Though not a common wine on the international scene, Graševina is the most widely planted grape in Croatia. Actually, Graševina claims something like every fifth vine in the country. As a result, one might venture to guess that this variety is indigenous to Croatia. However, that’s not the case. Or maybe it is. Some historians assume the variety made its way to Croatia by way of the Roman Empire. Honestly, the origins of this white variety are still unclear. To add to the confusion, Graševina is a grape that goes by many other names.
The same variety is known as Welschriesling in Germany and Austria, Laški Rizling in Slovenia, and Riesling Italico in Italy. Plus, Olasz Riesling and Grašac in other parts of Central Eastern Europe. Yet despite all the name calling, Graševina is in no way related to the Riesling grape. It grows throughout Central Eastern Europe and finds its best expression in Croatia, which explains why so much of the variety is planted there.
In the Croatian language, Graševina comes from the Grašica, meaning green peas. The name refers to the appearance of the berries at a certain point in the ripening process. Graševina grows throughout continental Croatia, but Slavonija has the highest concentration of this variety. Slavonija is in eastern Croatia above Bosnia and Herzegovina. Furthermore, the sunny vineyards of the Danube region increasingly produce high-quality Graševina, namely in Banja, Erdut, and Ilok. While Kutjevo is the center of Graševina production, sharing its expertise with the variety during “Graševina Days” annually since 2001. In Kutjevo, Graševina wines achieve the optimum balance between ripeness and freshness.
Graševina in the Glass
Graševina is the wine of celebrations in Croatia. Probably because this grape produces so many different styles of wine. The most common is a young, fresh dry or semi-dry style. Here, you can expect fruity and floral aromas, like green apple, quince, pear, and elderflower along with crisp acidity and medium alcohol. Depending on the vineyard position, this variety exhibits mineral qualities as well. Oaked and unoaked versions are both available on the market.
Furthermore, Graševina is a late-ripening variety capable of producing late-harvest dessert wines and sweet wines made from botrytis grapes. The sweet styles offer more concentrated aromas and flavors, riper fruit aromas, more complexities and structure, and a honeyed character. When temperatures drop below 0°C, some producers will pick Graševina late to make ice wine.
Croatians also produce a sparkling version of the variety. Though Graševina most commonly results in a fresh style intended for consumption. Nevertheless, premium examples age exceptionally well, softening, rounding, and turning to cooked fruit aromas of peach, pear, and quince. Certain vintages have also expressed notes of tropical fruits, honey, and even mushroom.
Gemišt: The Croatian Spritzer
Summer temperatures in Croatia can be sweltering. When Croatians wanted a refreshing beverage to cool off during the day, they’d make a Gemišt. This was a light, crisp drink made by mixing sparkling mineral water with Graševina or Malvasia Istriana. In the past, Graševina was considered somewhat of a poor man’s wine, so this diluting wasn’t a big deal. Today, Croatian producers are making high quality, even premium Graševina, which is still available at a great quality-to-price ration.
In The Vineyard
Graševina thrives in the continental climate and cool soils of mainland Croatia. This variety is known as a winemaker’s friend because it gives good results even in challenging years. Though Graševina grows in a variety of soils, clay and loam yield the best outcomes. The top vineyards are typically positioned at 200-300m above sea level on mountain slopes above lush plains.
The Winery: Galić
Galić is located in Kutjevo, the center of production for this variety. The winery produces quality wines from 60 hectares of their own vineyards. They have a massive modern facility that’s capable of processing 330,000 liters of wine. Josip Galić is very passionate about experimenting with a selection of indigenous varieties. Though they work with international varieties as well.
The Wine: Galić Graševina 2017
- Brilliant, medium-intensity yellow-green color with green reflections
- Medium pronounced aromas of fragrant quince, green apple, juicy pear, a hint of wildflowers and a touch of minerality
- Medium body with refreshing acidity yet round on the palate with great texture from barrel fermentation and sur lie aging
- A touch of residual sugar with flavors of quince, green apple, and a mineral quality
The fresh, young Graševina makes for a fantastic aperitif. This wine pairs perfectly with fresh oysters, steamed mussels with garlic and parsley, or grilled sea bass stuffed with fresh herbs, lemon, garlic, shallots, and summer tomatoes. Additionally, this wine is ideal for many cheeses. A creamy brie or a tangy sheep’s cheese would be particularly delicious with Graševina.