On the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic Sea lies Korcula, the island that is beginning to get attention from global wine connoisseurs and culinary enthusiasts. Abhilasha Ojha recounts her travel to the the place.
When Frano Banicevic pours Plavac Toreta 2015, a fairly refined wine, it seems like drops of garnet dance and twirl in my glass. “Life,” he says, smiling intently, “is useless without wine.” This is the sixth wine that we’re tasting as part of Korcula’s wine tour (pronounced Kor-chu-la), a four-hour, must-do expedition organised by Korkyra Info Agency that takes you around the island, one of the prettiest in Croatia. There is such growing interest in this wine globally that it is now protected by the Croatian law to ensure best practices in cultivation of this particular type.
Our trip to Croatia, a reunion of sorts for two old school mates and I, included not just Split, but also Trogir, Korcula, and Dubrovnik. While all the cities have their charm, it is the wine paradise of Korcula, inarguably Croatia’s most beautiful and greenest islands, which takes my breath away. From the spectacular sunsets to the high quality wines that the island produces, Korcula is the destination to visit.
On a wine map, the island is divided into four sections: Lumbarda, Cara, Smokvica, and Blato, each known for its particular grapes, vineyards, and family-run wineries. While the central region of the island grows Posip and Rukatac, on the eastern tip of the island grows Grk, another white grape only found in the village of Lumbarda. Tipple tourism is at its best here, with the tourism board and private players offering curated wine tours to travellers willing to explore the island. We see the entire island on a self-drive tour, with stops at Smokvica and Blato, before heading to Korcula to finish our trip in style with a three-course lunch paired with different kinds of wines, red, white, and dessert rosé.
After Toreto, our next stop, was Blato, a gorgeous town with Baroque mansions, Romanesque-Gothic-style churches, and avenues of lime trees that lend a splendid fragrance to the air. At Blato 1902’s wine tasting room (blato1902.hr)—a company-run winery (unlike Toreto)—we taste a very elegant rosé with a delicious aroma, full of fruity character and floral fragrance. Soft on the palate, this is a wine best served chilled and paired with grilled fish, light pasta, and homemade macaroni. Blato 1902, we are told, is one of the biggest producers of wine today.
In a glass of wine, there’s much more than just that—you are, obliviously, sipping on history, immersing yourself in local traditions, and tasting secrets of vino-making that have been passed down from generation to generation.
What makes the afternoon a memorable experience for us is the lunch at Chakula Macaruni & Wine House in the majestic centre of Korcula town—a mini-fortress, with cobbled pathways, limestone buildings, and Baroqueinspired churches. Some art historians believe Korcula was the home of traveller-merchant Marco Polo (Venice, however, disputes this claim) and Kanavalic Place (where we stay) used to be, in its original avatar, the home of Petar Kanavelic, a 16th century poet. The three-course lunch in Chakula—each course is paired with a different wine, of course—is an invitation to gastronomical luxury and history. The newly opened restaurant showcases a variety of dishes, especially a few that feature the traditional skill of making ‘makaruni’ or macaroni. The chefs tell us the recipe is more than 400 years old and the cooking technique has been passed down generations in the Korcula village of Žrnovo.
My personal favourite is a bowl of freshly-made pasta with meat, drizzled with fresh olive oil, Croatian sea salt, indigenous herbs, and coarsely ground pepper. It’s paired with a ruby red Dingac, another well-known Croatian wine. The pleasure of sipping a top-rated wine with food born from tradition, is a gourmet symphony.