For a small country, Croatia has so much for me to explore—and learn. Leaving Orebic in my rearview mirror behind, I head toward Dingač, the infamous and inhospitable wine region southeast of here.
With my eye on research for my new book, I cannot leave the Peljesac peninsula until I’ve seen Dingac and its steep vineyards, rocky soil, and views of the Adriatic. After, I must decide whether to take the ferry to Korcula, the island just a few kilometers across the sea from Orebic, or head to Trpanj and take the ferry to Ploce from where I then would ride the coast to Split. Decisions.
To get to Dingac, I motor to the tiny village of Potomje, and then through a short and narrow and crudely carved tunnel through the rocky mountain. It dead ends at a vineyard with old vines of Plavac Maili, the indigenous Croatian red grape varietal. For centuries Plavac Mali, a near relative of Zinfandel, or Crljenak Kastelanskij as it’s known in Croatia, has been cultivated on these steep and rocky slopes.
The terrain is so rough and steep that the entire protected region must be tended to and harvested by hand. The growers here cannot use tractors, only donkeys, horses, or mules. It’s nearly harvest time, and the berries I see clinging to the vines are small, look very ripe with some even looking close to raisinating.
It’s no wonder that the grapes get so ripe and give Dingac Plavac Mali alcohol levels pushing beyond 15%. Here the slopes have southwest exposure which during the summer provides these grapes some 15 hours of sun exposure. This combined with its proximity to the Adriatic Sea, which acts as a massive reflector and magnifies the intensity of the sun. The grapes love this, and you will enjoy the wine resulting from these vineyards.
Dingac was the first protected and designated region for Plavac Mali in Croatia. But just down the road where I spent a few days in Postup, the Plavac Mali grapes there get the same exposure and results. It’s grown in other parts of Croatia, but the consensus among wine professionals, that due to the soil, sun exposure, and location, the best Plavac Mali wines come from Dingac and Postup.
I hop off my bike and wander through an almost flat part of the vineyard. The vines are old and gnarly, and the clusters of grapes seem to beg to be picked. Soon, I’m sure these slopes will be filled with workers and animals as the rush to harvest will be chaos to what is now a very peaceful place.
I cannot wait for harvest, and with no time to explore Potomje, it is time to decide where to go next.