Everywhere you turn, there’s nothing but boulders and thickets on the hilly terrain by the sea. Will this meager land in Komarna, near Dubrovnik, ever be able to bear juicy fruits ripened in the sun? A few wondered, many doubted, but not the bravest, Stipe and Damir Dominikovic and Davor Martinovic. After a series of business successes in the partner company “Poljopromet”, they decided to take on a new business challenge – the reclamation of karst on hillslopes. They wanted to plant new vineyards on that rocky soil and grow their own vines.
The rocky, steeply sloping terrain wasn’t too promising. However, they wanted to cultivate at least 5-6 hectares. The venture began! Heavy machinery occupied the hill. The crushing of the boulders started on a wide area surrounding the hill, first cautiously and then more and more resolutely. Day by day, their idea took on a more and more concrete form.
“We had to dare, resist the conventional belief that nothing can grow on this rocky terrain. The most important thing was to beat this hard, long-neglected soil and prepare it for planting new vines” – director Davor Martinovic began his story.
Today, the vineyards cover a total area of 16.55 hectares and have 125,000 vines. Perched on top of a small hill is the contemporary Terra Madre winery, occupying 800 square metres and equipped with giant wine containers and wooden barrels to store wines. Wine tasting is taking place at he upper floor which occupyies 400 square metres. It is the gastronomic paradise for all who are eager to savor delicious wine and domestic food: prosciutto, cheese, marinated and salted anchovies. The terrace offers a magic and unforgettable view. The clear blue sea of the Neretva bay merges with the azure blue sky, green vineyards of the Pelješac peninsula, one of the best-known wine-growing regions in Croatia, and Mali Ston Bay, a gastronomic destination renowned for oysters.
Thanks to several hardworking and persistent people like Davor, Damir and Stipe, Komarna has become the youngest Croatian terroir. The endless rows of vines at the foot of the hill merge with the craggy shore. This harsh rocky environment is where plavac mali grows. “That autochthonous Croatian variety gives excellent sugars and acids, as well as sharp flavors and bitterness,” continues Davor. “But in addition to plavac mali, we also planted smaller quantities of the French syrah and cabernet sauvignon varieties, which give plavac extraordinary gentleness and softness”.
“This is limestone, dry area with minimal fertile land. Therefore, we irrigate the plavac vines in the initial stage of ripening, which repays us manifold in quality. Bora, scirocco, triple insolation, karst, sea, and sun affect the grape yield and wine quality”.
Gold will soon replace silver!
The Terra Madre winery produces five types of wine, including two reds made from the plavac mali variety. This production requires aging in wooden barrique barrels for up to three years. Plavac mali premium wine is made from plavac grown on selected terrains. “Yields are lower in quantity because pruning is regulated, and the fruits are partly removed. Due to this, the wine is of special quality. The silver medal won at Decanter, a prestigious London wine fair, testifies to this”, says Davor proudly. His daughter and trusted associate Vedrana Martinovic Trutina (32) joined our conversation, too.
“When we exhibit at wine fairs, especially at the biggest ones such as ProWein in Dusseldorf, it becomes clear to me where we are and what we do, and how strong our competition is. It is great to be in the company of winemakers from around the world. We are constantly working to be as close as possible to them in terms of offer and quality. But we also have our powerful aces up our sleeve – organic production, indigenous varieties, new vineyards, and a God-given location”, says Vedrana, also revealing that her biggest desire is to place the wines on new, still undiscovered international markets.
In addition to red wines, plavac combined with syrah gives an extraordinary mild Rose. “That is the wine most sought after in Dubrovnik area, especially popular among female guests who like to drink it as an aperitif wine or in combination with light seafood. Pošip is a white wine that pairs well with Adriatic white fish, swordfish, John Dory fish, dentex fish and shellfish, and especially with oysters from Mali Ston”, Davor shares his abundant experience.
Overseas markets also recognized the quality of wines from Komarna. The enterprising American woman of Croatian roots visited the Terra Madre winery as a guest. She liked their wines so much that she wished to offer them to all Americans, and she succeeded! As other winemakers from Komarna joined this project, she grouped them all under the unique K7 brand. The market’s differences and administrations were reconciled successfully, and Americans can drink that wine in more prestigious restaurants.
The oenologists Marko Šuman and Gorana Dominikovic are influential wine experts. They have been taking care of young and aged wines for a long time.
They are continually checking the quality and maturity, especially of red wines aged in barrels and bottles, for up to five years before tasting. “We cannot relax until we get positive quality ratings. So, we do this from day to day, from year to year, because mature wines get consumed, while at the same time new ones are being produced”, says Marko and continues:
“We taste wine every day to feel all its flavors and at the same time, memorize that taste from yesterday. Every sip of wine must be clean, rinsed with water so that the flavors do not overlap and mix. The palate is our most important ‘tool’ for assessing the quality, dryness or hardness of wine.”
These two young people make a great team, although Gorana is still learning next to Marko. Next year he will let her take care of the cellar, while he plans to devote himself more to the vineyards where, in his own words, “the quality of wine stems from.” They are always supportive of each other. The greatest pleasure for them is recognition for a job well done and high-quality wine. Terra Madre winery is undoubtedly at the forefront of the wine-making business, side by side with well-known wine producers.
But this is not where the story ends! These hardworking people do not stop planning and dreaming new dreams. Director Martinovic has retired, but he is still developing new projects with his partners.
Luxury restaurant that is opening soon, will provide special delicacies, grilled Adriatic fish, traditionally cooked meat, and homemade cakes. Apart from the wine tasting, the terrace with splendid views will offer a new gastronomic experience as well. Enjoying the small stone-lined Dalmatian houses surrounded by the green vineyards and drinking wine under the starry sky is bound to lift each spirit. What more can one wish, except to visit that magical place?
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