Tuesday, January 25, 2022

2019 Black Island Merga Victa Pošip: A Famed Croatian White Grape

In New England, we love our seafood and Croatian white wines, made from the indigenous Pošip grape often make an excellent pairing. Pošip is primarily produced in the Dalmatian region, where seafood is prominent, and I can attest to how well it goes with a variety of seafoods.  

The Pošip grape is indigenous to the Croatian island of Korčula, which derives its name from an ancient Greek colony named Melaina Korkyra, Black Corfu. The origin of the term Pošip is a bit ambiguous, with two main theories. The first is based on the elongated shape of the grape while the other theory is the grapes once grew closely near pomegranate trees, known as šipak. Though some believed that Pošip was brought to the island by those ancient Greeks, DNA analysis has shown that Pošip was born from two other grapes, Bratkovina Bijela and Zlatarska Bistrica, both which are indigenous to Korčula.

It's said that around 1880, a farmer on Korčula, Marin Tomašić (nicknamed Caparin), from the village of Smokvica, found a wild grapevine, Pošip, growing in the forest. He was intrigued and planted some of it in his own vineyard, eventually becoming enamored with the grape. He eventually shared his find with others. 

In 1967, Korčula became a legally protected appellation, making Pošip the first Croatian white wine to be part of such an appellation. Though Pošip originated on Korčula, it has since spread throughout the Dalmatian region, becoming one of the most common and popular white grapes in this region. It is an early ripening grape, versatile and expressive of its terroir. You can find a wide variety of expressions, from stainless steel to oaked, fresh & dry to sweet dessert wines.

In general, Pošip wines can range from medium to full-bodied, possessing flavors of citrus to tropical fruits, and commonly have fresh acidity. They may have mineral notes, a taste of almonds, and might also have a high alcohol content, over 14% ABV. Much will depend on the terroir and winemaking style and I often preferred the unoaked versions of Pošip. It definitely is a fine pairing with seafood, from shellfish to grilled white fish, though it would also work with light chicken and similar dishes.

I received a media sample of the 2019 Black Island Merga Victa Pošip ($25), which is from a winery on Korčula, owned by a Swedish financial fund, and operated by two oenologists, Igor Radovanović and Nikola Mirošević. The brand, Merga Victa, takes it name from a term that refers to "freshwater ponds," said term extending back to when Latin was the official language in Dalmatia. The term means “a path for water.

The grapes are supplied by 25 local family farmers, from vineyards located on the outskirts of Smokvica, with rich, reddish-brown soil. The grapes for this wine are from vines that are at least 15-year-old. This wine is produced from 100% Pošip and has a 13.5% ABV. 

On the nose, there were delightful notes of stone fruits, citrus and floral elements. When I tasted this wine, it was intriguing and delicious, fresh and crisp, with a nice melange of flavors, including peach, pear, and orange, accompanied by a prominent floral aspect with herbal notes. It's probably the most floral Pošip I've ever tasted, and reminded me in some aspects to Viognier, Muscat and Gewurtztraminer. The finish was long and pleasant, and overall, the wine was nicely balanced and compelling. 

I paired this wine with some home-made chicken noodle soup, rather than the usual seafood, and it worked well. The spices and flavors of the soup broth went well with the various elements of the Pošip. Sure, pairing Pošip and seafood is an easy decision, but it pair well with other foods as well. 

However, Pošip & Mali Ston Oysters is still an exquisite marriage. 

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