There is something to be said for the comfort of familiarity. On the other hand, the exhilaration of new discoveries should not be underestimated. We recently discovered this for ourselves when we enjoyed a bottle of Brkić Greda Žilavka, both a new wine region and grape variety for us, with a delicious mushroom pasta dish that was also new to us.
2015 Brkić Greda Žilavka, Mostar — medium golden in the glass with generous aromas of toast, damp earth and bruised apple. Flavors echo the aromas with earthy, umami and mushroom flavors. Bruised apple is present along with dried tangerine peel, a hint of black pepper and a long, salty finish. The wine is a bit round and has ample acidity. Delicate tannins linger. 12% abv. $25.
This wine caught our attention immediately with its deep golden color and unfamiliar, complex aromas and flavors. It made me think, in a way, of aged Chardonnay. But different. We discussed this wine for quite some time after first tasting it.
The importer’s notes tell us fermentation took place using native yeast and 50% of the Žilavka (zhee-lav-ka) grapes were fermented on the skins. The wine was aged in a large, new Bosnian oak tank (on the lees) for 12 months.
According to Robinson, Harding and Vouillamoz in Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, including their Origins and Flavours Žilavka likely originated in the Mostar region of southern Bosnia and Herzegovina. Vines are described as vigorous and later ripening. It typically produces wines that are full-bodied and have good acidity, but lighter, fruitier styles are made as well. The variety ages will in the bottle. Žilavka is also grown in Serbia, Croatia and Republic of Macedonia.
The recent Brkić family winemaking history dates back to the 1970s when Pasko Brkić planted vineyards in Čitluk, south of Mostar. After his father’s death, Josip Brkić continued making wine and eventually transitioned all viticulture to organic and biodynamic. He focuses on the native varieties Žilavka and Blatina. Greda is the name of the vineyard.
A quote from the importer’s website struck me:
If you want to get a supreme quality wine that will express the effort you put in it, then you have to dedicate yourselves completely to it. You do that with your heart or you do not. There is no compromise—Josip Brkić
Our meal pairing for the 2015 Brkić Greda Žilavka came from the current issue of Wine Enthusiast Magazine: Mushrooms, Hazelnuts and Fregola in Brown Butter Vinaigrette. I substituted farfalline for fregola, but otherwise followed the recipe. Oh my, this is delicious. If you’ve never had brown butter vinaigrette — get on it. It’s decadent, but it is fabulous.
The mushroom, umami flavors and brown butter were a perfect match for similar flavors in the wine. We had no idea what this wine would taste like, so it was just dumb luck that this pairing worked so well. I had to laugh when, as I sat down to write this cellar note, I read the importer’s food suggestion: brown butter mushrooms or soy sauce.
There is something to be said for luck as well.