The Miloš family has been living and making wines on the Pelješac peninsula, in their home village, Ponikve, for over 500 years, since the time of the Dubrovnik Republic.
The family winery has survived different historical events and regime changes. In the 19th century, wine from Peljesac was exported in specialized ships. After the Second World War and creation of communist Yugoslavia, private entrepreneurship was not permitted, and the family was forced to sell all their grapes to the government owned wineries.
Frano Miloš recalls that even in those difficult times, the family worked to keep the best locations of the vineyards, and to produce the best quality grapes.
With the fall of Communism, Frano Miloš, at that time 30 years old, set up on pursuing the old dream: producing wine under the family name.
And so, Stagnum was launched. When Frano approached the first wineshop in Croatia, Bornstein, the owner said, “Frano, you’re crazy. No one will buy such expensive wine from an unknown producer.”
Later, Hugh Johnson, in his Pocket Wine Guide, would call the Stagnum as the “first Croatian cult wine”.
Today, Milos has around 15 hectares of organically certified vineyards situated on some of the best slopes of Pelješac peninsula. They’re mostly dedicated to Plavac Mali.
Although the technology and equipment has been updated, the emphasis is still on producing low intervention wines. The wine is always aged in large barrels of Slavonian oak.
Frano’s children, Ivan and Josip, are now involved in every aspect of the wine production from the vineyards to the cellar.
In 2016, Milos received an invitation from the Oxford Wine Circle, the oldest student wine association in the world. Its president Coffin-Roggeven praised the Stagnum 1993 : “One of the greatest wines I have had a pleasure of tasting in recent years” – were his exact words.
The family vineyards stretch between Uvala Prapratno (Prapratno cove) and the village of Ponikve on the Pelješac Peninsula off the Dalmatian Coast. They are planted at an altitude between 150 to 250 m, on the middle longitudinal reef of very steep 45-degree south-facing slopes. They are protected by high rising hills from the north which form an amphiteater-like shape, providing perfect conditions for growing quality Plavac mali grapes: keeping the heat concentrated but at the same time allowing a great air circulation.
In this region, rock equals life. The dolomitic limestone soil (with very little top soil) containing calcium and magnesium carbonate, is one of the best plots in Peljesac to plant Plavac Mali.
In an area known for its sunny, hot, dry summers, this deeply grooved soil safeguards the moisture for hot summer days when grapevines need it the most.
All excess of water drains quickly from these steep slopes. In fact, Milos Plavac is renowned for its herbal, mineral, elegant notes.
Everything here is made by hand. Not just by choice, but little can machinery help on these steep slopes.
Frano believes that green harvesting unnecessarily traumatizes the vines during a critical point in their growth, so vines are heavily pruned in the winter.
The vineyards are shaped in handmade terraces and dry-stone walls in which the grapevine blends along with a variety of herbs native to this area: sage, mountain germander, and heather.
These walls have a double role: easing farming and combatting soil erosion.
This proximity to the sea lends the wines their distinctive note of Friškina. This “scent of the sea” makes the rugged often full-bodied reds of the Pelješac Peninsula unexpectedly delicious with certain seafoods, even oysters as it is sometimes paired with locally.
Due to the extremely favorable conditions, the grapes are grown organically. No use of any pesticides or other chemicals. Soil fertilisation is natural too.
Plavac Mali (little blue) reigns in Pelješac, and the region is planted nearly exclusively to it. This cultivar of the coastal part of mid and south Dalmatia is the result of crossbreeding of two autochthonous Croatian cultivars: Tribidrag (in Italy known as Primitivo and in America as Zinfandel) and Dobricic. It has the genetics to not just withstand the intense coastal summer but thrive. It is the first Croatian grape variety to have its own appellations.