Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Croatia’s Super-Star Wine Island: Korčula

                                 Vineyards are located only a few miles from Korčula town

While one can find local wine on nearly every Croatian island, Korčula (KOR-chu-la) has a reputation for making world-class wines.  The island was first colonized by seafaring Greeks in the 4th century BC who brought with them wine grapes.  Fast forward twenty-four centuries and this fertile plain planted by the Greeks remains unchanged.

       Wine-Knows' private yacht will stop in Korcula town, as well as visit its surrounding vineyards

                    Korčula's Venetian architecture reflects its rule for centuries by Venice

Although the Greeks brought the island’s first grapes, Korčula has birthed several of its own varieties.  Two of these grapes have become international stars in the wine world.  Grk (think “Greek” without the vowels), and Pošip (PO-ship) produce high quality dry white wines.  Grk, grown in the island’s sandy soil, offers an interesting combination of melon and pear, laced with minerals and white pepper.  Pošip, the other popular indigenous grape, serves up a full-bodied glass of apples, vanilla, citrus with subtle almond nuances.

                          The Grk grape's birthplace is Korčula & its only grown on the island

The Wine-Knows’ private yacht tour of the Croatian coastline will be visiting two different areas on Korčula.   The first is Korčula town, one of the best preserved medieval towns in the Adriatic, it is home to the Dimitri Palace five star hotel.  This Relais & Chateaux member property boasts a Michelin star restaurant in a drop-dead gorgeous setting along the sea.  Their restaurant was awarded Croatia’s Best Restaurant in the 2022 World Culinary Awards.  A few miles outside of Korčula town are the prime vineyards of Lumbarda where the group will have a private wine tasting.

     Vineyards are on the sea, thus the sea salt spray & rocky soil add minerality to the wines

For more information about the private yacht week in September, please click below:


Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Hvar Island: Jet-Set Sophistication

                                    Hvar town & seascape as viewed by its hilltop fortress

Last week Croatia's island of olives, Brač, was featured.  Today we travel to the “lifestyles of the rich & famous”  Hvar, the second island on Wine-Knows’ private yacht itinerary this September.   While Brac’s economy is based on olive oil, fishing, sailing and wine, its luxurious neighbor Hvar receives the majority of its revenue from upmarket tourism:  mega Euro yachts bring celebrities such as  Bill Gates, Tom Hanks, Georgio Armani, U2’s Bono, and even Beyonce.

          Look carefully behind tourist sunglasses & you may find Tom Cruise or Ellen DeGeneres

Hvar ("huh war") is considered one of the Croatia’s prettiest and the island has always attracted an elite group of visitors.  In the 1930’s Wallis Simpson and the former King of England vacationed here.  In the 1960’s it was Jackie Onassis and Orson Wells.  All arrive by private yacht and their preferred harbor is the island’s namesake town, Hvar.   A stroll down Hvar town’s port is like a walk down a maritime Rodeo Drive.  Bazillon Euro yachts with helicopter pads, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, outdoor fire-pits and indoor fireplaces, line the photo-op quay and mix with simple but colorful local fishing boats.

                                Diners are in for a terrific bonus:  Hvar makes good wine!          

Regardless, if you arrive by a private yacht or by the jam-packed public ferry, the town of Hvar is an alluring little jewel-box.   Travelers are greeted by a mesmerizing panorama: a delightful small harbor with a gorgeous promenade, palm trees and bougainvillea, handsome stone buildings topped with bright red tile roofs, and imposing 13th century town walls.   The cherry on top is the town’s iconic 16th century hilltop fortress.  A twenty-minute uphill walk is a must-do for fit visitors as the sweeping views from the fortress are breathtaking.

                                  Don't miss the Loggia, Clock Tower & hilltop fortress

Other not-to-miss sites in Hvar town are the Venetian Loggia and Clock Tower.  Built in the 13th century, the Loggia is a striking Renaissance structure. Beside it sits a 19th century Clock Tower.   Both of these edifices are now part of the Hotel Palace, a 5 star property belongs to the Leading Hotels of the World  group. Nearby is the town’s pretty main square, dominated by St. Stephens Cathedral.  Side streets off the square hide some cozy cafes and small art galleries, as well as a sprinkling of upmarket boutiques and souvenir shops.

But wait!  There's more to Hvar.  The island has been recognized by the United Nations and awarded with a World Heritage designation for its contribution to international agriculture.  The ancient Greek system of using geometrics to divide vineyards into smaller parcels, stone walls to separate the plots, strategically placed small stone huts, and the very first rainwater recovery system, was deemed by the UN to be of “Outstanding Universal Value.”

There are one or two spaces left on the September 2-9, 2023 private yacht.  For detailed information on the private yacht that Wine-Knows has leased, check out:


Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Croatia's "Olive Island"

                                          Brač is the third largest island in the Adriatic Sea

With more than a million olive trees, an Olive Oil Museum, the Olive Harvest Championship, the very first Olive Oil Cooperative in Croatia, and a three mile Olive Trail for tourists that passes through centuries old olive groves, there’s no wonder why the Croatian island of Brač (rhymes with watch) is appropriately named “the olive island.”  Located midway along the country’s 1,000 mile coastline, the island is 10 miles from the mainland city of Split. While olives are grown in many parts of Croatia, Brač is the nation’s largest olive grove.

                                  Centuries old wild trees & cultivated olive farms dot the island

It is believed that the ancient Greeks brought the first olive trees to the island.  Up until the 16th century, however, there were no cultivated olive farms.  Instead, trees grew wild.  Recognizing the valuable commodity, the Venetian rulers passed laws in the 17th century to encourage planting of olive trees.  They also instituted edicts to protect the island’s olives:  anyone found harming a tree was banned from the island for ten years.  By the 18th century, olive oil had become big business on Brač. 

                     Wine-Knows will tour an olive oil producer on their yacht trip in September

Brač’s olive oils are world-class.  The island’s unique geological and climatic conditions, in addition to hundreds of years of skills acquired by Brač’s olive growers, contribute to the quality of the oils produced.  Also, an olive variety only on Brač, oblica, further contributes to creation of the island’s distinctive oils.

                           An ancient olive press in the local museum shows how oil was made

Recently, olive oil from Brač was granted protection by the E.U.  This means that only olive oil made on the island of Brač can be called Brač.  Furthermore,  the extra virgin oil must contain a minimum of 80% of Brač’s indigenous olive variety oblica.   All bottles of the island’s oil display a special label showing its EU protected status. This label guarantees the consumer that this is the real-deal Brač oil, and not some knock-off from Algeria.

                       The EU label guarantees the authenticity of the product to the consumer

This September Wine-Knows will visit the island of Brač for an olive tasting.  The private yacht that Wine-Knows has leased has one last cabin for one or two persons available.  For more information about this Croatian yacht trip, consult our website,


Friday, May 5, 2023

Sibenik, Croatia---a UNESCO Charmer

           Join Wine-Knows in September on their private yacht charter along the Croatian coastline

Only five cities around the globe have two UNESCO World Heritage monuments.  Sibenik is one of them.   The United Nations grants this special status to sites with significant cultural, historical or scientific importance.   Places such as the Great Barrier Reef, Acropolis, Taj Mahal, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Westminster Abbey, and our own country’s Grand Canyon and Yosemite are UNESCO World Heritage sites.  The fact that the small town of Sibenik has two spots on the list of world treasures is extraordinary.

                                 Backstreets create ja perfect stage for the movie industry

Sibenik is also the oldest town in Croatia.  Tossed back and forth between the Venetian Republic, the Byzantine Empire, and the Austrian-Hungarian Dynasty, the town is a medieval treasure trove for architecture.  It’s no wonder that Game of Thrones chose Sibenik for filming as its labyrinth alleyways make for picture-perfect Hollywood sets of Gothic, Byzantine and Renaissance splendor.

                               Invaders had to sail past this Fortress to enter  Sibenik's bay

The St. Nicolas Fortress is one of the coveted UNESCO sites.   Located on a small island protecting the entrance to Sibenik’s bay, this fortress is one of the best preserved on the Dalmatian coastline.  The Venetians built St. Nicolas in the 16th century to fend off maritime attacks by the Turks.  Shaped like an arrow, with a seemingly impenetrable exterior protected by 32 cannons, the fortress was designed to send a “don’t mess with me” vibe.

                         Wine-Knows will have a private tour of this UNESCO masterpiece

The Cathedral of St. James is the other UNESCO gem.   The church was initially conceived to be a simple one, however, several successive Italian architects over a period spanning more than 100 years turned the building into something far from simplistic.  The end result was a perfect fusion of Gothic and Renaissance.

Wine-Knows will visit Sibenik on this September’s private yacht tour of the Croatian coastline.  There are still one or two spaces left on the September 2-9 week (the week of 9-16 is old out with a waiting list).


Monday, April 24, 2023

France’s Most Famous Aperitif was Created by a Priest

                         The Kir cocktail was invented during WW II by a Burgundian Priest

Let’s set the scene.  Burgundy in 1940 was under siege.  The Nazis had arrived and  those who could fled.   The Germans set about looting almost anything of value.  For Burgundy, this meant its wine.   Both Hermann Goring and Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s top officials, were wine aficionados but they didn’t just demand wine for themselves.  The German military viewed wine as a way to flaunt their victory, so wine was needed for all soldiers. 

It didn’t take long for Burgundy’s cellars to be ransacked of their best bottles.  The Nazis didn’t want the lowest level wines made with the step-child grape, Aligoté.  Wine made from Aligoté, after all, was a simple table wine, not worthy of their consumption.   Hence, Aligoté was the only wine left for Burgundians to drink…and even it was scarce as there were few people working in the vineyards.

     Kir was responsible for covert operations such as liberating thousands of French prisoners of war

The mayor of Burgundy’s largest city, Dijon, was a well-respected Catholic priest (all other mean were at war).   Priest Kir, a secret member of the French Resistance, wanted to do something to make the Burgundians feel better about the Nazi occupation, so he created a drink out of what the Germans didn’t confiscate:  Aligoté and the simple local black currant liqueur called Cassis.  This pale red drink mimicked the color of Burgundy’s prized Pinot Noir.   Immediately it became a popular drink and a symbol of the defiance of the Burgundians.  The drink was named after its inventor, Kir.

After the war, Priest Kir was awarded France’s coveted Legion of Honor medal.   Nearly seventy-five years later his drink has become a standard aperitif not only in France but world-wide.    Kir Royale, made with Champagne and Cassis, is undoubtedly served at every Michelin star French restaurant around the globe…and for that matter, at every upmarket restaurant in the US.

Next time you have a Kir or Kir Royale, you may want to pay homage to the circumstances of how and by whom it was created.   Or, better yet, why not come with Wine-Knows September 2024 to Burgundy and experience a Kir in its birthplace.

Burgundy & Champagne – Wine-Knows Travel (wineknowstravel.com)

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Decoding Burgundy’s Strange Wine Labels

This is the second in a three-part series on Burgundy (Bourgogne). 

It sounds unthinkable to Americans, but Burgundy does not mention the grape variety anywhere on their wine labels.   If it’s a white wine in Burgundy, then it’s a Chardonnay; if the wine is red, the variety is Pinot Noir.   So, if the grape isn’t listed what is printed on the label to tell the consumer what is inside this bottle pricey wine?   

The parcel of land (Corton-Charlemagne) & its hierarchy (Grand Cru) inform the consumer 

The most important prerequisite to Burgundian winemakers is the plot of earth in which the grapes are grown.   In the last blog, the concept of terroir was discussed in terms of the Middle Ages' monastic orders who analyzed every vineyard to determine which plots of earth produced the best grapes and why.   A thousand years later, the concept of terroir is the most important thing on Burgundy's wine labels, hence, the grapes’ birthplace is often front and center on labels.

 The wine's birthplace (Clos Mouches vineyard) is often the 1st thing a consumer sees

The parcels which medieval monks determined consistently produced the best wines are now the Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy.  For Burgundy lovers, Grand Crus such as Clos Vougeot, La Tâche, Romanée Conti, and Corton-Charlemange are the pinnacles.  Premier Cru, the second tier on Burgundy's quality ladder, is also displayed on labels.  With both Grand Cru and Premier Cru, however, the name of the actual vineyard takes center stage.

The last tidbit about Burgundy's different system of labeling, is that the name of the producer takes a back seat to the terroir and the wine’s hierarchy.  The star of the show is the terroir, and the winery is less important.

To learn more about Burgundy and its wines, we have a few spaces available for our harvest tour next year, September 2024.    Burgundy & Champagne – Wine-Knows Travel (wineknowstravel.com)

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Burgundy’s Wine Trade Was Invented by Monks

      The Cisterian Abbaye Citeaux had vast vineyards in some of Burgundy's most prized areas

The month of April this blog will be devoted to the Burgundy wine district.  The inaugural three-part series discusses the critical importance of Burgundian monks in developing the wine industry in France.

Hundreds of years before Bordeaux was even a wine region, the 10th century monks of Burgundy were honing the craft of wine production.  These Burgundian wine-making clergy were not only vinifying wine but they were actually selling it.  Think of these monks as the first full service wine company:  they grew the grapes, made the wine, bottled and stored it in the church cellar, marketed the wine during church service, and finally sold it to the congregation.  They actually invented the wine business.

              The Cluny Abbaye, founded in 909, still owns some of Burgundy's best vineyards

During the Middle Ages Christianity was on the rise across all of France.   It didn’t take long before red wine became a sacred drink, symbolizing the blood of Christ.   With religion becoming important in French culture, bishops and monks had a prominent role in French society.  The Dukes of Burgundy (the reigning nobility) began gifting churches with large parcels of land.   By 1098, monks controlled much of the best vineyards of Burgundy.  By the 1400’s, the wine of these Burgundian monks was recognized throughout Europe as top quality.

             Monks analyzed each vineyard & surrounded the best plots by "clos" (rock walls)

By far the biggest contribution of Burgundy’s wine-making monks was their diligence in mapping out each plot of earth in their vast estates.  The clergy studied each parcel and created a patchwork quilt map.  They identified which part of their vineyards produced the best grapes and why.  Their analysis took into account all of the elements that we know today produce great wines:  soil, drainage, exposure to the sun, wind, topography, humidity, pests etc.   The monks then built stone walls around the best vineyards.  These parcel defining walls were called “clos.”   (Clos means wall in French).   These clos remain today and are responsible for producing Burgundy’s Grand and Premier Cru (top quality) wines.

                     The monks' detailed mapping identified the best vineyards centuries ago

In effect, Burgundy’s clergy were the first to develop the concept of terroir.  For winemakers around the globe, terroir is everything in producing a quality wine.  Although there is no literal translation into English because terroir is not a word but a conecpt, terroir can be defined as the sum of ingredients in the environment that effect grape-growing conditions.   Every one of the elements the monks used to map out their vineyards is intimately involved in producing a great wine and have become part of the Bible of wine production.