Croatia: On The Wine Trail To find Grk Made On The Island Of Korcula
So, how far would you go for a drink I journeyed to a land of scorpions and castrated goats on the path of a strange beverage referred to as ‘Grk’.
It’s a wine with no vowels, grown on vines that don’t have any pollination. I used to be heading on an journey to a dazzling Croatian island visited by the wealthiest males on Earth, but just a budget flight away for the remainder of us.
With out realising it at the time, I was joining the multi-million-pound vacation trend of ‘tipple tourism’. I have always found that occurring a vacation with a purpose makes it like a quest, with all the excitement that entails.
Intoxicating surroundings: Chris Choi in the vineyards of Lumbarda, where the grapes for Grk wine grow
This time it started in a London basement bar referred to as The Phoenix Membership on Charing Cross Road, frequented by a couple of ITV stalwarts. There, I found a bottle of this uncommon wine.
I’d never heard of Grk, however its story reads like a legend. This scrumptious white wine is produced towards all the chances. It comes from vines that can not replicate themselves, having only female components.
It’s nurtured in particular terraces excessive above the Adriatic and in only one small a part of the small island of Korcula. Whether because of the graceful depth of the style or the enchantment of this superb story, I determined to go.
A string of no-frills airlines will get you to Dubrovnik, and that’s where most vacationers grind to a halt. A two-hour drive north along the sparkling coastal street will get you to a ferry, which rapidly and really cheaply lands you on Korcula.
At 107 square miles, it’s the sixth-largest Croatian island, roughly double the scale of Jersey. I like a bargain and this is four locations for the worth of 1. Every vista shows a mix of Venice, Greece, France and Croatia.
Enchanting: A gorgeous harbour on the island of Korcula, where Grk is nurtured in particular terraces high above the Adriatic
From the 13th Century onwards, totally different states tussled over the island, leaving a unique mix of renaissance, baroque and Venetian architecture.
Virtually with out exception, buildings are carved from the historic local stone which warms to a pussycat grey in the sun. Thought to be the birthplace of Marco Polo, Korcula is an unspoilt historic gem.
With vines surrounded by olive groves and steep pine forests, it seems to be more Mediterranean than Dalmatian. No marvel Bill Gates brings his mates and his yacht right here. There’s no mass tourism, however when the massive travel operators pulled out in the course of the Nineties they left a superb mixture of accommodation for a variety of prices.
I stayed on the Lesic Dimitri Palace lodge, a 300-year-outdated bishop’s palace run by one of the island’s zesty characters.
Day journey: From Korcula, you’ll be able to take a taxi boat to the tiny neighbouring island of Badija – and take a dip
Toni Dimitrio not too long ago starred in the BBC’s Three Men In A boat – virtually severing Griff Rhys Jones’s finger throughout the filming of a sword-dancing demonstration. In addition to utilizing lethal weapons in traditional choreography, he is a educated opera singer.
Toni steadily sings for diners and is pleased to offer the local lowdown to holidaymakers. ‘For stew, go just for castrated goat, known as skopac. For fish, have scorpion fish, caught by harpoon,’ he tells them.
‘Eat the hand-made macaroni, introduced right here by Marco Polo. Strive travarica herbal alcohol, which you too can rub on any wounds you get on the seashore.’
The Italians occupied the island through the Second World War. Now they invade in a flotilla of small boats every summer season, to grace the beaches. I determined to flash my bony British knees and located it actually is relaxing to swim in this heat and sheltered nook of the Adriatic.
Treat: A bottle of the elusive wine, which will get snapped up by native hotels
I didn’t get any cuts or bruises, which is an effective thing because I had already downed my travarica.
From Korcula, you’ll be able to take a taxi boat to the tiny neighbouring island of Badija for a enjoyable day journey. Badija is crowded with pine timber and dwelling to a 14th Century monastery, as well as some over-friendly goats.
There are many excursions to make this both a weekend or longer vacation spot. For instance, I went to see among the native olive groves. You’ll be able to snooze below olive timber identified to be 2,000 years outdated, sipping cold water fresh from a effectively, right in the course of the growing terraces.
However the drink I’d come for was Grk, a wine so prized that it makes champagne look frequent. My first cease was the market in Korcula town, the place there are indicators of change.
Croatia has simply acquired final approval to affix the EU and, even in this picturesque rustic market full of cherries, figs and apricots, reforms are coming.
I met 74-yr-previous pigeon-egg seller Pera Erceq, who additionally offers cheeses. She says officials have made her EU-compliant.
‘They say I now must put on a white apron, white gloves and white hat. They’ve made me buy a fridge for my market stall, though most people just like the produce at its natural temperature served from my previous stone table.’
The market is a foodies’ fantasy, with cheesecakes made to a local recipe and a vast range of honey merchandise…however there was no Grk. Every year only 30,000 bottles are produced and 80 per cent are snapped up by local lodges.
Wine-making was introduced right here by the Greeks and continued by the Romans. Korcula Town appears as if it was made as the perfect wine-drinking vacation spot, with narrow streets radiating in a herring-bone sample from St Marco square and the cathedral.
It is all framed by the excessive partitions of a fort constructed by the Venetians. It appears and appears like Venice, however there are not any canals – and no crowds. I never noticed one bit of litter or graffiti and the little stone-built retailers are free of tourist tat.
Local flavour: Pera Erceq promoting cheese at Korcula market – a haven for foodies
Few of the lovely old buildings stand as idle monuments; even the 16th Century metropolis hall remains to be used by the mayor. I continued my wine odyssey, travelling four miles along the principle island street to Lumbarda.
Vehicles are easy to hire and there is just one set of visitors lights on the island. The Milinda family, who’ve lived in Lumbarda for 400 years, own a number of the only a few Grk vineyards, set amid dry-stone walls, pines and uncovered limestone hills.
From the area around these solar-dazzled terraces, you possibly can see Italy. There are three sandy beaches nearby, some of one of the best the island has to supply. Round right here they are not used to journalists and look slightly daunted by the quantity I can drink during a tasting (once I dispense with the spitting-out stage).
Nor are they operating on what I would name an industrial scale. Stone Island Online Mr Milinda had been up until midnight the night time earlier than bottling the latest vintage.
The grandfather of the family stone island vs canada goose planted many of their 18,000 vines and now three generations run this winery. Visitors are welcome to taste wine with native fruit and meats.
‘Here we attempt to maintain the magic of life, not chasing a dream from the Television adverts,’ says wine-maker Frano Milina. ‘My particular place is a shack in the course of the vineyard the place we keep during the harvest.’
The great thing about this wine path is that it takes you to a variety of locations all needed for a similar product. One Grk vineyard is by the sea, giving a very slight saline trace to the finished wine.
One is on the plain the place winds massage the land, bringing a dryness. The opposite perches on terraces etched excessive into the steep mountains, bringing solar into the mixture. Grk is created by a delicate mix of grapes from these three areas.
To add to the complexity, the Grk grapes need to have another selection close by because in any other case they can’t reproduce. When you taste the wine, particularly on its dwelling floor overlooking this solar-drenched part of the Adriatic, you’ll agree it’s price the trouble…and well worth the journey.
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While alcohol has ruined many locations due to raucous stag and hen weekends, it can also be an amazing ambassador for holiday areas.
It has attracted the Queen and President Obama to Dublin’s Guinness brewery, one million individuals a 12 months to Scottish whisky distilleries and thousands to the Champagne region of France.
Closer to dwelling, cider’s rising reputation within the UK is attracting visitors to the apple-growing area of Herefordshire. Sadly for Korcula, its Grk is probably by no means going to get into our shops as a signpost to the gorgeous little Croatian island.
Not enough is produced to catch the eye of supermarket executives. Although entry to the EU will make importation of Grk much simpler, just about the only option to style it will nonetheless be to journey to Korcula.
That could be a quest I would suggest.
Flights to Dubrovnik from a variety of UK airports can be found by means of British Airways (www.ba.com), easyJet (www.easyjet.com) and Monarch (www.monarch.co.uk).
Room rates at the Lesic Dimitri Palace begin at £292 per night together with breakfast. See www.lesic-dimitri.com.