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Ilok Winery – A historical Winery in Eastern Croatia

Ilok Winery – A historical Winery in Eastern Croatia

Not so long ago, whenever anyone mentioned Croatia, the first thing that sprang to mind was its coastline. An image that persists: Croatia is now one of the World’s premier travel destinations, and the coastline remains the topmost attraction. OK…  wonderful landscapes, check. Well-preserved sites of historical interest, check. Authentic cuisine, check. And yet… am I the only one who feels that a piece of the puzzle is missing?

Principovac-VineyardDid you know that one of the ways to explore Croatia is on a Danube river cruise? Most people think of the Danube and, understandably, Vienna and Budapest are the first images that appear in the mind’s eye. Alright, we are talking about some of Europe’s most famous  cities, and some might even come up with Belgrade or Bratislava. Perhaps even Bulgaria and Romania, countries where the Danube pours its full force back into the Black Sea. But, beyond all these well-known references, leaving the Hungarian plains behind, the Danube, a line of demarcation, also splits the difference between Serbia and easternmost Croatia, leaving an indelible imprint on the tradition and history of this less well-known region. 

Surely, no one will mistake the Danube’s Vukovar or Ilok for Hvar’s old town, the latter resting on an island itself as ancient as the Danube. There is, however, a peculiar commonality shared by these very different locations. Statistically, the two Danubian strongholds and Hvar have for years shared the honours, holding Croatia’s record for the most annual hours of sunlight per year. 

Even Croats themselves are taken aback by the fact. Even in Slavonia itself many people are clueless about this. Nonetheless, winegrowers have known this for a very, very long time, which is why Ilok boasts a tradition of wine-growing and production that goes back to Roman times.Principovac-Vines

Principovac-Ilok’s finest vineyard

Not that sunshine alone can ever be a recipe for success… free-draining soils sitting on a loess base are abundant in these slopes overlooking the Danube, with an average elevation of 200-250 meters above the sea-level. The constant winds that cool the slopes bring an intriguing note of salinity.

Most importantly, people here have tended vineyards for centuries. For over five hundred years, Ilok’s unique wine cellars have enjoyed these perfect conditions, guarding the precious wine archives in ancient subterranean tunnels with ideal humidity and temperature throughout the year.

Ilok Cellars are also responsible for introducing Traminer to this region. In 1710, the Odescalchi family brought the first Gewürztraminer vines from South Tyrol and planted them on the soils of a unique single vineyard – Principovac.Principovac

European First Domaine Bottled Wine

The Italian aristocratic family Odescalchi ran the estate since 1697, introducing for the very first time in Europe an Original Domaine Bottled Wine, proudly carrying the Odescalchi Family coat of arms. The Odescalchis planted new vineyards, introduced new technologies, founded a school for vintners, and  expanded the 15th century wine cellar.

Principovac was the Odescalchi family’s summer residence. As early as the 18th century, it was recognised as a unique appellation. Today, it is a vast home to the finest fruit of Ilok’s vineyards. Principovac accounts for less than 10% of the total Ilok area. Ilok is best known for its Gewürztraminer, but also for its Graševina and Chardonnay. Principovac’s 125 Ha are almost exclusively devoted to this heritage.

Ilok Cellars have their own wine nursery. They produce eight different styles of Traminer, from entry-level dry to ice-wine. There is a certain recognisable feel to all of them, a sense of place, perhaps. Nonetheless, in my experience, Graševina is the variety that delivers the most unique results.Ilok-Cellar

Principovac Wines – Taste the Graševina wine

Can you imagine a semi-sweet wine which, to all practical intents, works as a wine that is fully dry? Call it the Principovac paradox. As a variety, Graševina preserves freshness quite well. Grow it in a vineyard that allows it to ripen evenly AND fully…The result is an amazingly drinkable wine with serious length. The captivating aromatics combine flowery scents with bruised Granny Smith apple and a remote hint of botrytis. 

It feels sophisticated, without being polished in the sense of being overly fine-tuned in the cellar: just properly handled and finished in a manner that reflects centuries of knowledge and passion. The finest fruit brought to a new life-form. That’s what Principovac is all about. A Limited Edition label of Ilok Cellars.principovac

Nenad Trifunovic
Professional Wine drinker ;)

Moderator of a series of wine workshops and educator of wine course (Wine Reading), promoter of table culture and wine writer, most famous as an author of the most influential Croatian wine blog (vinopija.com).

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