By Anita Palada – https://anitapaladabrand.com
Everywhere you turn, there’s nothing but boulders and thickets on the hilly terrain by the sea. Not the first choice for a wine adventure. Many asked themselves during the process: “Will this meagre land in Komarna, near Dubrovnik in Croatia, ever be able to bear juicy fruits ripened in the sun?”
A few wondered, many doubted, but some didn’t give up: Stipe and Damir Dominikovic and Davor Martinovic. After a series of business successes, they decided to take on a new challenge: They wanted to plant new vineyards on that rocky soil and grow their own vines.
The youngest Croatian terroir
The steeply sloping, rocky terrain wasn’t too promising, but they wanted to start cultivating at least 5 hectares. Heavy machinery transformed the hill and day by day, their idea took on a more and more concrete form.
“We had to dare, resist the conventional belief that nothing can grow on this rocky terrain. The most important thing was to batter this long-neglected, hard soil and prepare it for planting new vines,” Davor Martinovic begins his story.
Today, the vineyards cover an area of more than 16 hectares and have 125.000 vines. Perched on top of a small hill is the contemporary Terra Madre winery, occupying 800 m2 and completed with giant wine containers and wooden barrels to store wine. The upper floor occupying 400 m2 is intended for wine tasting. It’s the gastronomic paradise for all who are eager to savour delicious wine together with domestic food: cheese, prosciutto, salted and marinated anchovies. The terrace offers an unforgettable view. The clear blue sea of the Neretva bay coalesces with the azure blue sky and the green vineyards of the Pelješac peninsula, one of the best-known wine-growing regions in Croatia.
Thanks to hardworking and persistent people like Davor, Damir and Stipe, Komarna has become the youngest Croatian terroir. The endless rows of vines at the foot of the hill merge with the craggy shore. This harsh, rocky environment is where Plavac Mali grows. “That autochthonous Croatian variety gives excellent sugars and acids, as well as sharp flavors and bitterness,” Davor continues. “But in addition to Plavac Mali, we also planted smaller quantities of the French Syrah and Cabernet sauvignon varieties, which give Plavac extraordinary gentleness and softness”.
Plavac Mali is one of the best known and respected wine varieties in Croatia. It’s genetic linked to the Zinfandel grape, as Plavac Mali is a cross between the variety that the Croatians call Tribidrag – and the rest of the world calls Zinfandel – and a less know variety, Dobričić. Read more about the Birthplace of Zinfandel in Croatia.
“This is limestone land. A dry area with minimally fertile soil. Therefore, we irrigate the Plavac vines in the initial stage of ripening, which repays us manifold in quality. The Scirocco and Bora winds, triple insolation, karst, sea and sun all affect the grape yield and wine quality”.
From the rocky terrain to the Decanter award
Terra Madre winery produce five types of wine, including two reds made from the Plavac Mali variety. This production requires aging in wooden barrique barrels for up to 3 years. Plavac Mali Premium wine is made from Plavac grown on selected fields. “Yields are lower in quantity because pruning is regulated and the fruits are partly removed. Because of this, the wine is of special quality. The silver medal we won at Decanter, a prestigious London wine fair, testifies to this,” says Davor proudly. His daughter and trusted associate Vedrana Martinovic Trutina joins our conversation, too.
“When we exhibit at wine fairs, especially at the biggest ones like ProWein in Dusseldorf, it becomes clear to me where we come from, what we do and how strong our competition is. It’s great to be in the company of good winemakers from all over the world. We are constantly committed to be as close as possible to them in terms of selection and quality. But we also have our own powerful aces up our sleeve: indigenous varieties, new vineyards, organic production and a God-given location,” says Vedrana, also revealing that her biggest dream is to sell the wines on new, still uncharted international markets.
From the Adriatic to America
In addition to red wines, Plavac combined with Syrah gives an extraordinary mild rosé. “This is the most sought after wine in the area around Dubrovnik, it’s especially popular among the ladies, who like to drink it as an aperitif wine or in combination with light seafood. Pošip is a white wine that pairs well with Adriatic white fish, swordfish, John Dory fish, dentex fish and shellfish, and especially with oysters from Mali Ston,” Davor shares his abundant culinary experience.
Overseas markets also recognized the quality of Komarna wines. Mirena Bagur, an enterprising American woman of Croatian descent, visited the Terra Madre winery as a guest. She liked their wines so much that she chose to offer them to all Americans. As other winemakers from Komarna joined this project, she grouped them all under the unique K7 brand. The market’s differences and administrations were reconciled successfully and Americans can now drink Komarna wines in more prestigious restaurants.
When you drink for a living
The oenologists Marko Šuman and Gorana Dominikovic are Terra Madre’s wine experts. They’ve been taking care of young and aged wines for a long time and are continually checking the quality and maturity, especially of red wines aged in barrels, for up to five years before tasting. “We can’t relax until we get positive quality ratings. We do this from day to day, from year to year, because mature wines get consumed, while simultaneously, new ones are being produced,” Marko says and continues:
“We taste wine every day. We have to sense all its flavours and at the same time, memorise the taste from yesterday. Every sip of wine must be clean, rinsed with water so that the flavours do not overlap and mix. Our palate is our most important tool for assessing the quality, hardness or dryness of the wine.”
The two young people make a great team, although Gorana is still learning the trade from Marko. Next year he’ll let her take care of the cellar, while he plans to concentrate more on the vineyards where, in his own words: “the quality of the wine stems from.” The greatest pleasure for both of them is the recognition for a job well done and high-quality wine. Terra Madre winery is undoubtedly at the forefront of the wine-making business, side by side with well-known wine producers.
Gastronomic endeavours in the future
But this is not where the story ends. These hard-working people don’t stop planning and dreaming new dreams. Davor Martinovic may have retired, but he’s still developing new projects with his partners.
The next plan is to open a luxury restaurant, that’ll provide special delicacies, traditionally cooked meat, grilled Adriatic fish and homemade cakes. Apart from the wine tasting, the terrace with splendid views will offer a new gastronomic experience as well. Enjoying the small stone-lined Dalmatian houses surrounded by the green vineyards whilst drinking wine under the starry sky is bound to lift a spirit.
What more can one wish, except to visit that magical place?
About Anita Palada
Anita Palada is a journalist from Croatia, specialized in travel and tourism. She writes the most about her country Croatia, especially about different picturesque places along the Adriatic coast. But not only from Croatia!
She also travels, explores, and talks with people worldwide to convey exciting stories about interesting destinations, heritage hotels, good restaurants, traditional food, and tasty wines.
Read more on https://anitapaladabrand.com