“I didn’t know that Dubrovnik had so many sides, I thought it was a sun, sea and sand holiday destination, how wrong I was,” observed the tourist from Newcastle to me as we stood in a vineyard in the heart of the Konavle countryside looking up at an impressive mountain range.
Experience the traditional and original village ambiance on this marvellous excursion to Konavle; this was the first sentence from the website of Gulliver Travel about their wine tour in Konavle, or to give it its full name “Scenic train ride through Konavle valley.” This award winning tour takes guests through the rolling countryside of the Konavle region, often described as being like Provence, and sampling some fine local wines.
I have always been a fan of wine tours, well who isn’t. Rambling the countryside tasting the fruits of a wine producer’s labour, heaven on earth. You are always met with the first problem – who is going to drive. With this excursion that question is answered immediately – not you. With a luxury coach picking guests up from their hotels, a train running them from vineyard to vineyard, before jumping back the coach, what could be more pleasant?
We started the tour in the Brajkovic vineyard, a family concern that can trace its roots back over 400 years. A delightfully light white wine opened the day and then a full-bodied red. “We had guests from France just the other day and they were falling over themselves to praise our wines,” explained the owner of the vineyard to me, yes one of the long list of Brajkovics! He seemed particularly proud that a group of French guests had praised his wine.
Many of the grape varieties in Konavle have been grown here for centuries; they are loaded down with knowledge and it shows. The tour was starting to warm up, we made our way onto our transport for the day, a motorised train. “This is the best way to get to know the Konavle countryside,” explained our driver for the day Bozo. He wasn’t wrong. The sounds of cameras flashing coming from the train was enough for me to know that Bozo knew what he was talking about.
The wine tour takes in four different vineyards and also gives an insight into the traditions and history of Konavle. Our next stop was to a water mill and a demonstration of how flour was produced in years gone by. As the train pulled up we were greeted by ladies in traditional national costume handing out cold drinks and sweets. The mill is set in gorgeous countryside, next to a bubbling river and surrounded under a green canopy of Mediterranean flora. “It is so interesting to see this other side, to get off the beaten track a little,” continued the guest from Newcastle as we walked up the river side. We were then given a description of how fabrics used to be softened and produced hundreds of years ago. I looked at the fabric and then at the ladies who had greeted us, it was the same material. Some traditions in Konavle will go on forever.
Back off into the lush green landscape of Konavle and our second vineyard. This was another small family concern, land and knowledge that had been handed down through the ages, the Vodopic family vineyard. “In fact Vodopic means Water Drinker in English,” the guide mentioned to the delight of the party. Again a stunning white and a solid red wine, I am a little bit of a wine buff, but you don’t have to be with this tour the guides were explaining things in minute detail. And if you want to purchase a bottle of wine...or two...at any of the vineyards feel free.
I was feeling slightly peckish, so when I heard that we were going to be served brunch at the next vineyard I once again had a spring in my step. The Ivo Karaman vineyard was out next stop, which apart from having a really generous host also had some great wines. All of the vineyards that we visited were small, “we produced between 5 and 7 thousand litres a year,” was the standard answer when I asked about production. That is small. The Karaman family served a “Farmer’s Brunch,” healthy servings of bacon, onion, eggs and bread. “This is how the farmers in Konavle would have eaten hundreds and hundreds of years ago,” said the friendly guide. This is how I would like to eat every day, I thought to myself.
The last stop on our wine tour was the Karaman Malvasija vineyard. This award winning family vineyard produces some high-quality sweet white wine made from the Malvasia grape variety. The family are a wealth of information on this autochthonous grape; they have evidence of wines being served in the times of the Dubrovnik Republic in the 16th century. The wines of Konavle and the history of the region are intertwined.
This was a day-trip in the Dubrovnik sunshine that I would remember for a long time. All the components, the wine, the countryside, the train, the information, the hospitality, all these components made for a perfect afternoon, highly recommended.
By Mark Thomas
The scenic train ride through the Konavle valley is a half-day excursion offered by the Gulliver Travel agency. For more information, including prices, dates and how to book, please visit the Gulliver Travel website here.