Although Croatia and Slovenia have been producing crisp white and bold red wines for centuries, new winemaking technologies and distribution channels have made their wines better and more accessible than ever. Local shop owners and restaurateurs have taken notice--especially for the value.
Slovenia borders Austria and Hungary--and both it and Croatia share the Adriatic Sea with Italy--so the wines have similar characteristics. The grapes might sound exotic, but ones like Plavac Mali and Traminac are usually compared to, if not direct descendants of, our more familiar Zinfandel and Gewürztraminer.
This equates to great food wines. Barbrix owner Claudio Blotta compares Croatia's 2006 Krizevci Grasevina ($6 a glass) to an Italian Riesling; he likes the zesty wine with chef Don Dickman's buttery hamachi crudo.
Here are some others you'll find around town:
2006 Bibich Riserva ($17) This light-bodied, fruit-forward red from Croatia is great with cheeses such as Point Reyes Blue and English cheddar. (winehouse.com)
2006 Santomas Malvasia Glavina ($20) This Slovenian white is reminiscent of Viognier, with peachy, sometimes papaya-like flavors. (silverlakewine.com)
2004 Santomas Big Red Reserve Antonius Refosk ($30) With its big berry flavors and tannins, this bold red is great with braised meats. (klwines.com)
2005 Bura Estate Dingac ($58) Made from the Plavac Mali grape, this Croatian red has a hit of spice and makes a great alternative to Bordeaux-style blends. (liquidpartyworks.com)
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