The monks of the Cistercian order brought apple cultivation to Hardanger and grape cultivation to Kutjevo in Croatia. In Hardanger they founded Lyse Monastery, and ran several farms around the Hardangerfjord from the mid-1100s. In Kutjevo they also founded a monastery and started wine production in 1232. The vineyard at the monastery remains to this day. The grapes grow in the same fields and the wine is stored in the same cellar hallways.
In other words; Today’s production of both apple cider in Hardanger and wine in Kutjevo has a long history and rich traditions. Today, the focus is on raising awareness of the products and their quality. Both producers and research communities are keen to increase knowledge about taste. It is about what affects the taste and to describe a more nuanced taste picture with a profile that takes into account all the characteristics and that can be used in quality assessment and characterization.
In the project Uncorking wine and cider typicality, producers and research communities in Norway, Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia collaborate. The goal is to ensure that the beverages are of high quality, because it is the quality that forms the basis for solid profits. This in turn is important in attracting young, well-educated people, for they want to be confident that they can make a capable living for themselves, whether it is from cider or wine.
Kutjevo – at the magical latitude
Halfway between the equator and the North Pole, at the northern 45 degrees latitude, are many of the world’s most renowned wine regions. This is also where the Kutjevo district of Croatia is located, in the company of Piedmont, the Rhone Valley, Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Grasevina is the name of the most important grape in Croatia, in the Slavonia district and in Kutjevo. It may resemble Riesling, but there is no affinity between these grape varieties. Characteristic characteristics of Grasevina are yellow-green colour, herbaceous, floral and fruity aroma, as of edible ripe apples. In the mouth, it feels well-balanced and fresh with a fruity aftertaste.
Photo 2: Kutjevo Winery was established by the monks of the Cistercian order, in 1232. The grapes grow in the same fields and the wine is stored in the same cellar hallways.
To ensure that the wines of Slavonia live up to customer expectations, oenologist and professor Josip Mesić has for more than a decade led a tasting panel, consisting of oenologists/winemakers and sommeliers. They assess taste characteristics and place the wines in the categories of table wine, quality wine and high-quality wine.
Photo 3: Oenologist and professor Josip Mesić at Polytechnic at Pozega smelling and testing one of the wines which is part of the king wine and cider typicality project
– As part of Uncorking wine and cider typicality, we have now further developed the tasting panel. We have brought in more wine experts and we train more regularly. The assessments we make are more detailed, and we should also be able to describe the sensory quality objectively, i.e., determine which properties characterize both taste and aroma, appearance and texture, says Josip Mesić.
Together with colleague Valentina Obradović, he has visited Nofima to learn sensory methods and to experience how we work with a trained sensory panel.
Some of the learning from Nofima is knowledge on how to recruit and test candidates for a sensory panel, all based on international standards.
“It’s a lot about examining how the senses work and status of each candidate. This, together with other factors such as availability, age, health, experience, motivation and interest, is taken into account when selecting a candidate to join a sensory panel,” says Mats Carlehög, project manager in sensory sciences at Nofima.
Young people who invest and succeed
There are several factors that must be in place to produce quality wine. Climate, soil and fresh grape vines are central. Selection of suitable grape varieties and blends and good storage conditions as well.
Experience and knowledge are important for success. Martina Krauthaker Grgić grew up in the Krauthaker vineyard, which her father established. This is where she has her life, together with her husband she goes further. She has taken over responsibility for most of the operations, while her father still has a role in the business. They grow and process 35 different grape varieties. The main grape is Grasevina. 65 percent of total production is based on this grape.
Photo 4: Martina Krauthaker Grgić showing one of their most popular Grasevine wines
“I graduated from the Wine Faculty at the Polytechnic University of Pozega, and Josip Mesić has been my main supervisor and an important source of inspiration. We test and experiment with different grape varieties as well, varieties that have not been cultivated in the area before. It’s painstaking work, but it’s paying off. We have won a number of awards, and experience that customers are willing to pay extra for high-quality wine,” says Martina Krauthaker Grgić.
She adds that one result of experimentation is that they are now growing the grape variety Zelenac. “It requires a lot, including making sure to cut off a lot of clusters of grapes just as they go from green to red to give more nutrition and flavour to the remainder. This is what is called Green Harvest. It’s both time-consuming and heavy, but the distinctiveness and quality the wine gets makes it worthwhile.
At Krauthaker, they combine innovations with traditions. Experimentation goes hand in hand with traditional cultivation. Vlado Krauthaker started in 1988. He bought 10 acres of land and established the wine cellar, to produce wine for family and friends. In the first years they produced 1000 litres. Now they produce 900,000 gallons and cultivate on 110,000 acres. During harvest, up to 80 individuals work on the farm. In some places it is so crowded that only humans and horses enter between the vines. Here they harvest by hand, and use the horses to transport the baskets full of grapes.
An expanded view of taste
Martina Krauthaker Grgić participates in both tasting panels that Josip Mesić has established and says that the panel established through the Cider Culture/Uncorking project has given her an expanded view of taste. Here she is supported by Josip Mesić.
“In the new tasting panel, we train systematically to provide more detailed and accurate descriptions and thus better characteristics of the wines’ taste and aroma properties, appearance and mouthfeel. Through this work, we have also identified some new and surprising aromas, such as coconut, lime and lemon. We are working on developing a flavour and aroma wheel that will be of great help to producers when they can describe the wine in detail to buyers, customers and farm tourists alike,” concludes Josip Mesić.
By: Wenche Aale Hægermark, Nofima
Photo credit: Nofima