Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Croatian White Wines GRK, Pošip and Malvasija

A cruise up the Adriatic Sea, visiting various towns along the Croatian coast, I had the opportunity to drink a lot of Croatian wines. It was a new wine world to me, as it may be to many others. Croatia is home to more than 100 indigenous grapes that are relatively unfamiliar to us in the US and among those grapes are a number of crisp, elegant white wines that stole my heart. GRK, Pošip and Malvasija are three white wines from Croatia to look for and they are the Please The Palate pick of the week.

Korčula, located in the Dalmatian region, is a Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea. The Greeks first brought grapes and olives to the island as far back as the 4th Century BC. Known for its white wines, there are two indigenous varieties from there – Grk and Pošip.

Grk, which means Greek, is exclusively grown on Korčula. There are only eight official producers of this grape. Grk was saved from extinction by winemakers like Branimir Cebalo, one of the first private winemakers in Croatia after the fall of  Communism. I met Branimir on my trip who explained that Grk is only grown on Korčula and thrives in the deep, flat, sandy soils near the sea. He produces 5,000 bottles of Grk each year and the total production of the grape is around 30,000 bottles. That makes Grk very limited and very hard to find but you can find it in some restaurants and stores in Croatia (sadly, not in the US).

One of the Grk wines we were able to find was the Bire Grk 2016, Korčula. Located in Lumbarda, a small village on Korčula surrounded by stones and the sea, Bire Estate is owned by vintner Frano Milinais. The wine is a pale yellow color with floral, stone fruit and citrus notes. On the palate, the wine has tropical fruit and mineral notes with crisp acidity.

Pošip is another indigenous white wine grape that is primarily grown in the Dalmatian region of Croatia on the island of Korčula. One story behind the name Pošip (poship) is that several hundred years ago, a farmer had a grape vine growing on a pomegranate tree. Pomegranate is called a “shipak” so the grape was named “par shipak” to mean “from the pomegranate. Over time, “par shipak” became “pošip”. It is generally a light bodied wine that we enjoyed with many fish dishes.

Luke Krajančić sees Pošip as one of the most promising white Croatian indigenous varieties and has been dedicated to putting Pošip in the spotlight. The Intrada Pošip Krajančič 2016 has aromas of white flowers, citrus and tropical melon with bright full-mouth acidity.

Istria is the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea, located in the northern part of Croatia, near Italy. The grape Malvasija (or Malvazija) [pronounced “mal-va-ZEE-ah”] can be found in Istria but perhaps you have had a Malvasia from Italy, Portugal or elsewhere.

Malvasija is an intensely fragrant wine with stone fruits and mineral notes and was also a lovely accompaniment to fresh seafood and rich fish dishes. I enjoyed three beautiful examples.

Rossi Malvazija Istarska -The Rossi family has been producing wine since 1885, focusing on quality commercial production beginning in 2000. The grapes for the Malcazija Istarska come from 50 year old vineyards. The wine is stainless steel fermented and spends 8 months on the lees. The resulting wine is a bright yellow color with fruity notes of apple and apricot. On the palate, the wine has moderate acidity and a lovely textural quality that coats the palate.

Benvenuti Malvazija 2017 Istria – Located in the village of Kaldir, the Benvenuti Winery is a story of family, tradition and terroir. Working with indigenous varieties, they focus on micro-locations. The Benvenuti Malvazija 2017 is a fresh, aromatic wine with notes of lemon, grass and minerals. The freshness and minerality continue on the palate.

Fakin Malvasija Istriana 2017 Istria – Fakin Winery is located in the medieval town of Motovun, almost 900 feet above sea level. The Faken Malvasija 2017 is a pale yellow color with floral aromas. On the palate, the wine is elegant, fresh and nicely balanced.

Crisp, aromatic, fresh and bright. What else can you want from a white wine? These are refreshing wines to enjoy with seafood, white meats, cheeses and more. And that is why GRK, Pošip and Malvasija from Croatia are the Please The Palate pick of the week.