Stunning Views of Brač's Youngest Vineyards - Stina Vina
It's probably hard to imagine it nowadays, but the island of Brač used to be covered with vineyards. In the second half of the 19th century, when wine production in France and other Western Europe was decimated by the scourge of phylloxera, people even cut down olive trees in order to make room for vineyards, so much income was generated through winemaking. But shortly after the “golden age”, phylloxera arrived also in Dalmatia and very soon ruined most of the vines, and politics finished the rest. The result was a massive flight of the inhabitants of Brač to the West, and a significant decrease in the wine production from which the island’s viticulture has never fully recovered. But things are changing for the better.
There are only three major wineries on the island now, and none of them older than 20 years. The youngest and the biggest one is a project called STINA (in Dalmatian dialect: rock), started by a local businessman who had acquired wealth elsewhere and decided to invest in tourism, which he thought was a lucrative long-term business. The idea of owning a winery came by accident, when one of the most important Dalmatian and Croatian winemakers, Zlatan Plenković, casually put it on the table while hanging out with Mr. Andabak.
STINA project, as one of the most comprehensive wine projects in Croatia, began in 2009, when the company leased a cellar from the Agricultural Cooperative of Bol in the town of the same name. It was the headquarters of the first cooperative in Dalmatia, founded in 1903, in the times when you needed a huge building for storing all the wine, and it hasn’t been full in decades (it still isn't, but ambitious plans guarantee it will be).
It’s an impressive Austro Hungarian building, located at the waterfront in the centre of Bol. Keeping its old looks, it was completely renovated and turned into a modern winery and cellar, with a superbly designed space for wine tasting and sale. This is where we finished an exciting day of adventurous exploration of Stina vineyards and wines.
50 hectares of new vineyards (Pošip, Vugava and international varieties) were planted in the inland locations of Brač, on a surface where rocks (stina) had to be crushed with special machinery to enable the cultivation of the soil. It’s probably one of the highest vineyards (around 600 m) in Croatia and definitely the biggest you’ll find in Dalmatia as a single plot. Even the boring rain and fog couldn’t diminish its impressiveness. But that was just the beginning. Our local guides Marko and Nikola couldn’t remove a smirk from their faces, knowing that we’ll be truly shocked by another vineyard in the location of Murvice, the south side of Brač. And they were absolutely right.
In between fearing for our lives and being incredibly impressed by the view on the island of Hvar, we were trying to understand the vision of the owner, and his crazy idea of making his employees work on these dangerously steep slopes. Well, he is a man of vision. Even though the first vineyard is impressive and will probably be responsible for 90% of grapes they will use for winemaking, nothing beats the view and the atmosphere of these awesome, elevated terraces. Soon enough we could perfectly understand how much effort is put into the grapes that grow to become Plavac Mali Majstor or Remek Djelo, as well as Pošip Majstor.
Another thing Stina winery is famous for is their dedication to innovative design. This is quite obvious at the first glance at their wine labels, which you either love or hate. The international design community loves them, waiters probably hate them, and their latest design for entry-level line is no less controversial. The blank label was inspired by the world-famous white Brač stone, which has been inspiring sculptors, painters, poets and writers for centuries. The motto of the winery is: STINA - inspiration from stone. As you can see, the label is pratically completely white, with a special texture.
Their white Pošip wine is one of the most popular whites in Dalmatia, and we certainly loved the 2015 vintage, as well as the guys at Challenge International du Vin. It's a modern expression of this indigenous and beloved variety that usually comes in few different styles. This one is probably the right way to proceed with pošip. Abundant in acidity and minerality that gives a perfect balance, abundant in aromas, but still silky and very drinkable.
In their more affordable line called Brač 1903., Bogondon (red blend) and Godiment (white blend) are extremely approachable and likable wines, with probably the smallest wine labels in the world. "People from the Croatian Island of Brač have the reputation of being on the stingy side. It is Brač’s poor, arid soil that has taught the islanders never to waste a thing."
The Bogondon is a blend of 50% Plavac Mali with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot, a rare find on Croatian wine scene, and we're very happy the taboo is finally broken. It still has Plavac Mali character but the elegance of other varieties in the blend. Easy-drinking, a juicy lunch wine with a character, that's something you don't often find in Dalmatia (and for a fair price). Godiment is a white blend of local varieties Vugava and Pošip with some Chardonnay. Again, clean, refreshing, easy-drinking wine, which is not something easily achieved with such varieties under the blazing sun of the Mediterranean. Prošek sweet wine made in the traditional way by blending white and red wine is a special delicacy that highlighted the end of a fullfilling day with friends from Stina winery.
The huge investment is a welcome boost for the island’s economy and a bright example for other Dalmatian wine microregions to follow. Say what you want about the business mogul that invests into wine, but a shift in the way island winegrowers think (and work) is already apparent and the winery in Bol opened to public is a huge asset for local tourism based mostly on sun&beaches concept. So, we're curious what they'll think of next in Stina winery. Their ambitions are big, and we see no reason why Brač wouldn't be THE wine island once again.
For more information on Stina winery and Bluesun hotels & resorts click HERE.