The tradition of wine production and viticulture on the island of Hvar reaches back to the ancient times. In the 4th century BC Greeks from the island of Paros established their colony Faros on the today’s territory of Stari Grad. They brought the field crop of vine from their original homeland. Metal coins bear witness to the importance of vine and wine for the old Greeks. The coins were forged in Faros and Issa (today’s Vis) and they portrayed a cluster of grapes with vine leaves on one side and a wine goblet (kantharos) on the other. With the arrival of Romans in 219 BC the cultivation of vine spread. Remains of wine-presses can be found in the ruins of Roman villae rusticae. The Statute of Hvar Commune from 1331 forbade the import of wine on the territory of the Commune of Hvar, unless it was a bad year.
In the middle of the 19th century, oidium, phylloxera and peronospora destroyed the vineyards in France and Italy, which led to the increase in the demand for Dalmatian wines which were characterized with its colour, higher percentage of alcohol and the specific aroma. At the time, grape farmers on Hvar, as well as the rest of Dalmatia, started to cut down olive, fig and carob trees in order to plant vines, and exclusively red sorts.
At the beginning of 1892 Austria and Italy signed a trade agreement which enabled the import of cheep Italian wines on the Austro-Hungarian market that caused the crisis of Dalmatian viticulture. Only two years after phylloxera appeared in Dalmatia and arrived to Hvar in 1909. Crisis in viticulture obliged a lot of agricultural laborers to leave for the New World in search for work. In those foreign countries a lot of people from Hvar were the pioneers of wine growing. Also, the burst of World War I prevented the restoration of vineyards.
The phenomenon of private wine producers at the end of 1980s introduced a new perspective in the production of islands’ wines. Unlike in the time of socialism, when the aspirations were on the quantity, private producers underline the importance of quality. Many rewards they won on international wine competitions are a witness of their success.
If you ever happen to be on the island of Hvar, do not miss to taste some of these wines:
Bogdanuša is the original sort from the island of Hvar. It is one of the best Dalmatian white wines with 11-12.5 alcohol percentage, light yellow in colour, somewhat sourish and mild scented. The largest quantities are grown in the area near Vrboska.
Parč was grown from ancient times on the eastern part of the island of Hvar. Its characteristics are scent of muscat, golden yellow colour and around 12 per cent alcohol.
Plavac mali is the most famous Dalmatian wine sort and the best quality wines of this red sort come from the south slopes of the island of Hvar. It is characterized with dark red colour, very pleasant bouquet and specific aroma of plavac with 13-14.5 per cent alcohol. This wine is the best Hvar’s viticulture has to offer.
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Foto i tekst: Siniša Mikulčić Matković – Secret Hvar travel agency