The Island of Korčula is the spiritual home of Pošip and by all accounts, was first discovered here. There’s even a monument dedicated to it. The Island’s winemaking history dates back to the Illyrians, but had its longest run as a part of the Venetian Empire for nearly 400 years until the late 1700s. As an island in Southern Dalmatia, phylloxera came rather late in the late 1920s.
Not too long afterwards, Frano Banicević’s great grandfather founded the Toreta Winery. Fortunately for his grandson, he also dutifully wrote down everything about winemaking and working in the vineyard as well. This traditional knowledge and historical reverence is central to how Frano works. There’s basically a museum’s worth of vintage winemaking tools and documents littering the winery. The name Toreta is also the local name for the small round stone shelters built to protect workers from the fierce winds and elements. These date back to the aforementioned Illyrian tribes.
Two things immediately make Korčula unique when compared to the nearby Pelješac Peninsula or the Southern Dalmatian mainland where red grapes dominate and the terrain is largely Mediterranean chaparral. Korčula is densely covered in forests and white grapes dominate.
While there is delicious Plavac Mali here, it’s the white grapes of Grk, Maraština, and the flagship Pošip that are the island’s calling cards. Whether coming from Vela Luka in the west or from the old town of Korčula on the eastern part of the island, as you descend down to the village of Smokvica it’s clear what makes it ideal for grapes. The iron rich red soils are in a valley with the ocean a mere 7-10 min drive to the south and steep forested hills to the north. Humidity is an issue, so having the right exposure and protection from these coastal winds is crucial. Pošip is also high in sugar, high in acidity, early ripening, thin skinned, and can be very high yielding. I’ve tasted Pošips above 16% alcohol with RS and still acidity to spare. Frano’s farming keeps yields low, healthy diversity allows for lower disease pressure, and his pick dates tend to be earlier than most. Herbicides and pesticides didn’t even exist when his great grandfather farmed this land, so no reason Frano should use them either.
The 2019 “Special”, with a lobster on the label, is basically Toreta’s earliest pick from its youngest vineyards. It’s also the shortest maceration (~2 hours), fermented entirely in stainless steel, and then aged 3 months in stainless steel as well. It’s super aromatic in a sea breeze/herbal/piney rather than floral sense, the acidity is super refreshing and there’s plenty of fruit to round things out.
Excerpts from Eric Danch (Danch & Granger Imports)