Ten brilliant wines from the supermarket

Ten brilliant wines, widely available at Croatian supermarkets like Spar, which make for the perfect gift to yourself or someone back home

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Croatia produces some of the finest wines you will ever try. You may know it, you may not. But it's a fact. The country may not have as famous or developed a reputation as a world leader in winemaking like, say, France or Italy, but those in the know have been aware of Croatia’s brilliant wines for many years. This year alone, Croatian wines have swept the boards at each of the leading, internationally-recognised wine competitions and trade fairs.

Croatia’s wine products are of too high a quality and some too small in production to ever become ubiquitous on UK supermarket shelves; you’d have to go to a specialist wine trader to pick them up. Croatia itself has terrific specialist wine stores where, if you really know what you’re looking for and you’re willing to travel, you can pick up the very best Croatian wines. But not everyone who likes wine is an expert and not every place you go while on holiday has a specialist wine store. However, wherever you go you will find supermarkets like Spar, which has well over 110 outlets in the country. Here, you can pick up some truly excellent wines to treat yourself or to take home.

Ten brilliant wines from the supermarket

Plenkovic Zlatan Plavac

Plenkovic Zlatan Plavac

Plavac Mali, a relative of Zinfandel, is Croatia’s most famous red wine grape, frequently producing the country’s most highly prized and expensive wines. Indigenous to Dalmatia, you can buy this wine at varying standards, from cheap table versions to premium examples any wine buff would love, including the protected appellations of Postup and Dingač (which are usually quite dry). At around 100 kuna a bottle, Plenković Zlatan Plavac is at the top end of the quality spectrum but still cheaper than many ultra-exclusive versions. This very powerful, robust red wine is rich in taste, high in alcohol and in tannins. Perfect for accompanying heavy red meat dishes, it never fails to impress when introduced to someone new.

Korlat Syrah
© Kristijan Janusic

Korlat Syrah

Although it is widely accepted that Croats are a Slavic peoples, one theory about their origin claims that the Hrvati (Croats) actually first emigrated from Persia. Could the Syrah grape, also known as Shiraz, have made the journey with them? Though not indigenous, this ubiquitous Korlat suggests Croatia could be the perfect place for this elegant wine. Distinguishable by the vivid, dark red ruby colour, its powerful, abundant structure and supported by aromas of ripe red fruits - cherries and raspberries – it is additionally harmonised with discrete spicy aromas and matured to perfection in barrique barrels. At around 100 kuna a bottle in Spar, this is a brilliant, dependable wine. Serve at 18°C.

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Malvazija Istarska Matošević Alba

Malvazija Istarska Matošević Alba

Of all Croatia’s recent international successes with its wines, the indigenous Malvazija grape from Istria has doubtless attained the most. Usually available as a fresh wine or a slightly aged version, it is the perfect accompaniment to cheese, cold sliced meats, salads, seafoods and more. This fresh, dry and lively Malvazija from Matošević, which is available at around 70 kuna in Spar among other places, is not the cheapest version of the wine, but it’s still half the price of what specialist stores in the UK sell it for. Floral and fruity with citrus and apple flavours and a slightly minerally finish, it is an excellent example of the best Malvazijas of Istria.

Iločki podrumi Traminac

Iločki podrumi Traminac

Traminac is a cousin of Savagnin blanc, which is not to be confused with the popular Sauvignon blanc grape. Also known as Gewürztraminer, the best Traminac, like the best Graševina and Sauvignon blanc wines from Croatia, are grown in the continental east of the country, in the counties Slavonia and Baranja. As well as being among Croatia’s best white wines, they are surprisingly among the cheapest; when they are on discount at the supermarket, you can pick up what is a genuinely brilliant example of all these wines for as little as 20 – 30 kuna at Spar. Bargain! This widely available Traminac from Iločki podrumi is produced in Ilok, the most easterly town in the country and is famously associated with the British royal family, having been served at both the coronation and wedding of the current Queen and the weddings of both her grandchildren Prince Harry and Prince William. Light and smooth, but also crisp, this wine is the ultimate friend to bring to the party, compatible with everything from starters, pastas, risottos and white meat dishes to rich, fatty, meat dishes, spicy Asian cuisine and light desserts.

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Kutjevo Graševina

Kutjevo Graševina

Graševina is the most commonly planted white wine grape in Croatia, known in other European countries as Rhine Riesling, Welschriesling and especially as Italian Riesling. As such, Croatians are pretty much the world authority on this grape and they produce brilliant versions available at sometimes very minimal cost. It is particularly synonymous with the regions of Slavonia and Baranja in eastern Croatia which produce the best Graševina and especially the town of Kutjevo, where this extremely fine and widely available, top end version comes from. You’ll see this particular wine available in many quality restaurants in Croatia, being sold at a much greater price than it is available at in Spar. Fresh and with a slight, pleasing bitterness and medium alcohol content, this is a premium example of one of Croatia’s best-loved, everyday wines.

Marijan Arman Malvasia Istarska
© Marijan Arman wines

Marijan Arman Malvasia Istarska

Marijan Arman holds around ten hectares of land near Vižinada in Istria, vineyards which his family have used for over 100 years to produce wine. Marijan himself has revitalised the traditional family endeavours to the point where they now produce between 80,000 and 100,000 bottles of wine each year and, though he has recently won plaudits for his reds, such as the Teran Reserve, it is for his Istrian Malvasia that he has won most awards. His fresh Malvasia and his aged one have both come in for serious praise. Marijan Arman Malvazija is pretty much faultless, bright yellow in colour, edging on green, its fresh, floral, fruity flavour the epitome of how the finest Malvazija should taste.

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Korta Katarina Pošip
© Antonio Bokšić

Korta Katarina Pošip

Should you travel to the truly beautiful Croatian island of Korčula, locals will doubtless push you to try their limited-production and highly distinct indigenous wine variety known as Grk or Gark, of which they are extremely proud. To be honest, it’s often a bit of an acquired taste. Curiously, they sometimes shout less about their other indigenous wine variety, Pošip, which they actually produce much more of. A light bodied white wine with moderate acidity and sometimes the smell of apricot, peaches and citrus, it is perfect as an accompaniment to Dalmatian pršut (prosciutto), cheese or fish. Because of the terrain required to produce the best versions, this wine is often laboriously manufactured using traditional methods. Pošip is also the oldest protected indigenous grape variety in Croatia, its status awarded over half a century ago. If you’re looking for the best current example from Korčula itself, try young winemaker Jakša Krajančić’s Pošip Nerica. It can be hard to track down. This brilliant Korta Katarina Pošip, although from neighbouring Pelješac, is available at Spar.

Grgić Plavac mali

Grgić Plavac mali

Strong in alcohol and with an even stronger taste, famed winemaker Miljenko Grgić's Plavac packs such a punch that it is recommended you open it at least two hours before you drink it. One of the prettiest bottles of the whole Plavac mali range contains a wine produced in Trstenik on the Pelješac peninsula, fermented with naturals yeast but at a controlled temperature which helps to keep the wine's character and fruitness. The wine is aged for over one year in special oak barrels from France, the oak aroma it receives softened by a further two years of aging in the bottle and will only get better if you leave it longer. Deep ruby in colour, with heavy tannins, the dark fruit and almost chocolate notes, the wine has such power it can hit you like a hefty homemade variety at first, but the bold flavours begin to complicate once in the mouth, the aftertaste leaving you with no doubt that you're drinking a wine that is very special indeed. At over 100 kuna a bottle, you should perhaps reserve such a purchase for someone you like a lot or someone who really, really knows and appreciates their red wine.

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Galić cuvee Bijelo 9

Galić cuvee Bijelo 9

Lucky is the winemaker who makes an excellent single variety wine from their terroir, but a tip of the hat must be given to those who expertly blend varieties in order to produce something extremely special. Relatively young winery Galić blend 50 percent Graševina, 25 percent Chardonnay and 25 percent Sauvignon Blanc to make their Bijelo 9 (White 9). But this is no random amalgamation of leftovers; the estate’s best grapes go into this blend before it is fermented in French and Slavonian oak barrels for nine months. The blend and manufacture create an elegant and smooth which, though fruity and reasonably sweet, is restrained and not at all sharp. A blended wine of undeniable quality

Agrolaguna cuvee Vina Istria Terra Rossa

Agrolaguna cuvee Vina Istria Terra Rossa

Another blended wine, but this time a red. Vina Laguna’s Terra Rossa not only uses three different grape varieties, but also three different areas of cultivation, as each variety requires a specific soil type in order to produce the best quality grape. An unstuffy wine it is nevertheless an award winner, frequently lauded as being an extremely skillful and complex blend, especially for its modest price. Its appeal lies in Vina Laguna’s pitch-perfect marriage of the fresh tastes of Merlot and the rich, fruity flavor of Istrian Terran with the fragrant, mineral notes of Gamay.

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