Rain, they say, falls ever so often; scientists argue over whether we will experience global warming or an ice age, summers seem ever so brief. However, despite of it all and with our luck, the couriers of Zagreb’s autumn are always ‘the same old’, ordinary, charming, and impeccable, colourful, alluring. You can sense her smell in the air, because the smell of Zagreb’s autumn is, as they say in Zagreb, utterly delicious.
Dolac awakens all senses in the autumn. On Zagreb’s central open market, under the sunshades in the colours of the šestine umbrella an array of curiosities are compressed, even the kumice or godmothers awaken from the abundance. Some ingredients are special, authentic autumnal favourites of old Zagreb, such as young beans that will be eaten with a spoon, pumpkins that will be made into a dainty pumpkin and cream cheese strudel, chestnuts that will smell in the streets until the real winter comes, or porcini mushrooms which the hardworking mushroom pickers have sent down to the city from lofty Medvednica, hovering high above Zagreb. The same ingredients that are strutted on Dolac, are the same as those that smell oh-so delightful while being transformed in the city’s restaurants and Zagreb households where every day cooking has not been abandoned.
Autumn is the season that longs for, as it is so popularly said, food that is eaten with a spoon, food that fortifies but does not fall heavily on the stomach. Autumn is ideal for hundreds of types of vegetable stews, for a plate of young beans in which meat is optional, and which can and does not have to be adorned with a pork sausage, for sour pork lungs, for tripe in which men, more frequently than women, look for comfort with a spoon. Tripe, that lunch-classic, such as let us say wine goulash or gentle egg noodles with cabbage that reminds us of childhood. A little bit of cabbage, a little bit of grandma’s noodles and there is happiness. And ham hock!? It is important not to be impressed by a large piece of pork meat that can be taken off the bone with one’s fingers. Autumn looks for invigoration of all sorts, and ham hock is even more than that.
Every bite from Zagreb’s gastronomical autumns reminds of home, wherever you may be from. To be, truly, for a moment, and then for evermore to remain, a real Purger or authentic Zagreb resident, it helps to buy a bag of hot chestnuts, and to pair it with Portugiser, a young wine. For Zagreb has its Beaujolais, its young wine, which is, why would it not be, maybe even better than that which the French have made famous.
Croatia has a singer named Oliver. In his repertoire is a song that lists tens of meals that can be made from eggs. When you once try Zagreb’s autumnal delicacies, it is easily possible that you will start to sing lyrics that list: ˝sour pork lung, vegetable stew, pork sausage, black pudding, young beans, egg noodles with cabbage, thin dried flatbread, cottage cheese pastry, wine goulash, ham hock, pumpkin pastry, porcini mushrooms…˝
Rain, they say, falls ever so often; scientists argue over whether we will experience global warming or an ice age, summers seem ever so brief. Luckily, Zagreb’s autumn is always ‘the same old’, ordinary, charming, overwhelming. Here she is, you can feel the smell in the air - utterly delicious!
Wine routes of Zagreb County
What are these? Well, there are two Wine Routes: one on Plešivica and one near Sveti Ivan Zelina. You drive along, taking in the view, and signs direct you to local winemakers, who will guide you through their cellars, sometimes offering local specialities to complement your wine-tasting experience.
Whether you’re drinking or not, it’s definitely worth your while to take a drive through the wine routes. The steep slopes of the foothills covered with vineyards are a captivating sight, and in some of the picturesque villages it’s as if time has stood still.
How to do it
Your best bet is to head to the Zagreb County Tourist Board office at Preradovićeva 42, (tel. 487 36 65) Open 08:00-16:00 Mon-Fri. There, you can pick up a map showing both wine routes, and the location and contact details of every wine producer.
A sommelier’s Jelena recommendations of which wines to tickle your taste buds!
There are many beautiful vineyards that encircle Zagreb and its surroundings. The hilly part of our stunning country leaves no one indifferent and is abundant with many beautiful wines and vineyards. Whether these are vineyards from the gorgeous Međimurje ,Zagorje, Plešivica or Prigorje regions, they are certainly worth a visit for any devotee to a fine drop of wine. In this part of the world, wine makers are more focused on the production of white grape varieties such as Moslavac or Pušipel, Škrlet, Kraljevina, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Portugizac, Green Sylvaner, Pinot Noir, Belin and many others.
White wines are a lot more pertinent than red wines and they are known to exacerbate freshness and zestfulness with a slightly strong sense of alcohol. Red wines are subtle, soft and velvety. Nearby you can find a lot of wineries that are decorated with medals from all over the world for their high quality wines. Recommendations of top winemakers that are a must see, must try whilst here include;Tomac, Šember, Korak, Bodren, Cmrečnjak, Dvanajščak - Kozol, Bolfan, Kosovec, Puhelek - Purek, Štampar and many others.
KORAK SAUVIGNON 2014, Plešivica
From the best Plešivica vineyard positions, the Korak family produces high quality wines worthy of praise. Sauvignon Blanc is a fine quality, almost oily in the glass, medium in body. Very aromatic with beautiful structure and freshness! It is a wine to be recommended with pasta and shrimp. With the Korak’s Sauvignon, I would also recommend their Chardonnay Sur Lie or great Pinot Noir.
ŠEMBER SPARKLING WINE, Jastrebarsko
Šember won me over with its sparkling wines that are exceptional in their sharpness and freshness. Sparkling wines are made as champagne; using a traditional method, very delicate, and refreshing. Their lovely sparkling Rose can be served as an excellent aperitif or introduction to any meal.
ŠTAMPAR SVETI URBAN, Štrigova
Sveti Urban Wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Gamay. It maintains a beautiful ruby red colour with purple reflections at the edge of the glass. It is soft and juicy on the palette with a fine quality aroma that is medium in body. Be sure to try their great Sauvignon, Yellow Muscat and Pušipel prestige, ice wine harvested.
BODREN CHARDONNAY ICE WINE, Hum na Sutli
Bodrenis the master of predicate. It is hard to his wines and not let them totally win you over. He has won several prestigious large golden medals for his predicates in world competitions. The Chardonnay, which is vintage ice harvested, is thick, concentrated, and oily, with rich notes of a delicious honey, apricot and other sweet fruity flavours. It is a wine that, after some serious dabbling, remains in one’s mouth for up to several minutes. This is a wine that cannot be forgotten.