Wine and cuisine

The diverse flavours of tradition

Gastronomy is a part of culture, heritage, tradition, and everyday life. And, they say, it is also the best invitation to tourists. The situation here in Podravina and Prigorje is no different. The region’s traditional dishes, which were strongly influenced by Austrian and Hungarian cuisine, will satisfy even the most demanding of gourmets. These dishes are mainly made with fried or baked meat or freshwater fish and various homemade dried meats: dried smoked tongue, ham hocks, aspic, homemade bacon, or ham… In addition to meat, there are also the inevitable side dishes: potatoes (mashed, roasted, fried), rice (rizi-bizi, rice with peas), polenta with milk or as a side dish with game, pasta (with roasts), and sauces made from roast drippings, mushrooms, and cream. The local dairy specialties are homemade cottage cheese with cream, buttermilk, and smoked cow’s milk cheese (prge). The local soups are clear broths, especially chicken and beef soup, which are slow-cooked with root vegetables and served with homemade noodles, semolina dumplings, or Leberknödel. Potato, bean, or cabbage stews are on the menu in wintertime, while summer sees light vegetable stews made with kale, peas, string beans, or cucumbers and cream, all spiced with red paprika and garlic. The most famous specialty made with cottage cheese are baked štrukli. But the most distinctive item on the regional menu is stinging nettle, an ingredient that has enjoyed a renaissance in the kitchens of the region’s restaurants, both in savoury and sweet dishes.

The Renaissance dining experience

Once a year, Koprivnica offers a special gourmet experience – the Renaissance dining experience. During the Renaissance Festival, Podravka’s master chefs prepare meals in the traditional Renaissance fashion, using only ingredients that were used at the time – no tomatos, no potato, no corn, no ingredients that found their way to the region after the discovery of the Americas. The menu during the festival includes: baked loin of young wild boar in minced lard with game paté; Renaissance goulash; wild game goulash with Mediterranean herbs, juniper berries, and hand-pulled wheat noodles served in a bread bowl; royal platter; roulade of capon with ginger and nettle topping in chestnut sauce; pork fillet on a sword with zucchini, spiced with anise and mustard; magic bites (liver wrapped in thick bacon served on buckwheat porridge with leek); venison rump served on nettle mousse with an almond crêpe; sweet rolls with berries; millet rolls with jam and berries. And you can wash it all down with a glass of nettle beer. Bon appétit!

Sweet, delicious, and unique

Nut roll, poppy seed roll, cheese strudel with fruit topping, pumpkin strudel, corn-flour zlevka cake, jelly doughnuts, fritters, gingerbread, puff pastry, and butter cookies are only a few of the tasty treats that come at the end of the meal. Two special local cakes should be singled out, however – one sweet and one savoury, each a shining exemple of the region’s unique traditional cuisine. The savoury cake is called kašnjak, a strudel made with buckwheat or millet and pumpkin seed oil. The sweet one, which was pronounced intangible Croatian cultural heritage in 2012, is called bregofska pita. It is a delicious cake that has been baked in the village of Bregi at Christmas time for more than 200 years. It is made by an old recipe handed down to each generation from their mothers, mothers-in-law, grandmothers, or great-grandmothers, and the main ingredients are local apples, ground walnuts, raisins, grapes, cinnamon, goose or chicken fat, sugar, cream…

Wine celebrations and winemaking traditions

Every good homemade meal deserves a good glass of local wine. And as luck would have it, there’s plenty of good wine here. Koprivnica - Križevci county has over thirty registered winemakers who produce over a hundred varieties of wine with protected geographical origin. The foothills of Bilogora and Kalnik are covered in vineyards and cellars where the locals spend time together singing and socialising. St. Vincent’s, St. Bartholomew’s, and St. Martin’s are the main winemaking holidays, and they are accompanied by festive celebrations. The Velika martinjska špelancija festival, held a week prior to St. Martin’s, is the main event in the region and has a truly special atmosphere. This unique event brings together around fifty ceremonial wine masters (bishops) from all around Croatia. The programme also includes winemakers’ associations and eminent winemakers from Croatia and abroad.

Award-winning wines

Koprivnica - Križevci county is divided into two winemaking regions: Koprivnica - Đurđevac and Kalnik. The Koprivnica - Đurđevac region runs along the entirety of Bilogora mountain, whose soil is fairly sandy, and the locals here exclusively grow local grape varieties. The most popular varieties today are: Graševina, Riesling, Pinot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Silvaner, Kerner, Traminer, Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, Cabernet Sauvignon… The Đurđevac Wine Route runs alongside the magical vineyards on the sandy hills of Bilogora, which give a specific quality to the local wines similar to French wines. The Kalnik region on Kalnik mountain seems to have been made for winemaking. The area has long been used to grow local varieties of grape – the old Kleščec variety is today making a comeback. The Križevci - Kalnik - Orehovec Wine Route is part of the Western Continental Croatia winemaking region and the Prigorje - Bilogora sub-region. White varieties are most common in this region with limestone soil, including Graševina, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, and Kraljevina. This is a place where people have always enjoyed wine, thanks in part to the soil conditions here provided by Mother Nature, but most of all to the hard-working local winemakers who work their vineyards year round and toil in their cellars to make the delicious wine they so happily serve their guests. Whether you find yourself in the wine cellar of a small winemaker or one of the larger wineries that has sprung up in recent times, the quality of the wines made here has been confirmed through numerous awards won at wine exhibitions both in Croatia and abroad. Just pick a winery and enjoy the company of your friendly hosts as you sample local wines you will fall in love with, heart and soul.

INFO: www.tz-koprivnicko-krizevacka.hr

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