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Zinfandel is originally from Croatia and it is known locally as Crljenak Kaštelanski (pronounce Tserl-yee-ehnak Kashh-tell-ann-skee) and Tribidrag (pronounce Trih-bee-drahg). It is also the parent of Croatia’s flagship red grape, Plavac Mali.
Some people in the USA may be familiar with Zlatan Otok as about five years ago, Gary Vaynerchuk tasted a Zlatan Otok Plavac Mali Barrique on his show and scored it 93+ points. Based on the current portfolio and vintages we’ve tasted, we’d be inclined to say that Zlatan Otok is an all-round producer; all its wines are impressive with a few outstanding bottlings. The Zlatan Otok cellar is located in the south of Hvar Island, Dalmatia, Croatia, with a tranquil view of a marina—as shown in the featured image. Unfortunately, the founder of the winery died two weeks before our visit to his cellar.
Zlatan Otok Crljenak 2010
Back Story: Funded by Mike Grgich of Judgement of Paris fame and led by Grape Geneticist Carole Meredith, a research on the origin of Zinfandel came to fruition in 2001: it confirmed that Zinfandel and Primitivo originated from Croatia. At the point of discovery, the “original Zinfandel” was near extinction; there were only nine vines left on a vineyard somewhere off the coast of Split. Since the discovery in 2001, more producers in Croatia have been planting this grape and making varietal wines and blends from it.
Technical Notes: From Vinogorje Makarska (vineyard) in Dalmatia, Croatia. 14.5% alcohol. 18 months in barrique.
Tasting Notes: Dark garnet with some clarity. Alluring overtone on the nose; something between sweet amber and musky perfume. The flavors of cherry, blackberry, Mediterranean herb, and pepper are carried by vibrant acidity. A wonderfully structured and juicy wine that finishes with slightly coarse and sweet tannins. It’s a fruit-forward wine but doesn’t cross the line into being jammy. What I love most is its precise structure and trigonal fruit attack: narrow and shy on the front palate, wide and expressive on the end palate. This Crljenak Kaštelanski has a lighter body than a typical Californian Zinfandel.
Conclusion: A wine with high drinkability and great QPR. This bottle is priced attractively at the cellar. A quick search on Wine Searcher shows that it’s also available in the US at USD44.99. I’m not sure if I would buy it again when I’m in the US, especially when I can find a Ridge Lytton Springs at $30. That said, I prefer the Zlatan Otok Crljenak to Lytton Springs for this vintage. That’s quite a feat by Zlatan Otok.
Buy Crljenak Kaštelanski/Tribidrag wines at Wine & More (EU-wide delivery).
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