Wine Cellar’s ID
For generations, the basic activity and source of income in the families of Velimir Korak and his wife Mirjana have been viticulture and winemaking. The family tradition is still vital, and Velimir, after a degree from the Agriculture Faculty and experience in his profession, in 1992 left a good job and struck out for himself. Together with Mirjana, he has patiently built up a name, and today is one of the brightest jewels on the Plešivica Wine Road, last year wining the title of the best Croatian winemaker 2008. With devoted work and love for the job, he has always been a little bit different from the others, and is even quite modest in pointing out that the first ever superior quality domestic Black Pinot came onto the market from his cellar, and knowing the way he does things, we can expect new surprises.
Vineyards and varieties
The Korak family had the luck to inherit vineyards in the best localities in the Plešivica-Okić wine region, planted with various, time-honoured varieties, and Velimir and Mirjana set out on reconstruction, and the planting of new varieties. Today they have five hectares. Of white varieties, there are Rhine Riesling, Chardonnay, White Sauvignon and a young plantation of Grey Pinot. Traditionally they grow, of the reds, Grau Portuguiser [Portugizac] and the already mentioned Black Pinot. Velimir believes that these world varieties have big opportunities in their terroir. And Syrah has long since been a basic part of the range. Thanks to extremely good localities – where the peak positions of the vineyards are located at a height above sea level of 350 to 400 metres, to hard and dedicated work, to climatic conditions with severe, icy winters and baking summers, every year nature bestows on them grapes of very highly quality, from which superior quality wines are born.
Cellar, technology, wines
From the cellar that is part of the family traditional holding, soon to be enlarged with an underground part, about 30,000 bottles p.a. are put on the market. When the new plantations come into fruit, the production will rise to about 40,000 bottles. As oenologist, Velimir is no slave to technology, and yet he does constantly experiment and try out the new, seeking for the best for each variety. He genuinely believes that technology alone will not provide good wine. It helps, but superior quality wine comes from high quality grapes. In the cellar, stainless steel alternates with oak barrels of various sizes and ages. A barrel of 1938 is witness to the long tradition of wine making. Fresh wines like Rhine Riesling are fermented in stainless steel, but all wines are later aged in oak. With some wines, barrels are also used for fermentation, because oak is a must in their cellar. This year there are varietal brandies that, like each wine, all have a special taste of their own.
Velimir is one of the rare vintners who talk in the first person plural about their work and successes. Along with his wife Mirjana, an essential part of the team is the grandmother, Katarina. This tireless trio, along with the occasional help of three of the heirs, are involved in all phases of the production. If one is to judge from choice of university studies, son Josip will follow in the footsteps of his father. “Many tears and much laughter in this job, and it’s a lot easier when the whole family is in it.” The holding, located on Plešivica, not far from Jastrebarsko, off the main highway, with a magnificent view onto the vineyards, includes a tasting room, where every wine is matched with some local domestic cooking treat.
We are not winemakers who rely on the industrial manner of production. We don’t think in terms of marketing. At some moments this can be a mistake, because the whole world works like this. But this would mean studying the customers, and giving them what we think they want. Of course, we too want to please, but we don’t intend to court the favour of the mass market. We are more oriented to a target group of customers who are more interested in naturalness, in the real. My job is how to make the best use of what this area has to offer, and to make sure nature and authenticity can be sensed in every bottle. Wine is the only drink determined by the area, the terroir, and ultimately by the winemaker, and yet the job is never over. We don’t consent to the average, and it is true that the same wind drives the whole family forward.
The cellar is being built up, and an enlargement of the plantations is also on the cards. A lot of thought is being devoted to how to expand the tourist market, for, in line with world experience, there is always something going on in the vicinity of wine, some merrymaking or performance. They would like to take out a lease on a small restaurant, as long as it all stays in the family and keeps on being fun. Because of their geniality and wholeheartedness it’s a good bet they’ll make a success, but the Korak family, in line with their surname [korak = step, tr.] is still moving forward with small and certain steps, leaving at the same time an indelible mark on the pages of Croatian wine-making.