We’re on the way from Korcula to Dubrovnik
Pero of Apartments Lenni arranged for a driver to transfer us from Korcula to Dubrovnik, with stops at a winery, and the town of Ston on the Pelješac Peninsula on the way. It was a great way for us to do this, as without our own car it would not be possible.
Our driver was a pleasant young man named Tommy, who arrived in a comfortable van. After a short drive we got on a car ferry, which takes vehicles across to the Pelješac Peninsula. The views from the ferry of Korcula Old Town are impressive and the panoramic views from the hills of the Pelješac Peninsula are stunning—back onto Korcula, many other small islands, parts of the peninsula and the blue Adriatic Sea.
Ston is an interesting old fort town with really long defensive medieval walls up and down the hills around it (more on that later). And we wanted to visit a winery, as we are always interested in wine in other places, how and where they make it, what types of grapes grow in that region etc.
Croatia’s wine industry has a long history, winemaking having started around 2200 BC when Illyrian tribes made wine in this area now known as Dalmatia. Greek colonization in 390 BC helped spread the craft and the rise of Christianity under the Roman Empire in the 4th century AD allowed production of wine for sacramental purposes.
Winemaking flourished for centuries, but many events began to limit the industry: Ottoman invasions, phylloxera, world wars, the rise of communism, and most recently, the terrible conflicts between the former Yugoslav republics. To help winemaking grow again, a Winemakers and Winegrowers Association was formed in 1995, and in 2010 the Croatian Chamber of Economy established the Association of Croatian Wineries. Their efforts have been very successful and Croatian wines are improving all the time and becoming well known in various parts of the world.
Many traditional grape varieties still survive in Croatia, perfectly suited to the local wine hills. We’d tasted a number in Zagreb, Split and Korcula and were eager now to visit a winery and see some of the vineyards. The Pelješac is one of the famous regions, especially for red wine, so it was a perfect stop for us.
If anyone is interested, Wikipedia has an extensive entry on Croatian wines: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croatian_wine )
Matuško Winery has huge cellars that we could walk around at will to look at. They’re obviously a big organized place as there are multiple rooms and little alcoves in the cellars that can host functions. We found out that Matuško started out as a small wine-tasting cellar, seldom visited by tourists, but has become one of Croatia’s largest wine-tasting destinations. The volume of wine must be pretty large, as there are huge steel tanks next to the cellar, as well as hundreds of casks in the cellars.
Besides producing wine, they also have an olive oil refinery on site. Both wines and oils can be tasted. There’s also a Tavern/restaurant but we didn’t have time to stop for a meal there.
The lady who led the tasting was pretty good, and explained about cultivars and climate here. Their best wines are Dingač (red) and these vary depending on the slope and orientation; some vineyards are mostly warm and sunny, some are exposed to quite cold winters.
They do Pošip wines (white) here too, but get all the grapes from Korcula.
Another well-known wine (red) from the Pelješac is Plavac, from Plavac mali grapes, which many people believe is the for-runner of Zinfandel.
Sonya bought a bottle of Pošip and one of Dingač, both of which we really enjoyed later in our evenings in Dubrovnik.
On the Matuško crest, which is on all the wine bottles and stamped onto many of the casks, are a crown, a big bunch of grapes and 2 donkey heads.
We wondered why donkeys? We discovered that vignerons (and other agricultural folks) in Croatia really appreciated the donkeys that helped cart and carry stuff up and down hills. So, they wanted to honor these animals, and some winemaker chose to put a donkey on their label. Soon, others followed suit. Nice.
On Korcula and around the Pelješac we also came across cafes with donkey themes and/or decorations and many cute donkey flower containers.
This winery is open for tasting all year.