Wine cellar’s ID
I was born over the cellar, says to me Ivo Duboković, a lecturer in marketing and winemaker in one. Seventy five years ago, in Jelsa on the island of Hvar, granddad Duboković built a family house with a wine cellar buried in the ground, and for years his family worked with Dalmacijavino, selling them grapes. The grapevine has been a part of me since I was a kid. When I went away to study economics, I put a kind of a distance between it and me. My father would sometimes say that he would plant more vines if he knew that I would go in for wines. At the end of the nineties, some people came to see my father and proposed to him some kind of collaboration, because they knew that we had excellent positions and a cellar that was not properly used. This was where the wish was born that I should myself try to make wine. I believed that very good wine could be produced from such good grapes. He admits that at that time he did not know much about production. He started investigating, and at a certain time his way took him to another member of the family, a relative called Ivo Barbić, who had lived for years in Switzerland, and worked in the wine world. Everything I learned about production, I learned from him. This was a huge piece of luck and a blessing. It started as a little and turned into a big hobby. On the market, they appeared first off with Medvid, which many people think is the best Croatian Plavac grape.
Vineyards and assortments
Some of the old vineyards are in top blocks on the southern, sunny slopes of Hvar. Medvid bod is a special block. The Plavac grapes Medvid and Medvjedica come from there. The rest of the vineyards are in the central part of the island, in Pitve, Vrisnik and Svirče. We work with friends and relatives and buy from them some of the grapes, which is a big plus, because in that way we can choose from whom we are going to buy grapes, and we buy only what we think is the best for us. There is one more very interesting block owned by my friend Mario Vranković. It’s at 530 m above sea level, just below the peak of Sv. Nikola. It is planted with 3500 canes of Drnekuša, the oldest of which is about 90 years old. We make the wine Laganini from it. I have Bogdanjuša in my own vineyard, and the rest I take from another two viticulturists. It’s crucial for me for it to grow on red soil, because that’s where it’s best. The other varieties include Maraština, Kuč and Parč.
Cellar, technology, wines
All the wines are fermented with natural yeast. Depending on the type of wine, we combine stainless steel and woods of various ages. All the whites are macerated, after which they age long sur lie. Every vintage is different, and so the wines from different vintages require a different approach. Although it’s a small winery, with an annual production of 15,000 to 20,000 litres, they produce a very wide range. The original names of the wines hide interesting tales. Moja M [ My M] (Maraština), Moja B [My B] (Bogdanjuša), Moj Otok [My Island] (Maraština, Bogdanjuša, Parč and Kuč), N11 Rose (Plavac Mali), Laganini (Drnekuša), and the Plavaces 2718 sati sunca u boci [2718 hours of Sun in a Bottle], Prije 6009 godina [6009 Years Ago], Medvjedica and Medvid and the dessert wines Prvi poljubac [First Kiss] (Maraština, Bogdanjuša, Parč and Kuć) and Don Petar (Plavac). In a range as broad as this, everyone can find what they like best, and since all my wines are table wines – the name of the wine tells a story. Apart from the wines, they produce a wide range of varietal and aromatised olive oils. The wines are sold in good restaurants and speciality wine shops in Croatia, Switzerland, Germany and since quite recently in France too.
Wine is something to relish, and I really relish it. I am happy when I produce something that will be a pleasure for someone. Wine is part of my heritage, my setting. At the moment when someone drinks my wine, that someone is drinking the rain that fell that year, the minerals and energy of the island of Hvar, the sun that came through the leaf and left its mark in every grape. Drinks the energy of the person who cosseted the vine, the energy of the family that took care of the wine. It is up to me to transform this energy into the bottle. My wines are wines that are not Photoshopped. I am aware that this is a fairly difficult way, and that it won’t please the majority. I have chosen and choose the finest and most honest side of the possibilities. The fact is that today I have 17 years of winemaking experience behind me. On the other hand, for the success of any product, marketing is very essential. You can have the most perfect product, but if you don’t put it on the market in the right way, you’ll find it hard to succeed.
At the moment I am most of the time in Jelsa. I live here, and go to Zagreb to lecture. After my father’s death I had to take on his part of the work too. Alongside me there are three more people, and during grape harvest time there are a few more of us. I am responsible for the production, while all the analyses are done in Switzerland. During summer, he has an arrangement with two tourist agencies, and they bring small groups of visitors to the cellar. I make use of the visits to let people know firsthand the atmosphere of the cellar where the wine is made. Hvar is a tourist spot and there could by many more visitors, but for that kind of thing one would have to be differently organised, and at the moment, that’s not my objective.
Plans for the future? Try to repeat what we’ve done already. Try a few new experiments. Try to macerate Maraština longer, and devote more attention to Bogdanjuša. I’d like to try acacia barrels because they and Plavac are an interesting combination. Duboković is one of the members of the Grand Cru association consisting of nine Croatian winemakers. I like being a member. We’re brought together by common interests and aims. We work together and often appear together at fairs. We make different styles of wine, come from different regions of Croatia, and so we don’t compete with each other. I believe that together we can get a lot more done. Now we are in a period when more and more entrepreneurs and winemakers in Croatia are going to understand they have to get together and that synergy will bring a lot more benefits than some imaginary fear of competition.