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The Tomac winery and its seven-hectare vineyard plot are located in the small wine-growing region of Plešivica, a 30-minute drive southwest of Zagreb. It is often referred to as one of the—if not the most—refined sparkling wine producers in Croatia. The Tomac family has been making wine for over 200 years. Today, Tomislav Tomac, together with his wife and father, are holding the fort. This humble family winery is attached to Tomislav’s home on the slopes of the Plešivica hills.
The Plešivica wine region is a stone’s throw from the capital city of Croatia and near the Slovenian border. There are about 30 small producers in the area crafting delicious whites, sparklers, and Pinot Noir. The vineyards lie on hills between 200 and 600 meters in elevation and the area experiences a true continental climate. This region has a long history of winemaking and is regarded as the best area in Croatia for sparkling wine and Pinot Noir. Unfortunately, visitors would often skip this wine region as they head down the highway out of Zagreb and towards the coast, missing a major tenet of the Croatian wine scene.
For many reasons than one, Plešivica in Croatia is a great place to cultivate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Check out this preview clip of our upcoming episode to find out more. 🍷Remember to follow us on Facebook (Exotic Wine Travel) and YouTube.com/c/exoticwinetravel to catch the upcoming full episode!🍾
Visiting Tomac Winery
We drove out to the winery on a foggy December evening with our Croatian friends Vedran and Nenad. Vedran is a wine enthusiast and Nenad runs a popular wine blog called Vinopija. Both of our friends are vocal advocates for Tomac. So, would the Tomac wines live up to the hype?
The Sparkling Wine
Currently, the sparkling wine accounts for over 70% of Tomac’s wine production and there are plans to reduce it to 50% in the near future. All the Tomac sparkling wines are made in méthode traditionelle, the Champagne method. For the sparklers, besides using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Tomislav challenges the boundary by experimenting with a range of indigenous varieties that have previously never been used for making wine. These odd grapes have unfamiliar names like Žuti Plavac.
Tomac is one of the three Croatian producers currently using amphora to make wine. But Tomislav takes this traditional approach a notch further—there is not a single stainless steel tank in his winery as he ferments and stores his wine in either amphorae or neutral oak casks that are between the size of 2,000 and 3,000 litres; all the wines are made with natural yeast with the exception of sparkling wines, which rely on commercial yeast to start the second fermentation in the bottle.
A stalwart of the minimal-intervention philosophy, it is of no surprise that Tomislav was inspired by the famous Friulian producer Josko Gravner, who is a good friend of Tomislav’s father. Gravner is famous for being the first established producer that popularized qvevri (buried terracotta vessels from Georgia) and a pioneer of Friulian amber wine.
There are six buried vessels outside the Tomac winery. The vessels are imported from Georgia and their insides are lined with beeswax. Tomislav cleans the vessels by hand at the end of every season.
Indeed, Tomac is worth all the compliments. The entire portfolio of Tomac wines is impressive, with a few outstanding examples. Beyond just the organoleptic merits, we are also drawn to Tomislav’s philosophy in winemaking. He understands that the qvevri is not just another tool, like a stainless steel tank or oak barrel, but a symbol of a belief system. The qvevri is a part of an overarching philosophy in winemaking that requires exquisite care in the vineyard and winery. Tomislav is dedicated to this school of thought and his respect for nature shines through his wine.
- Tomac Crni Pinot 2015 – 100% Pinot Noir
This is fermented in amphora and then pressed and stored in oak casks for maturation. A light and gentle wine with flavors of raspberry, strawberry, fresh cut grass, and a hint of smoke and earth. Young, fine-grained tannins. It sets a good impression and will be better with more time in the bottle. Tomac is one of the three Pinot Noir producers in Croatia that we would drink from without hesitation. (Actually, Charine is the unforgiving Pinot Noir crusader here.)
- Tomac Diplomat Extra Brut NV – Blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Žuti Plavac
Made in the Champagne method, this wine has a pronounced nose of apple, melon, and apricot. Only slightly yeasty on the nose. Lively acidity and fine bubbles guide flavors of stone fruit and citrus across the palate. A refreshing sparkler for those who prefers minimal bready aroma and a more crisp, less creamy body.
- Tomac Sauvignon 2015 – 100% Sauvignon Blanc
This is the wine that Tomislav Tomac enjoys drinking on a regular basis, and the one that Charine declares as “a good candidate for daily breakfast refresher”. A unique interpretation of Sauvignon Blanc. Notes of musky perfume, baked apple, nectarine, frangipani, and flint on a medium-bodied frame and commendable texture. The acidity is medium-plus and the palate finishes with a savory, chestnut note.
- Tomac Rajnski Rizling 2015 – 100% Riesling
The nose has an alluring musky, vanilla perfume character. Flavors of white peach, lime, green apple, grass, petrol, rose, and chestnut. The tingling acidity is very pleasant in the mouth. The only thing missing is the intense mineral characteristic that great Rieslings possess.
- Tomac Rajnski Rizling Amfora 2011 – 100% Riesling
Macerated in terracotta vessels and then put into large oak casks to age. This has the aroma that can fool people into believing that it’s a light red wine. The flavors are of honey, dried apricot, red fruit, and mint. Flavors are executed perfectly in an angular structure, perked up by high acidity. The finish comes with citrusy freshness and gentle tannins. This will make a good introduction to amber wine for those who are new to this style.
- Tomac Amfora 2008 – Blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% miscellaneous local varieties
Flavors of white pepper, raspberry, dried apricot, salty caramel, sweet chestnut, earth, and mint. This is relatively light-bodied and has high acidity—a rare case in the style of amber wine. Delicious with a long finish of tobacco and cedar notes, supported by green tea-like tannins. This is umami flavor captured in a bottle. It has the intensity and crispness to be paired with spicy dishes or red meat.
- Tomac Amfora 2006 – Blend of several indigenous varieties that aren’t used by any other commercial wine producers
An experiment wine; not available in the commercial market. This is an amber wine fermented in oak vats. Low acidity, with wild and rustic flavors. Notes of dried apricot, fall leaf, rubber, petrol, bourbon, raisin—all the oxidative characteristics yet there’s still a sense of red fruit flavor lingering. The flavors glide across the palate despite the firm nose, and finishes off with notes of almond and black tea. This is a crazy and yummy wine.
- Tomac Pjenušac Amfora Brut 2010 – Blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% mix of indigenous varieties
Fermented and macerated in the terracotta vessels for six months and then put into 2000-liter oak casks for about 18 months before bottling. This is quite a transformative sparkler experience! Flavors of brioche, pumpkin, marmalade, lemon rind, orange peel, dried apricot, dried leaf, and macadamia nut. There are many layers to this wine and the many dimensions are harmonized by vivid acidity and a firm structure that throws a little tug of tannins on the end palate. It is only lightly effervescent but has a wonderfully tiny bubble structure. This wine is in Decanter’s “75 Stellar Buys of 2016”. A full-bodied sparkler with intense flavors that can take you through several courses of a meal—from white fish, to grilled salmon, risotto, and grilled pork.
Allegedly, Tomac is the first in the world to make an amphora sparkling wine in méthode traditionelle. His amphora sparkler has inspired several famous grower champagne makers.
- Tomac Rosé Brut NV – 100% Pinot Noir
This is made from the bleed-off juice of Pinot Noir. Aroma of red fruit, illuminated by a deep sense of earthiness and a touch of yeastiness. The bubbles are fine and persistent. On the palate, the wine leads you in with an intense strawberry flavor, and takes you along the journey with a bit of savory characteristic, perfected by the right level of acidity. Wine ends with a crisp, grapefruit note. The kind of rosé that makes you crave a scampi ceviche.
- Tomac Chardonnay 2015 – 100% Chardonnay
A pleasant and crisp Chardonnay. Notes of stone fruit, melon, citrus, and flint with a rounded mouthfeel. Stone fruit flavor becomes more intense over time. Finish is relatively long and soft. The perfect one to go with bruschetta.