Plavac mali is a red grape variety indigenous to Croatia, also known under the namesPlavac mali crni, Crljenac, Crnac,Zelenjak, Šarac, Grešavac, Zelenka and Pagadebit crni. It is the most widespread, and according to some, the most significant variety in Dalmatia, and the third most popular variety cultivated in Croatia, after Welschriesling and Malvasia. The dark blue berries are compact and firm, with a thick skin and lots of sugar, and they produce a frequent and high yield. The dark purple wines produced from Plavac mali are astringent and slightly bitter, and they have an alcohol content of 12–13.5%. Its quality is evidenced by the fact that a Plavac mali wine was the first red wine in Croatia to receive the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), in 1961.
Scientific research has found that the origin of Plavac mali can be traced to the Zinfandel and Dobričić varieties. The former is an indigenous Dalmatian red variety locally known as Crljenak kaštelanski or Tribidrag, and distributed to the USA under the name Zinfandel. On the other hand, Dobričić is an indigenous red variety grown exclusively on the island of Šolta. Plavac mali should be grown in the Dalmatian hinterland and central and south Dalmatia, where it can be found in the Dingač, Postup and Žuljana areas on the Pelješac Peninsula, on the southern side of the island of Hvar – at Sveta Nedilja, Ivan Dolac, Jagodna and Medvidbad – as well as on the slopes of the islands of Brač and Korčula.
Plavac that has been grown on steep slopes, exposed to strong sunrays, can produce full-bodied and strong wines, while wines further inland will be fruitier and lighter. Various Croatian brands of Plavac mali wines deserve the superior quality label. The differences among them are the result of different microclimates, soil composition, production methods, etc. In addition to sharing the basic grape variety, they are all similar in their high alcohol content, mild acidity, even density and astringency. Specially dried clusters of ripened Plavac mali are also used to produce the highly esteemed Prošek, a wine kept for special occasions and consumed as a delicious apéritif.
The Plavac mali grapes are also known as Zobatica, or table grapes, which means they can also be eaten fresh. Plavac mali pairs well with hard, salty and spicy cheeses, and it is best served with game dishes, such as boar, or heifer served in a thick sauce.