May 12, 2011 – Poreč, Croatia
The world evolves and time changes everything.
And so it was today when Agrokor, one of the largest producers of wine in Croatia, officially joined the ranks of Vinistra (the Association of Winegrowers & Winemakers of Istria). To be more precise, Agrolaguna, a subsidiary in the large web of winery holdings owned by Agrokor, became the 119th member of Vinistra.
Based in Poreč, a historic seaside town in the Istria wine-growing region of Croatia, Agrolaguna currently manages 520 hectares of vineyards and a wine portfolio that includes the “Laguna Histria” label and the award-winning “Festiga” brand.
Put in perspective, it could be said that Agrolaguna is the elephant in the room, although that analogy applies only when you are in Croatia. When one takes into account that the vast majority of Vinistra’s members are small family wineries, Agrolaguna is like Gulliver at the Court of Lilliput. But to the outside world, the firm is relatively small, producing not millions of bottles but a few hundred thousand, perhaps.
Nonetheless, Agrolaguna’s entry into Vinistra is big news, politically and economically. The mother company, Agrokor, has tremendous resources and a keen desire to be a serious player on the Croatian team of wineries. Over the past few years, it has invested heavily in advanced winery technology, vineyards, redesigned packaging, and new marketing strategies. It has engaged high-profile international consultants to help repackage its image from that of a factory winery to a producer of quality, accessible and value-driven wines that retain a true sense of place.
Signing the agreement were Vinistra president and spokesperson, Ivica Matošević, and Agrolaguna Director, Goran Kramarić. Matošević spoke briefly, providing a short history of its activities and events leading up to the agreement, signed on the eve of the 18th annual Vinistra wine expo.
“Agrolaguna’s membership in Vinistra is a huge step forward for Istrian and Croatian wine”, stated Matošević. “Vinistra’s acceptance of Agrolaguna’s membership request demonstrates that all of our winery members are united as equal players, whether they are small or large producers. Only in this way can we have the strength and resources to compete and achieve positive results in the international market”.
Kramarić spoke of Agrolaguna’s long relationship with Vinistra and its ongoing cooperation to advance the image and success of the Istrian wine brand.
“This agreement opens a door that leads to new opportunities for intensive cooperation to strengthen and support export initiatives, continued development of our wine roads and wine tourism, and joint participation in future events and exhibitions”, said Kramarić.
Arriving by helicopter that landed in a field behind the Agrolaguna winery in Poreč, Agrokor president Ivica Todorić presided over the ceremonies and was visibly pleased with the proceedings.
“Our cooperation with Vinistra did not begin with the signature on this agreement today”, he said. “It is, however, evidence of our commitment to continue our partnership and desire to achieve our common goal to promote Istrian wine at home and abroad”.
“Agrokor invested a large sum of money to improve its brand and raise the quality of its wines. With that, we intend to lead the way forward and have a positive effect on the future of the market”, added Todorić.
“We appreciate and value the tremendous achievements that Ivica and his team have accomplished in the name of creating an Istrian brand”, said Todorić. “All this was done with the noble purpose of promoting Istria as a wine region, elevating the quality of Istrian wine, and celebrating the Istrian way of life. For this reason, I am extremely satisfied to sign this agreement today and formally join the members of Vinistra and move forward towards our common goals”.
The formal speeches concluded with a startling but charming admission from the Župan (head administrator) of Istria County, Ivan Jakovčić: “About 10 years ago, I said in an interview that Malvazija Istarska, in my opinion, can never be a world-class wine. I stand here before you today to confess my mistake. I know now and can say with all certainty: Malvazija can be a world-class wine. And it is with great satisfaction that I witness the signing of this agreement today. In it, I see the future”.
The signing ceremony and press conference were held in the nicely appointed tasting room at the Agrolaguna facility in Poreč and was followed by a lunch that few cynics could dismiss: plump and sweet shellfish roasted to perfection in large scallop shells, as well as local specialties perfectly paired with Agrolaguna wines.
It was a convincing display of haute cuisine and wine showmanship. Agrokor seemed to be sending a message to all in attendance that said: “We have arrived. Make no mistake. We are in this to win”.
Clearly the winners are all members of Vinistra, heavyweights and lightweights equally, and by extension – all Croatian wine producers. The model for cooperation among wineries and vision for success set forth by Ivica Matošević and his team at Vinistra are a guiding light that can – and should – show the way forward for all winemakers from every wine-producing region in Croatia.