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Young Nation, Ancient Vines in Croatia: Pairing Crni Rižoto + Dingac Vinarija’s Pelješac #WinePW

Happy New Year to you from the crew at Wine Pairing Weekend. #WinePW happens on the second Saturday of the each month. And for the month of January, David of Cooking Chat - and the originator of #WinePW - invited us to kick off the new year with a new wine. You can read David's invitation: here. Feel free to join the conversation on Saturday, January 14th on Twitter with the hashtag #WinePW. We start chatting at 11am ET.

And if you'd like to see all the past and future topics, click here. It's hard to believe we're going on three years with this group.

New Wines & The Crew
David clarified: "What do we mean by “new wine”? Simply looking for wine that is new to you, whether that be a wine region you haven’t explored, or maybe it is a new grape varietal. Or maybe it’s a type of wine you haven’t tried much. You get to figure what trying new wine means to you."

What fun! I had a couple of options from new-to-me varietals to new-to-me wine regions. I decided to go with the latter and uncorked a bottle of wine from Croatia for this event. I'll be pairing the other wines and regions later. Here's what everyone else uncorked for this round of #WinePW...

Crni Rižoto + Dingac Vinarija’s Pelješac

In My Glass...
I had a bottle of Dingac Vinarija’s Pelješac in my cabinet and decided this was the perfect opportunity to share it. Though Croatia is a young nation, having only been a sovereign country since 1991, its wine has a history dating back to Ancient Greece. Some of the islands have been producing wine - with traditional grape varietals - for nearly 3000 years!

Most Croatian wine is white, but you can find some reds. You would be hard-pressed to find a Croatian rosé. One thing I found interesting is that Croats typically dilute their wines. They drink gemišt which is a combination of white wine and sparkling water and bevanda which is red wine mixed with still water. No, thanks. I'll drink my wine full strength.

The wine I had comes from the Pelješac Peninsula that extends into the Adriatic. Its steep hillsides are blanketed in pine, olive, and fig trees. And vineyards are planted almost exclusively with the rugged native grape varietal Plavac Mali.

Because motorized vehicles and mechanical harvesting are impossible, Dingac Vinarija’s label features a donkey without which tending the grapes would be impossible.

I have to admit that I only had one teeny, tiny sip of this wine as I am on a Whole30 adventure. I considered backing out of all my wine event commitments during this month, but I decided that having a single sip was still within the realm of "avoiding alcohol." So...I smelled it, swirled it, and tasted it.

It was more sweet than I anticipated. It hinted at a light passito with strong herbaceousness. Think rosemary, thyme, and oregano collide with figs and plums. I actually think it was the perfect wine with this savory dish. Initially I was thinking, "Oh, this is more of a dessert wine." But that would really be sweet on sweet, so I do think that this savory worked the best.

On My Plate...
Every seafood restaurant in Croatia has a Crni Rižoto (black risotto) on its menu. Crni Rižoto is risotto dyed black with squid ink; I used cuttlefish ink for the same effect.

  • 7 C fish stock (or a combination of fish stock and vegetable stock)
  • 5 T olive oil
  • 5 medium shallots, peeled and minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1/2 lb shrimp
  • 1/2 lb squid tubes, cleaned and sliced into rings
  • 1/2 lb scallops
  • 1/2 lb clams, scrubbed
  • 1/2 lb mussels, scrubbed
  • 1 C arborio rice
  • 3 T fresh parsley, minced
  • juice and zest from 1 organic lemon
  • 2 T cuttlefish ink
  • freshly ground salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a large, flat-bottom pan, heat 3 T olive oil. Add in the shallots and garlic and cook until the shallots are translucent and beginning to caramelize. Add in the shrimp, squid, and scallops. Cook until opaque, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Spoon the seafood into a bowl, cover, and set aside.

In the same pan, add in the rice and remaining 2 T olive oil. Cook until the rice grains are lightly toasted. Pour in 1 C fish stock and stir until absorbed, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Continue adding 1/2 C stock at a time until the rice is creamy, usually about 20 to 25 minutes total.

Before the last addition of the stock, stir in the cooked seafood. Nestle the clams and mussels into the rice. Pour the last 1/2 C stock over the top. Cover and steam until the clams and mussels open, approximately 3 to 4 minutes.

Just before serving, stir in the ink until the rice is completely coated and black. Fold in the parsley and lemon zest. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

As I mentioned, I'm in the middle of my Whole30. So, I'm off alcohol and grains. The dish I ate was a cauliflower version of the risotto made with caulibits. It was tasty. I'll share that recipe soon.

Next month Cindy at Grape Experiences is hosting. Our topic: wine and comfort food. Stay tuned.

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  1. Looks delicious, Camilla! And the wine sure sounds interesting, too.

  2. I had my first taste of a Croatian red on New Year's Eve in NYC. I want to try more. Your dish, as always, looks amazing. You are such a gifted chef!

  3. Interesting they dilute their wines. I'm with you on drinking it straight ; ) Cheers to the New Year!

  4. I have not tried a wine from Croatia. It is a place I wish to visit so maybe one day I will get to sip one and have a traditional dish with it. I agree sometimes a sweet wine, savory pairing is the best way to go.

  5. As I was reading your recipe, I was wondering if the whole 30 allowed rice. The FMD allows brown rice so I could use that but I like the idea of the cauliflower rice too. Of course, I would have to be serious about going back on the FMD eating plan LOL. Good luck with the Whole 30 Cam.

  6. I adore squid ink dishes. You're looks wonderful Cam! Cheers!


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