Wines from Bosnia and Herzegovina aren't terribly common in the United States, but given the large population of people of Bosnian heritage who've settled in St. Louis, it's not surprising that a few are available here.
We'll drink some in a minute or two. For the time being, let's admire its deep ruby color while we decode the label.
Nestled on the western side of the Balkan peninsula across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina covers about the same amount of area as the state of West Virginia. Virtually all of the wine the nation produces comes from the southwest corner of the country, in the fertile land that rises from the coast of the Adriatic to the foothills of the Dinaric Alps.
The nation's main red-grape variety is the blatina. The fruit is a rarity among commercially viable varieties, in that it produces flowers that are exclusively female, rather than self-fertilizing ones. That means growers must "interplant" a small number of other types of grapes in order to fertilize the blatina and induce it to produce fruit.
Our bottle of Vinarija Čitluk from Global Foods gives absolutely no clue as to what grapes went into it along with blatina. Instead the label informs us only that the wine within is "made of the native homonymous sort of grapes with the 15 percent addition of the pollination."
Now, on to the wine.
You breathe in lots of ripe plums, but the fruit's backed by lots of spice, and hints of herbs. Despite its burly color, the wine tastes lighter than you were led to expect, with some nice zippy acidity and a slight tannic structure. This wine would pair well with a red-sauced pizza, or grilled sausages. As pleasant as it is, though, there's also an absence of character to the wine, a sense that it's "processed." Not like Velveeta-versus-Stilton processed; more like not-from-concentrate versus fresh-squeezed. It'd be interesting to try other examples from blatina producers who use a more nuanced hand in the winery.
The verdict: Thrill
If a season's fertilization fails to take, blatina vines produce no grapes, leaving the wineries with what the locals call "praznobačva": empty barrel. That risk, combined with real or perceived export-market demands, have led to an increase in the planting of "international varieties" such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot and pinot noir. That's a shame. Odds are blatina can make a lovely, distinctive wine.
If you're up for learning more about the wines of Herzegovina, click here to download a pretty informative tourism bureau brochure.
"Thrill or Swill?" aims to expand wine drinkers' horizons -- including Gut Check's. If you have been curious about a grape or wine and want Gut Check to try it, let us know via the comments thread. If we can find it (and if we can afford it), we'll buy us a bottle, yank the cork and report back.