I had no idea that despite a life-long love of wine that I had never tasted a Croatian wine. That was until this week! While on a cycling tour of Croatia, from Dubrovnik in the south of the country, north via several islands, to Split, my partner and I have visited a winery or two. And it was here that I discovered, according to a winery owner, that Croatian wine is not exported. The 131 different varieties of grapes in this sun-soaked country are kept for the production of delicious, full-bodied white and red wines that are consumed only in Croatia. So if you want to sip large glasses of this gorgeous drink, you need to travel to Croatia. If we had known about the wines here we might well have visited before. And if we had the head and legs for tasting dozens of wines – while also cycling – we would have stopped at many, many wineries and shops en route. Rather than having to search out a winery, you can hardly cycle a kilometre without coming across another sign tempting you inside a cosy room or a vine-covered building to sample their fabulous red and white beverages.
Wine tasting on Korcula island
Today, while staying in the town of Korcula, on the island of the same name, we cycled some 5km to reach Bire Winery. Tucked away on a hillside in the tiny village of Lumbarda, the modest vineyard and winery is owned by Franco Milina-Bire. The vineyard produces both white, GRK, and red, Plavac Mali, wines. Sadly, by the time we arrived late in the season the winery had only red wine left. There was no apology from the owner's wife. She simply shrugged and said: “Yes, we have had a busy season. We sell all our wine locally, to restaurants and hotels. We do not export our wine, which is why you won’t have tasted Croatian wine unless you come to our country. “This year, the visitors to this area have greatly enjoyed our white wine. It has been a good vintage.
If you are lucky you might find a couple of places in Korcula with a bottle or two left. I think one of two restaurants have some left.” Bire did have a few shelves of their red wine left for us to taste. The aroma was rich and the palate was strong and dry. This is a 15.2% red wine! We bought a bottle before it was too late – and headed off with our prize on our bikes back to Korcula town. Today’s reward for a day of cycling in a stunning landscape, where aqua blue seas fringe a pretty and rugged landscape replete with vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees, has been several glasses of home grown red wine. Tomorrow evening we may well go in search of a bottle of the elusive GRK (although we have been told it is pricey), or perhaps we will try another wine or two when we move to our next cycle tour island of Hvar. Sun, sea, wine and cycling. It’s the way to go!