The Bura family are based in Potemje, first village of Dingač, and like most families in the area, they have been growing grapes and making wine for generations. During the communist era, most of the harvest had to be surrendered to the local cooperative, still responsible for around 60% of the region’s more indifferent production.
Bura is a Croatian winery; Niko Bura is sometimes described as a garagiste winemaker and in 2009, Croatian wines took eight golds at the Decanter Wine Awards, which was more than, say, New Zealand or Chile.
The vineyards are on the Pelješac Peninsula (near the Dalmatian coast), reputed home of the best Plavac Mali wines. Note that Plavac Mali (the name means "small blue", describing the grapes) is related to Zinfandel, being a cross of Zin and an ancient grape (now little grown) called Dobričić.
The Pelješac peninsula runs parallel to the Dalmatian coastline like a finger, with just a tiny sliver of adjoining land stopping it from becoming an island. It’s a dry, mountainous landscape, with quiet villages and sandy beaches spread around the coast.
The Dingač vines cling precariously to the mountain-side – these must be some of the steepest vineyards in the world, perhaps aside from the Mosel valley. The vines are bush-trained (in other words, not trained at all), and must be entirely hand-tended. Farming is mostly organic. Part of the Dingač character comes from letting the grapes “bake” in the sun and allowing a proportion of the harvest to raisin on the vines. The noonday heat here is ferocious, but there is really no better way to understand how these wines gain their unique character, than to bake in it too.
Driving in a van on a road that resembles more of a donkey path and sleeping in a seaside villa is a "must" for any wine aficionado.
Niko and his nephew, Boris, make some of the most interesting wines we have ever tasted. If you're lucky enough to get some of their Dingac Plavac Mali, it will blow your mind. It rivals the best Baroli in Piedmont, period.
On our visit, Niko shared a story of a famous producer from Piedmont who visited and spoke with Niko about his wines. They did not speak much even during the tour of vineyards and sampled many wines in the cellar. The Piedmontese sampled Dingac for the first time and expressed eagerly that it was the one of the most balanced and distinctive wines he'd ever experienced in his life and to this day is an avid collector. Later, Niko learned it was Angelo Gaja.
Remember Angelo's words when you see that Bura is a masculine wine of high extract and up to 15% alcohol, with intense black fruit but as elegant as any Nebbiolo that you'll ever taste. It is unbelievable that wines this high in alcohol can have finesse.