The Dalmatian Wine Expo: How Dalmatia Intends to Reach and Overtake Istria

Interpreted & translated into Croatian by Cliff Rames from the original Croatian text by Rene Bakalović:

“Index Istra” (named after the northern coastal region of Croatia, Istria) has long been an informal standard by which other regions in Croatia measure the quality and success of their tourism opportunities and related activities. The same standard applies to promotional and marketing events related to wine, and the Istria wine region has indisputably set a standard that few other regions have yet to reach. In fact, promotional events and related wine marketing activities in other Croatian wine regions now seem outdated and even meaningless compared with Vinistra, the annual wine exposition in Istria organized by the eponymous association of regional winemakers and growers.

In the coastal region of Dalmatia – one of Croatia’s most important winemaking and tourist regions, there has traditionally been no centralized system or organization that could serve as a marketing entity such as Vinistra. As a consequence, many small wine events and festivals competed with one another, and until now no representative wine expo where all wineries may jointly exhibit their offerings has ever been organized. 

Luckily this year that will change. Currently underway are extensive preparations for the first-ever “Dalmatian Vinistra,” – the Dalmatia Wine Expo, founded by entrepreneurs Ožić Milan and Zoran Paunović. The first-annual Dalmatian Wine Expo is scheduled to be held May 14-15, 2010 in the coastal town of Makarska. The selection of Makarska as the venue is symbolically optimal: it lies in central Dalmatia, geographically at the center of the map as well culturally and sociologically pivotal: most of Dalmatia’s most important tourist and winemaking regions are in the immediate vicinity of Makarska. 

Sasa Spiranec

The organizational skills and expertise of Sasa Špiranca, author of “A Guide to the Wines of Croatia” (now in its Second Edition and translated into English) was critical.  The initial response to the news of the Expo has been encouraging, and the number of participants who registered early – including our ambitious winemakers from neighboring Herzegovina – strengthens and confirms the outlook for Dalmatian wine production.  Many visitors will be surprised by the advances and progress made by wineries in some of Dalmatia’s lesser known sub-regions, which are often overshadowed by the more famous “Grand Cru” sub-sites of Hvar and Pelješac. In particular, worthy of attention is the advancements made by producers in the Dalmatian hinterland (Dalmatinska zagora).

But it’s not just the number of participants that guarantees a successful wine event. Equally important is the functional concept. The organizers of the Dalmatia Wine Expo have developed a series of wine seminars for restaurateurs and producers. Restaurateurs will be invited to attend a workshop designed to assist restaurants and the hospitality industry to develop “smart” wine lists and vinous offerings – a key goal of this wine expo. 
For producers, the focus will be on the immediate and long-term trends of grapes varieties and wine styles and how they relate to specific demands of the largest consumers in Croatia: tourists. Restaurateurs will also receive quality and relevant information about current international culinary and wine trends, as well as suggestions for improving culinary presentation skills.  Achieving a balance between global appeal and local craftsmanship is an area in which Croatia still has plenty of work to do.

But it is not the intent of the organizers of the Dalmatian Wine Expo to confine the event to a deadly serious technical framework. In addition to the technical seminars there will also be something fun: “wine theater” and a big outdoor pop music concert.

The organizers are also offering special transportation and accommodation rates for students of different vocations to encourage their participation and facilitate their arrival in Makarska. 

About the Author:
Rene Bakalović is the first Croatian “GastroNomad” working on the promotion of Croatian cuisine both domestically and internationally. He believes that Croatian cuisine, with its  bountiful offerings and diversity of styles, will become increasingly interesting and desirable to the outside world.

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