We had this offer scheduled for a little later in the month, but today’s World Cup result pushed it to the front of the line! I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me to figure out how to put the little inverted hat over the letter “s” in Pošip—a symbol which I now know is called a caron and in this case imparts a “sh” sound (note: just hold down the “s” key until options pop up).
Pošip (poe-ship) is the signature white grape of the beautiful Dalmatian island of Korčula (core-chula), which is about halfway between Dubrovnik and Split on Croatia’s long slice of Adriatic coast. Along with Portugal, I’d place Croatia right at the top of my “emerging wine markets” list, as ironic as that may sound: both countries have ancient wine cultures but still struggle to gain traction in the modern market. Croatia, of course, has had more than its share of obstacles, including 50 years of communism and the devastating wars of the 1990s, and is thus still in a rebuilding mode—the Toreta winery being a prime example. Proprietor Frano Banicević only made his first wines in 2013 (albeit with copious notes about the vineyards and winemaking left by his great-grandfather). He has committed himself to Pošip, an exotically aromatic white with great acidity and a light touch of Adriatic salinity. If you saw it on a shelf you’d probably pass it by, given its unfamiliarity, but that’s why we’re here—to wave uniquely delicious wines like this in your face and excitedly urge you to taste them. Think of a dry German Riesling crossed with a coastal white from Italy or Greece and you’ve got this 2017 Pošip pretty well nailed: I’ve yet to try a more evocative summer white!
Korčula was part of the Venetian empire until the early 1800s, and its cuisine and culture still feature many nods to that era. Wind-swept, arid, and lushly forested, the island contained thousands of hectares of vineyards in pre-phylloxera times, but these days there are roughly 450 hectares, 70% of which are white grapes (mostly Pošip). The soils contain lots of iron, giving them a reddish cast like those of the Istrian peninsula further north. Frano farms just five hectares of vines that overlook the Adriatic in the small village of Smokvica, favoring locations where the vines are protected from sometimes-harsh winds.
Pošip is naturally high in sugar but also has great acidity: as with German Riesling, even fully dry styles of Pošip, like this one, give off what I’d call a suggestion of sweetness as opposed to actual sweetness. Anyone who’s tried Kabinett Trocken from the Mosel or Vouvray Sec from the Loire Valley knows what I’m talking about, and while I’d characterize Pošip as more floral, herbal, and saline than Riesling (or Chenin), its lush texture and white peach fruitiness are somewhat reminiscent of both.
When I tasted this 2017, the very first thing that came to mind was a ravioli-like pasta, called krafi, which is a classic Istrian preparation I first learned about from Lidia Bastianich (who hails from Pula, at the tip of the Istrian peninsula, well north of Korčula). There’s a hint of sweetness in the dish, from the inclusion of golden raisins and lemon/orange zest in the filling, and this wine’s combination of floral, fruity aromas and zippy acidity would make it a mouth-wateringly perfect partner. I don’t know if they make krafi on Korčula, but if they don’t, they should!
Toreta’s 2017 (the name toreta refers to ancient, cone-shaped stone shelters found on the island) was fermented and aged only in stainless steel, and shows tremendous freshness and nerve: In the glass, it’s a bright yellow-gold extending to the rim, with an assertively aromatic nose of yellow peach, mango, meyer lemon, white flowers, wild herbs, and a hint of sea spray. While lifted by bright, lip-smacking acidity, this wine has some sneaky density to it: it’s more lushly textured than you might have expected, and well-structured as opposed to flabby. It stays just on the shy side of tropical and finishes with an herbal, mineral twang that beautifully counterbalances the fruit. I could see it aging nicely for 5+ years, but there’s an exuberance to the wine now that says, go for it! Simply pull the cork about 15 minutes before service at 45-50 degrees in all-purpose white wine stems. If krafi (recipe attached) are too much work for you, you can’t go wrong with whole-roasted Adriatic fish (branzino would be best) stuffed with lemons and herbs and drizzled with good olive oil.
Island of Korčula
Iron-Rich Red Clay