Plavac Mali (pronounced Plahvahts Mahlee in Croatian) is a red grape variety that is native to Croatia and more specifically, native to Dalmatia. This is a strip of land that has Bosnia Herzegovina to the east and the Adriatic Sea to the west. It gets an obscene amount of sun throughout the year, so it is a happy grape to have Dalmatia as it’s home.
By far and away, it is the dominant red grape in Dalmatia. Others like Merlot, Shiraz, and a number of minor native grapes pop up here and there, but inevitably, if you see a field of red wine grapes, they will be Plavac Mali.
If you have had any experience with Croatian wine, then you have probably tasted ‘plavac mali’ – and might want some more! Many of Croatia’s best – and most expensive – wines are plavac mali.
The old Latin saying ‘It’s all in the name’ is true for plavac mali, as plavac means ‘blue’ and mali means ‘small’: the name accurately describes the small blue grapes of the vine. The wine is a very powerful, robust red wine, rich in taste and high in alcohol and tannins.
A strong and rich wine, best paired with red meat of strong flavors, such as veal and venison. If you are having your glass of plavac mali in Croatia you should most definitely have it with pašticada – a traditional veal sauce made with tomatoes, dry plums, red wine, herbs, and spices served with homemade gnocchi.
Plavac mali has a very interesting history of origin and family background that has caused many wine experts to become obsessed with tracing its origins. It has even been subjected to DNA research and has starred in the documentary ‘Dossier Zinfandel’.
Content for this question contributed by Darrell Morrison, resident of Feeding Hills, Hampden County, Agawam, Massachusetts, USA