Plavka is a traditional grape variety that is typical of Herzegovina, in particular from the town of Trebinje. It is also grown in the South of Montenegro, in the Croatian Konavle (near Dubrovnik), and in other parts of Dalmatia.
It is a vigorous and productive grape variety, but it is susceptible to powdery mildew, a trophic plant disease that is caused by fungi. It has an excellent yield, the bunches are medium-sized (15-20 cm), cylindrical to conical in shape, and weigh between 400 and 600 grams. The grapes are light black in colour and have a thick skin.
Viticulture in the municipality of Trebinje develops in an environment where there are two climates: Mediterranean and continental. This contributes to the excellent ratio of sugar and acidity in the grapes. This grape prefers high sun exposure and loose, sandy soils. It has good yields, unlike another ancient local variety, the kadarun. It is harvested during the second half of September.
Plavka is often vinified with other local varieties such as kadarun, surac, vranac or the international merlot. In families, it is used for the production of rakija, thanks to the high quantity of juice (otok) that its grapes contain.
An ancient wine cellar dating back to Roman times was found during archaeological excavations near the Monastery of St. Peter and Paul on the Petrovo Polje plateau, near Trebinje. It is believed, however, that the intensive cultivation of this grape variety and the production of plavka-based wines began during Austro-Hungarian rule at the end of the 19th century.
According to tradition, in the Trebinje area, domestic wines were made by mixing different varieties. Single-variety wines began to be produced by state-owned wineries in the 1960s. New production methods and new varieties – such as vranac – began to spread, whereas the old indigenous varieties and the production of wines based on several grape varieties (plavka, kadarun and surac) were abandoned.
Today only two local producers are left, but the old plavka vines can still be found at small winegrowers and in family vineyards, cultivated over pergolas, in the town of Trebinje.
Like vranac, it goes well with smoked sausages, prosciutto, red beef dishes, and even smoked carp.