2003 Bibich Debit, Skradin (North Dalmatia), Croatia

In my last post here on Vinography I mulled, tongue-in-cheek about the impact of wine on the hallowed halls of civilization, and in particular on the English language. Fun and games aside, wine and language are just as inextricably entwined through history as wine and culture. Lest there be any doubt, one need look no further than the northern coasts of Dalmatia, which has been making wine from a grape with a strangely (to English speakers) familiar name for two centuries.

Actually the winemaking traditions in Croatia go back well before the Roman Empire, though it was the Romans who brought significant rigor, scale, and methodology to the production of grapes in the area. The winemaking traditions in the region was strong enough (like it’s neighbors Austria and Hungary) to survive through the ages, even through the anti-alcohol policies of the Ottoman empire. Croatia happens to be home to some of the best Slavonian oak forests in the world, and like many areas of central and eastern Europe, has some very interesting indigenous varietals.

Over the last thousand years, at least since the Ottomans finished marching about in central Europe, life in the fishing villages of Dalmatia was pretty idyllic by anyone’s standards. But then one day a little guy named Napoleon arrived in the late 18th century and started making everyone’s life a bit more difficult again. One of the things the Emperor demanded, of course, were the payment of taxes, and not having much else besides small quantities of fish, which the French had plenty of anyway, the Croatians opted to pay with a certain wine grape.

No one knows exactly what it was called before then, but ever since, the grape and the wine made from it, have been known as Debit.

For 33-year-old winemaker and winery owner Alan Bibich, this is one square in a much larger patchwork quilt of Croatian winemaking history that he has been handed down from five generations of family, but one that is close to his heart. Educated in the study of the Croatian language, Bibich actually taught the subject at the university level before becoming a full-time winemaker. It was not certain that he would continue the family tradition of winemaking, but in the end he felt strongly that he could not leave the vineyards untended and the barrels empty.

Since 1995 Bibich and his wife have been running the family winery and the retail wine shop the own in the town of Skradin. Bibich’s winemaking skills have been learned from family and from lots of trial and error. While his own satisfaction with the quality of his wine has been a slow 11-year road, his business success has been less than sluggish. The family now owns wine stores in several other villages, has 12 employees, and produces close to 70,000 cases of wine.

In addition to this white wine from Debit, the winery also produces a red blend (of local varietals Babich, Plavina, and Lasin), a Shiraz, and a Grenache. Bibich has been planting and experimenting with other native varieties which he hopes to bring to market in the future.

This wine is made from 100% Debit, and is aged in new American oak barrels for 18 months before release.

Tasting Notes:
Light gold in color, this wine smells of toasted croutons, old parchment, pine sap, and the dry forest floor. In the mouth it has lovely bright acidity, a satiny mouthfeel, and a chalky mineral flavor profile with light green fruits that hover in the starfruit or unripe kiwifruit zone with a hint of vanilla and buttery aspects on the finish. This is a varietal that definitely has its own flavors, with could be described as having some similarities to Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, or Gruner Veltliner, in different ways. Quite tasty and lots of fun to drink.

Food Pairing:
This is an extremely food friendly varietal, at least as it has been made in this wine. I’d pair this wine with something that has a light sweetness to it, like this red onion, goat cheese and basil tart.

Overall Score: 9

How Much?: $13

This wine is available for purchase on the internet.