous medieval town of Dubrovnik towards the island of Korcula. Its terroir is characterized by an abundance of sunshine and the rocky Karst soil. The 45 degree slopes head down sharply to the Adriatic sea, making them largely inaccessible to motorized vehicles.  Though advancements have been made, the unique location of the Dingač vineyards poses particular viticulture challenges.

Niko Bura is one of the leading producers of Dingač; building upon five generations of his family’s winemaking on Peljesac. Niko farms and harvests his spectacular vineyards by hand, before vinifying the grapes in cellars just over the mountains, which are connected by an treacherous one-lane tunnel. The wine is matured using a combination of used and new Slavonian oak from eastern Croatia and is bottled unfiltered. Niko also produces Plavac Mali from grapes slightly raisined by the intense sun, then vinified with natural yeasts and aged in French oak barrels for roughly twelve months, before also being bottled unfiltered. Niko is also experimenting with Marsellane; a rare hybrid between Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon.

WinesofBalkans_PlavacMali

Photography provided courtesy of Wines of Balkans.
Local traditions have long held that Croatia’s ancient sort is the origin of the most famous American grape, the Zinfandel. Indeed, researchers from the University of California Davis School of Viticulture recently learned that Zinfandel is genetically equivalent to the Croatian grape, Crljenak Kaštelanski, which is found in vineyards on the Dalmatian coast. Given that Plavac itself is a hybrid of the Crljenak kaštelanski, the Zinfandel is therefore a distant relative.

Indeed, both have many shared characteristics. Dingač exhibits a dark purple hue, typical of a heavier full-bodied red, with hints of berry and dark cherry flavours. Of late, 2004 and 2007 were particularly good years, with a bottle of 2004 Dingač fetching up to €1,000 per bottle. Dingač therefore not only represents a prime example of one of Croatia’s premium quality red wines, but of a viticulture adapted to the particular circumstances of time and place.

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