Fermentation vessels for the Posip
Fermentation vessels for Plavac Mali

In my previous post I wrote about a family wine-producing micro-enterprise. The Bura winery produces only around 2,000 bottles each of their key wines, Bura Dingač and Mare Postup. I visited Boris Mrgdić and the Bura family in the morning. That afternoon, by way of contrast, I spent a few hours at Korta Katarina, an impressive new winery just outside Orebic town centre which produces around 80,000 bottles a year.

Korta Katarina (roughly translated as “Katherine’s garden”) was the brainchild of American industrial magnate Lee Anderson. No expense has been spared in building a spacious HQ and creating what is Pelješac’s, if not the whole of Dalmatia’s most leading-edge and well equipped winery. Winemaker Nika Silić made the first vintage of Korta Katarina’s Plavac Mali in 2006, and since then this bold venture has been making a name for itself both locally and internationally. The estate’s white wine, produced from Korcula’s Pošip grape, has won a string of commendations including multiple Decanter awards.

After a fascinating tour of the modern winery and cellars, we sat down with Korta Katarina’s knowledgable and charming Ivo Cibilić for a detailed tasting of the wines. In true KK style, this was conducted in the large air-conditioned tasting room, with chic furniture, exemplary glassware (Riedel, of course) and a selection of delicious olives and cheeses selected to complement the wines.

Pošip grapes passing through selection
Pošip grapes on the selection table, before passing through a heat exchanger

We began with two vintages of the estate’s Pošip, having just seen the 2011 harvest roll off a truck and onto the triage table. The Pošip 2010 is a blend of stainless-steel and barrique-fermented wines. The oak influence is carefully judged, just to provide extra depth and weight, with only about 25% of the final blend coming from Barrique. The nose has the typically grassy, herbaceous aromas, plus some white pepper. The texture is creamy, with the oak contributing bready flavours to complement the tangy green fruit and florality. We then compared this with the 2008, which shows how much more integrated the two components of this wine become after some time in bottle. This allows the citrus and angelica notes to come through, leaving less overt oak influence and greater length.

The cellars at Korta Katarina
The cellars at Korta Katarina

Next up was the Rosé, a blend of Plavac Mali and one of its better known parents, Zinfandel. At 13.9% alchohol you would expect this to be robust, yet there is plenty of freshness in the appealing raspberry and strawberry fruit character. More uniquely,a wonderful savoury quality sets this quite apart from the more frivolous territory that Rosés so often seem to inhabit.

Finally we moved on to the 2006 Plavac Mali, perhaps the signature wine of the estate. Although KK has vineyards within the Dingac region, a conscious decision was made to make a blend from the best grapes in both the Postup and Dingac “appellations”. The result cannot of course be labelled as either “Postup” or “Dingač”, and therefore Korta Katarina arguably becomes the “premium” name on the bottle. On the one hand this is clever marketing (providing that the wine is good), but also I think it is a smart decision in terms of wine-making. Ivo had carefully decanted the wine in advance of our arrival, and it was showing beautifully. The full range of Plavac’s herbal, dried fruit, sage and earthy aromas introduced an astounding array of tar, prunes, smoke, blackberries and chocolate on the palate.

The blend of Plavac from the lower (Postup) and upper (Dingač) slopes of Pelješac manages to achieve elegance, complexity and poise that I think would be difficult to find in a more delimited area. As you might expect, this wine sees quite a bit of French oak (a proportion is aged in new and old barriques for one year) during its three years of maturation (the 2006 was released for sale in 2009), but the final blend is expertly done and I felt I was tasting the grape and not the winemaking. This is also one of those wines that keeps developing as it breathes and opens out – every sip reveals another nuance.

It will be extremely interesting to see how this estate shapes up over the next few years – with such brilliant results already behind them, Korta Katarina should have a bright future. We should not however forget the wine-making tradition that goes before them – both Nika and Ivo come from local winemaking families. Unsurprisingly, not everyone on the peninsula is impressed by this new rich-kid on the block. However, sometimes it takes a newcomer to shake things up a bit – and Korta Katarina is showing not only how excellent the results from this sunbaked territory can be, but also how state-of-the-art equipment and rigorous attention to detail can produce wines that hold their own on the world-stage.