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Wine fit for a King and Queen

Last month, the world witnessed the coronation of a British monarch.

Something that had not occurred in nearly three quarters of a century – in 1953 to be exact, with the ascendancy of the youthful Elizabeth II following the death of her father, King George VI.

It was a spectacle, albeit a somewhat understated one, as the royals accommodated themselves to the current temperament of the democratic age.

But amidst the pomp and circumstance, this oenophile wondered: what wines would be served given the magnificence of the occasion?

Information has been scant, but British sparkling wines were sure to take center stage at various events. King Charles III served Sussex-based Ridgeview’s 2016 Blanc de Blancs at his first official state dinner. Indeed, many UK winemakers rushed to create “commemorative bottlings” to mark the occasion, the vast majority of these being sparkling as this segment of the industry is exploding in England.

One wine, however, stood out from the pack and that was the announcement that a Croatian wine made from the Traminac grape and from Ilocki Podrumi Domain (https://www.ilocki-podrumi.hr/) would be served. I needed to know more.

In what is now present-day Croatia, as it turns out – and is true in most of Central and Southern Europe – the cultivation of grapes for wine is an ancient tradition. When the Greeks arrived in the 5th century BCE, they were likely to have built upon wine production started by the Illyrians several centuries earlier. Wine production continued to flourish under the Greeks and the Roman Empire and historical evidence from these early time periods testifies to a significant cultural impact of grape cultivation and wine production.

Wine making continued into the following centuries in the parts of Croatia that remained independent from the rule of the expansive Ottoman Empire, which, under Muslim law, forbade alcohol consumption. Then in the 18th century, as the ascendancy of the Hapsburg Empire displaced the Ottomans, wine production flourished anew. That is, until the twin plagues of phylloxera and Soviet-style communism first devastated production and then collectivism’s focus on quantity over quality yielded inferior product.

With the emergence of an independent and democratic Croatian state in the mid 1990s, wine production in small, privately owned vineyards is again flourishing. That alone might be sufficient such that the House of Windsor might take notice. However, it turns out that Croatian wine wasn’t just fit for a King. It was also fit for a Queen.

Ilocki Podrumi’s Traminac was also served at the coronation of Charles’ mother. For that event, 11,000 bottles of the Domaine’s 1947 vintage were delivered and, in part to honor his late mother, the same wine in the 2019 vintage was chosen by the King to celebrate his ascension to the throne, and that of his wife, Queen Camilla.

Traminac is a white grape, also known in other parts of the world as Gewürztraminer and can be made in both dry and sweet styles. Ilocki Podrumi’s 2019 Principovac Traminac is a semi-sweet style wine.

Chosen from select parcels of their vineyard, grapes sourced for this wine are allowed to mature on the vines an additional 8 to 10 days after the regular harvest. This ensures grapes with a high sugar content. Golden yellow in color, the winemaker describes it as have an “intensely developed varietal aroma” with a “full, harmonious and sweet taste dominated by the intense aroma of honey.” The vineyard recommends the wine be served well-chilled and with recommended food pairings such as white meat dishes and fine cheeses.

A wonderful history of Ilocki can be found on their website at https://www.ilocki-podrumi.hr/povijest/ (and unless you’re fluent in Croatian, put your Translate function to work). Too much to expand upon here; it took me down a wonderful rabbit hole of learning.

As is often the case with wine, there is a long and interesting history behind what one finds in their glass. And in this case, it intersects with the rarity and grandeur of a monarch’s ascension in the present age.

Long live the King and as always, Salud!

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