Bin Ends, in Braintree and Needham, is one such store and on a recent excursion there I found an interesting and delicious Croatian wine, the 2010 Vinarija Dingač Peljesac Red Wine (about $14).
Croatia is located across the Adriatic Sea from northern Italy, and the Peljesac peninsula extends about forty miles into the Adriatic. Grapes have been grown in this region for thousands of years so there is much history here. Much of the land is steep and rocky, necessitating the use of donkeys to transport grapes (which is why there is a donkey on the wine label). The region also has plenty of sunshine and lots of herbs grow there, which can add herbaceous notes to the wines. In 1961, the region of Dingač within Peljesac became Croatia's first protected wine region.
Most of the vines in this region are planted with the indigenous and hardy grape, Plavac Mali, which means "little blue" as the grapes are small and blue. It once was believed that Plavac Mali was an ancestor of Zinfandel, but DNA analysis has proven that not to be the case. In fact, Zinfandel is one of the parents of Plavac Mali, the other being an ancient grape Dobričić. The Vinarija Dingač winery produces several wines from Plavac Mali.
This is the first wine I've ever tasted a wine made from Plavac Mali so I can't discuss whether it is typical or not. I can't compare it to other Plava Mali wines to see how it measures up. All I can do is tell you that I enjoyed its taste and found it to be a good value.
It is an easy drinking red wine, but with sufficient character to raise it up beyond simple plonk. It was medium-bodied with mild tannins and an interesting blend of flavors, including black cherry, ripe plum, dark spices, pepper and a hint of herbal notes. There is a sense of the exotic in the taste, as some of it seems familiar but there is also something different with it as well. This would be an excellent burger and pizza wine, though it would stand up to a hearty pasta dish too. I think it would do well with a summer BBQ too.
I need more Croatian wine.