Josip’s winemaking career has started somewhat abruptly. Although he comes from a Herzegovinian family that has always had wine culture and winemaking tradition in their blood, Josip had different sort of big dreams, like any other teenage peer in former Yugoslavia, that were completely unrelated to strenuous work in the vineyards in the sun, wind or rain. Agriculture did not sound appealing to the young man. But his father’s sudden death steered him in another direction. A sense of responsibility towards his family and mother and the need to secure livelihood led him towards what was literally in front of his nose – his father’s winemaking equipment and tools in the cellar, family vineyards and the knowledge he had acquired with his father. His new life journey began in the vineyard “under Herzegovinian moonlight”.
Even nowadays, Josip considers winemaking as a family affair. The entire family is involved in wine production and his eyes always sparkle at the mention of his sons, because his wine success became reality only thanks to the fact that he had maximum support of the family at all times.
The vineyards of Herzegovina are dominated by indigenous grape varieties: Žilavka and Blatina. Josip Brkić never had a dilemma about the choice of varieties in the vineyard. The grape varieties that have been growing there for centuries give the best results on Herzegovinian stone and sunlight. Herzegovina as a region is not polluted, the climate is perfectly suited for wine production, the conditions are there for organic and biodynamic wine production. One has to merely respect nature and its laws. Contacts with Slovenian winemakers helped Josip listen to nature, free himself and boldly embrace biodynamic winemaking. Thanks to his contacts with them, he stopped looking at wine as a commercial product that sells and brings profit and realized a new perspective of wine. At the same time, Josip Brkić never lost consciousness of where he came from. He did not listen to the advice of others who suggested buying oak barrels from France, Hungary or USA… Josip always emphasizes that his goal is to show Žilavka and Blatina in their pure form. And this can only happen if they are aged in local, Bosnian oak. Hence, he managed to find coopers from the town of Bugojno in Bosnia who regularly supply him with Bosnian oak barrels.
“A vineyard is like a human being. If you spray it with chemicals for a while, then it takes a while to eliminate accumulated residues. It’s like treating a drug addict. If you stop irrigating, then the vines will draw water exclusively from the soil and from the rainfall. If you irrigate the vineyard, then the vines get used to it and don’t even try to develop a root system. I have decided to let my vines create what they deem necessary for fine wine. Large wineries don’t work that way because it’s basically a risky activity, but I want my wine to be authentic and unique, regardless of the quantity produced. The vineyard has a cosmic memory and over the years it gets used to the man who prunes and harvests it and knows exactly how much grapes to produce and under what conditions. ” – Josip explains his wine philosophy.
Plava Greda wine was a kind of revolution in the understanding of Blatina. Until then, Blatina was mostly consumed as a young, fresh, potent wine. For the first time, Josip’s Blatina appeared in front of wine lovers as a wine that was given the opportunity to age for at least a year in oak barrels, and Josip himself realized that Blatina requires time to show its qualities.
Josip’s focus on nature resulted in the first biodynamic wine in Bosnia and Herzegovina – the wine called Mjesečar (Mjesec stands for Moon). It was exactly this wine that Angela Muir MW had in mind when she singled out Bosnia and Herzegovina as a country from the Balkans that made the biggest leap in the wine scene in recent years. It’s a wine that requires neither state-of-the-art technology nor electricity, just an oak barrel is sufficient.
As the name suggests, the wine is made according to the principles of biodynamic production, following the Lunar phases. Harvested grapes are brought to the winery, the whole family gets involved in manual destemming and puts berries in barrels made of Bosnian oak. Natural yeasts from the skins start to ferment. Cap manipulation is always done in accordance with lunar calendar. The principle that we also notice during high tide and low tide alterations. The Moon’s gravity stirs the wine in the rising phase when the Moon is ascending from the new Moon to the full Moon. In the waning phase, when the Moon goes from the full Moon to the new Moon, it is exerting gravitational pull so the cap falls to the bottom. Josip then needs to open and stir contents of the barrel. This is followed by aging and subsequent bottling – no filtration, the only tool is a rubber hose. The only sulfur used in the winemaking process is sulfur from a vineyard that has been brought in on berries.
Josip constantly emphasizes that his goal is to show the essence of Žilavka and Blatina in his wine. His mission is to show that a man and a vine can coexist, they present the unbreakable link between the Herzegovinian karst and the man who has survived on it despite all the challenges for centuries. And the Moon above the horizon shines with a bluish light and illuminates rows of vines in Josip’s vineyard. Until eternity.
Text Tomislav Ivanović