I recently returned from a writing trip to Montenegro, the newest country in the world but essentially an ancient enclave of people who have been struggling to maintain an identity for a thousand years (according to one winemaker). Given the relatively recent turmoil in the region there is still frostiness with neighbour Croatia and it is a bit of a pain crossing the border but well worth the effort. It has spectacular landscapes such as the Bay of Kotor (pictured above) with challenging walks for the energetic and relaxed beaches for sun worshippers.
There is a rich wine history along this bit of the Adriatic coast and it is full of underrated terroir from Istria to Albania. The ancient Greeks recognised the potential during their travels up the coast but it is pretty unfashionable today so full of unpretentious wines at bargain prices. Local varieties include the Krstač (white) and Vanac (red) and international varieties such as Chardonnay and Cab Sauv are also grown. Oak is used liberally for pretige wines but is not always handled well so often cheaper wines are more typical and expressive. Krstač gets its name from the cross like bunches it produces and is encountered widely as an easy drinking white with peach and pear flavours and decent acidity. The red Vranac often has cherry notes and goes well with the robust local ham. The Montenegrins are aware of the potential of the region and are trying to develop infrastructure such as ‘wine routes’.
There is a hangover from Communism in that the main producer, Plantaže, is State owned. The massive wine cellars were previously home to MIG fighter planes and it boasts the largest single vineyard complex in Europe pictured (2300 hectares with 11 million vines). The whole concern is big (17 million bottles a year) if somewhat inefficient in terms of marketing. The English version of the website could have been translated by Sasha Baron-Cohen in a mischevious mood see here for a guide to etiquette… The page on health cites wine helping to cure influenza and bronchitis (here) so probably contravenes a European law. Despite this, tasting through their range gives a good overview of the region.
Whilst I was away I managed to completely miss the Jubilee and the constant rain. I also missed English wine week but given that Wiston Estate has been added to Corney and Barrow’s portfolio we can safely say it has arrived. Joking apart, the idea that the best terroir for sparkling wine, let alone other styles, has been planted is complacent. I expect the dominance of Champagne to be gradually eroded over the next 100 years and the price to become more and more competitive. The market share of old world (Cava, Prosecco et al) and New World Sparklers will continue to grow as the profit margins on Champagne are still so high that there is plenty of room for others to exploit.