Croatia: On The Wine Path To seek out 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 wierd beverage referred to as ‘Grk’.
It’s a wine with no vowels, grown on vines that don’t have any pollination. I was heading on an adventure to a dazzling Croatian island visited by the wealthiest males on Earth, yet only a budget flight away for the rest of us.
Without realising it at the time, I used to be becoming a member of the multi-million-pound holiday pattern of ‘tipple tourism’. I’ve all the time found that occurring a vacation with a purpose makes it like a quest, with all the pleasure that entails.
Intoxicating surroundings: Chris Choi within the vineyards of Lumbarda, the place the grapes for Grk wine develop
This time it began in a London basement bar called The Phoenix Membership on Charing Cross Highway, frequented by a couple of ITV stalwarts. There, I discovered a bottle of this uncommon wine.
I’d by no means heard of Grk, but its story reads like a legend. This delicious white wine is produced in opposition to all the chances. It comes from vines that can’t replicate themselves, having solely female elements.
It is nurtured in special terraces excessive above the Adriatic and in just one small a part of the small island of Korcula. Whether because of the sleek depth of the style or the attraction of this superb story, I determined to go.
A string of no-frills airways will get you to Dubrovnik, and that’s the place 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 very cheaply lands you on Korcula.
At 107 sq. miles, it is the sixth-largest Croatian island, roughly double the dimensions of Jersey. I like a bargain and that is 4 destinations for the worth of 1. Each vista exhibits a blend of Venice, Greece, France and Croatia.
Enchanting: An exquisite harbour on the island of Korcula, the place Grk is nurtured in special terraces high above the Adriatic
From the thirteenth Century onwards, different states tussled over the island, leaving a novel mix of renaissance, baroque and Venetian architecture.
Virtually with out exception, buildings are carved from the ancient native stone which warms to a pussycat gray within the solar. 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 extra Mediterranean than Dalmatian. No marvel Bill Gates brings his mates and his yacht right here. There’s no mass tourism, however when the large travel operators pulled out throughout the Nineties they left an excellent mixture of accommodation for a variety of prices.
I stayed at the Lesic Dimitri Palace lodge, a 300-yr-old bishop’s palace run by one of many island’s zesty characters.
Day journey: From Korcula, you may 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 through the filming of a sword-dancing demonstration. In addition to using lethal weapons in traditional choreography, he is a skilled opera singer.
Toni steadily sings for diners and is joyful to provide the native lowdown to holidaymakers. ‘For stew, go only for castrated goat, called skopac. For fish, have scorpion fish, caught by harpoon,’ he tells them.
‘Eat the hand-made macaroni, brought right here by Marco Polo. Strive travarica herbal alcohol, which it’s also possible to rub on any wounds you get on the seashore.’
The Italians occupied the island throughout the Second World Warfare. Now they invade in a flotilla of small boats each summer time, to grace the beaches. I determined to flash my bony British knees and found it really is stress-free to swim in this warm and sheltered corner of the Adriatic.
Deal with: A bottle of the elusive wine, which will get snapped up by local resorts
I didn’t get any cuts or bruises, which is an effective thing as a result of I had already downed my travarica.
From Korcula, you possibly can take a taxi boat to the tiny neighbouring island of Badija for a enjoyable day journey. Badija is crowded with pine timber and house to a 14th Century monastery, in addition to some over-pleasant goats.
There are many excursions to make this both a weekend or longer vacation spot. For instance, I went to see some of the native olive groves. You may red stone island cardigan snooze underneath olive timber identified to be 2,000 years previous, sipping chilly water contemporary from a properly, proper in the midst of the growing terraces.
But the drink I’d come for was Grk, a wine so prized that it makes champagne look common. My first stop was the market in Korcula city, the place there are indicators of change.
Croatia has just received closing approval to join the EU and, even in this picturesque rustic market filled with cherries, figs and apricots, reforms are coming.
I met 74-yr-outdated pigeon-egg seller Pera Erceq, who also provides 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 have made me purchase a fridge for my market stall, although most individuals just like the produce at its natural temperature served from my previous stone desk.’
The market is a foodies’ fantasy, with cheesecakes made to an area recipe and an unlimited range of honey products…but there was no Grk. Annually only 30,000 bottles are produced and 80 per cent are snapped up by native lodges.
Wine-making was brought here by the Greeks and continued by the Romans. Korcula Town appears as if it was made as the right wine-drinking destination, with slender streets radiating in a herring-bone pattern from St Marco square and the cathedral.
It’s all framed by the excessive partitions of a fort constructed by the Venetians. It looks and appears like Venice, but there aren’t any canals – and no crowds. I by no means noticed one little bit of litter or graffiti and the little stone-built outlets are freed from tourist tat.
Local flavour: Pera Erceq promoting cheese at Korcula market – a haven for foodies
Few of the lovely outdated buildings stand as idle monuments; even the 16th Century city hall remains to be utilized by the mayor. I continued my wine odyssey, travelling four miles along the primary island highway to Lumbarda.
Automobiles are straightforward to rent and there is just one set of site visitors lights on the island. The Milinda family, who’ve lived in Lumbarda for 400 years, own among the only a few Grk vineyards, set amid dry-stone walls, pines and exposed limestone hills.
From the realm around these sun-dazzled terraces, you may see Italy. There are three sandy beaches nearby, some of the most effective the island has to offer. Spherical here they don’t seem to be used to journalists and look slightly daunted by the amount I can drink throughout a tasting (as soon as 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 till midnight the night earlier than bottling the latest vintage.
The grandfather of the family planted a lot of their 18,000 vines and now three generations run this winery. Guests are welcome to style wine with local fruit and meats.
‘Here we strive to maintain the magic of life, not chasing a dream from the Tv adverts,’ says wine-maker Frano Milina. ‘My particular place is a shack in the course of the vineyard where we keep in the course of the harvest.’
The nice factor about this wine trail is that it takes you to a variety of locations all wanted for the same product. One Grk vineyard is by the sea, giving a very slight saline trace to the finished red stone island cardigan wine.
One is on the plain where winds massage the land, bringing a dryness. The other perches on terraces etched excessive into the steep mountains, bringing solar into the mixture. Grk is created by a delicate blend of grapes from these three areas.
So as to add to the complexity, the Grk grapes need to have another variety close by as a result of in any other case they can’t reproduce. When you taste the wine, particularly on its house ground overlooking this sun-drenched a part of the Adriatic, you’ll agree it’s price the trouble…and worth the trip.
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While alcohol has ruined many locations resulting from raucous stag and hen weekends, it can be a terrific ambassador for vacation areas.
It has attracted the Queen and President Obama to Dublin’s Guinness brewery, 1,000,000 individuals a yr to Scottish whisky distilleries and hundreds to the Champagne region of France.
Closer to house, cider’s growing popularity in the UK is attracting guests to the apple-rising space of Herefordshire. Sadly for Korcula, its Grk is probably by no means going to get into our outlets as a signpost to the gorgeous little Croatian island.
Not sufficient is produced to catch the attention of supermarket executives. Although entry to the EU will make importation of Grk a lot easier, virtually the only technique to taste it will still be to travel to Korcula.
That may be a quest I’d advocate.
Flights to Dubrovnik from a spread of UK airports are available via British Airways (www.ba.com), easyJet (www.easyjet.com) and Monarch (www.monarch.co.uk).
Room rates at the Lesic Dimitri Palace start at £292 per evening including breakfast. See www.lesic-dimitri.com.