The Blatina and Žilavka festival – Blaž, Herzegovina
From a notable wine region, it is expected to have their own variety, something indigenous and possibly authentic even if nobody outside the local culture can favor it, but it needs to be significantly different. Herzegovina is an ancient wine region, most famous today for its quality white wines from the Žilavka variety. However, perhaps even more than Žilavka, one variety truly is characteristic for Herzegovina. The name is – Blatina.
In this part of the world, where male strength was on high esteem because of hard-laboring work on the land, Blatina is everything but masculine. Only female flowers of Blatina are functional, which is why Blatina requires another variety to pollinate. Because of this and several bad vintages, people even gave her a hateful name – Praznobačva (empty barrel).
Blatina is literally endemic in Hercegovina. Even today, it is impossible to find it anywhere outside of the west part of Herzegovina. Maybe that`s why many declared Blatina wines were alike some other wines from more easy-going varieties.
Also, the market is dominantly indifferent and looking for a first impression; a full-bodied wine, concentrated, ripe and powerful even if it means high alcohol, like many neighboring Dalmatian Plavac Mali varieties, are. Yet, Blatina is not Plavac Mali. It is not Vranac or Trnjak either. And neither it should be.
True Blatina may be harder to find, but it’s worth the effort. The character it achieves in a glass does not demand high alcohols. Blatina holds freshness and structure making it unnecessary to age aggressively in wood. However, careful barrel aging certainly contributes to its complex potential. After all, in old Herzegovinian villages, Blatina was drunk out of wooden cups called “bukara” :-)
What true Blatina needs is a burgundy shaped glass to show specific earthiness along with fruitiness, a mineral sensation confirmed more and more with every sip.
Pairing with meat, fish or vegetable dishes, roast, various cold cuts or cheeses and every other meal Herzegovina is known for, turns Blatina into medicine. A folk remedy with surprisingly effective results.
Having all that in mind, in pursuit of a real Blatina, we got onto a wine pilgrimage in Međugorje (home to a famous sanctuary). There, for the third year in a row, a most likable manifestation was being held. I will not call it a festival. BLAŽ is a socializing of vintners willing to treat their guests, and almost everybody gathers. It would be much easier to single out those who haven`t participated and it was impossible to taste every winery’s wine. The point, however, was to enjoy the ambient, goodwill and energy entwined with Herzegovina’s finest wines.
Nevertheless, blissfulness wouldn`t be complete without Žilavka. This most famous variety of Herzegovina also carries additional meaning in its name :-) “Žilav” means tough, as it supposed to be on Herzegovinian sun and karst soil. Even when forests dry out, Žilavka is still brightly green.
When trying to find an answer to the question what Žilavka is, it is impossible to find it in a balance of parameters because this variety achieves measurable parameters on the highest scale. The answer lies somewhere between basic Brkić Žilavka and macerated Orange Krš from Škegro winery, somewhere on the way from Sivrić and Buntić to Tvrdoš Monastery and Vukoje cellars in Trebinje, somewhere where Marjanović’s late harvest Žilavka and Carska vina Selection share the same earthy, vegetable, relentless and approachable juicy fruit component...
Laugher and song of Herzegovina...
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