List of Wineries to Attend the 2015 Vina Croatia Grand Tasting in NYC is Released

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**SEVERAL WINERIES SEEKING IMPORTERS/U.S. DISTRIBUTION!**

As we previously announced here, the third Vina Croatia Grand Tasting 2015 of the Wines of Croatia will be held on February 24, 2015 at Astor Center in New York City. This is a TRADE ONLY event.

Twenty-five (25) Croatian wineries will be present for the walk around tasting, each with a minimum of two staff members – including winemakers from most wineries– on hand to explain the wines and answer questions.

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Wine-o-graph: Prošek and Prosecco made simple

By Cliff Rames © 2013

Not that it’s a very complex issue. It’s not really. It’s fairly straightforward. But decide for yourself, if you haven’t already. And if you want to learn more, check out my previous post called Are You Pro Prošek? 12 Reasons Why You Should Be.

And for those of you who are (like me) short on time and attention, I have compiled this handy, easy-to-reference and share “Wine-o-graph” chart.

Cut and diced like this, it seems clearer than ever that Prošek and Prosecco are distinctly different products. No one has anything to fear from them being allowed to peacefully co-exist in the European Union or elsewhere.

So feel free to print it out, put it in your wallet, hang it on the wall, share it with a friend, or shout it from the mountaintops. In the meantime, I wish Croatia and its Prošek producers all the best in their efforts to save Prošek and continue its legacy as the traditional dessert wine of Croatia.

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  Prošek vs. Prosecco – At a Glance
  Prošek Prosecco
History First written mention: 1556 First written mention: 1754
Pronunciation “Pro-shek” “Proh-sec-coh”
Grapes Varieties White: bogdanuša, dubrovačka malvasija, grk, malvazija istarska, maraština, plavac mali, prč (aka parč), pošip, tarpinka, trbljan, vugava, žlahtina. Red: babić, lasina, plavina, plavac mali.    Glera; sometimes bianchetta, charnonnay, perera, pinot noir, verdiso 
Area of Production The Adriatic coast and the islands of Dalmatia, Croatia Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Conegliano, and Valdobbiadene regions in northeast Italy
Number of Registered Producers 27 Over 3,000
Production Amounts 15,000 liters, or 30,000 bottles of 500 ml; most wineries produce less than 5,000 bottles each 225,000,000 liters, or 300 million 750 ml bottles
Winemaking Passito method. Hand harvested, sun dried grapes; 2-5 days skin maceration; fermentation lasting up to a year or more; mandatory 1 year of aging in wood Charmat method; secondary fermentation in autoclaves; bottling under pressure; no wood aging. 
Wine Style Still. Sweet with high residual sugar levels (70-150 g/l) Sparkling. Dry to semi-sweet with residual sugar levels ranging from 0 – 35 g/l
Color Dark golden, amber, neon orange, maple syrup, dark brown Straw to medium yellow
Commercial Bottle Shape 375-500 ml bottles of various shapes 750 ml sparkling wine bottle with mushroon cork and metal cage
Serving Glass Dessert wine glass Champagne flute
Availability on Export Markets Nearly non-existent; very limited distribution in export markets Widespread. In U.S.: 19.2 million bottles imported in 2012
Price $50 for 500 ml $10-$20 for 750 ml

Are You Pro Prošek? 12 Reasons Why You Should Be

By Cliff Rames © 2013

Suddenly the sweet fruits of Croatia’s July 1st ascension to the European Union have turned to sour grapes. At least when it comes to wine.

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(Photo:Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)    

Not just any wine, mind you, but one with a centuries-old tradition that is a strong symbol of national pride and family life, as well as a trusted elixir that locals depend upon to treat ailments and celebrate important milestone events in their lives.

Are we talking about Prosecco? Heck, no.

I mean no disrespect to Prosecco. It’s a delightful wine. Simple, bubbly, festive. A popular patio pounder for summer days by the pool. An ingredient in trendy cocktails. Italy, through the venerable Consorzio di Tutela del Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene (the Consortium), deserves to be proud and should protect it. It’s a cash cow, a wildly successful product that supports multiple Italian winemaking regions and helps to keep many wholesalers, advertising and public relations firms in business.

Sounds completely harmless, right?

Not exactly. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported in an article entitled, “A European Name Game Uncorks a Tempest in a Wine Cask”, Croatia’s right to continue using the traditional name “Prošek” for a small-production dessert wine made from sun-dried grapes is under attack. The European Union, prodded on by the Consortium, fears that the two names are too similar and that consumers (you and I) will be confused, thus harming the Prosecco brand and endangering a 300-million-bottle-a-year industry.

So how can one obscure, tiny-production, barely-exported sweet wine called Prošek pose such a threat to mighty Prosecco? Simply put, it doesn’t. But pride, mistaken perceptions, protectionism, and the demands of the powerful often align to trump common sense.

In an attempt to expose the absurd nature of this mess, cut away all the confusion, and clarify the debate, here are 12 ways in which Prošek can be easily differentiated from Prosecco – and visa versa. The bottom line is, consumers have nothing to fear – nor do Prosecco producers or the European Union.

I realize that at this stage in the game these arguments may be mute. But for the sake of posterity perhaps there is some value in showing why Croatia should be able to keep on calling its Prošek “Prošek” – as it has done for centuries – while also distinguishing and respecting Prosecco’s rightful place in the world of wine.

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1) Custom and Tradition

The method for making Prošek is ancient and apparently dates back to the arrival of the Greeks to the Dalmatian islands in the 4th century B.C. However, the first written mention of Prošek occurred in 1556, when the Croatian poet Petar Hektorović in his famous work, Ribanje i Ribarsko Prigovaranje (Fishing and Fishermen Talk), lists the local sweet wine among the provisions he and two companions pack for a three-day fishing expedition on the Adriatic Sea.

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As on Petar Hektorović’s boat, in the Dalmatia region of Croatia a bottle of Prošek is never far from hand. A straw-wrapped jug of homemade Prošek can usually be found hiding in the pantries and cellars of every household and, if you are lucky, a taste is offered (alongside a plate of dried figs and biscuits) when you arrive as a guest.

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(Photo courtesy http://www.pz-vrbnik.hr)

Croat families proudly pass down Prošek recipes through the generations. It is often used as an ingredient in traditional holiday cookies and cakes. Parents set aside bottles from the vintage in which a child was born and then customarily open them on the child’s wedding day. Prized bottles are gifted from one family to another at Easter, Christmas and other special occasions. New mothers slurp a spoonful after giving birth to help them mend and regain strength. Suffers of anemia and other ailments are urged to sip some Prošek to bolster the blood.

Old wives’ tales? Perhaps. But these stories serve as seminal evidence of Prošek’s deep-rooted contribution to Croatian culture and its firm place in the social lives of Croatians throughout the centuries.

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(photo courtesy of tportal)

Prosecco too has an impressive history, with some vineyard sites in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene zone estimated to be over three hundred and some even a thousand years old. Yet the first written reference to the wine did not arrive until 200 years later (in 1754), when (according to Wikipedia) a fellow named Aureliano Acanti wrote, “And now I would like to wet my mouth with that Prosecco with its apple bouquet“.

This dated but cute quip could easily serve as a contemporary marketing slogan for Prosecco. Indeed today’s consumer identifies with Prosecco as a metropolitan, early-drinking, affordable and pleasant everyday quaffer. According to a report in Meininger’s Wine Business International, consumers do not identify with, or care all that much about, Prosecco’s history, background story, or protected DOC status (granted in 1969) and much-heralded DOCG status (approved in 2009). They do care about access to low-priced, easy-to-understand and appreciate alternatives to pricier sparkling wine.

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Prosecco is a product of the modern world. Modern technology (the Charmat tank, autoclaves, sterile filtration, bottling under pressure) has enabled Prosecco to be produced in mass quantities and become the very successful and ubiquitous export product it is today.

Unlike Prošek, wine lovers buy bottles of Prosecco for casual consumption and instant refreshment – not to tuck away for decades or until their children get married. In fact, consumers are advised to purchase Prosecco young and avoid bottles that have been too long on the shelf. Conversely, an intact bottle of Prošek from 1899 was recently discovered in the cellar of a wine bar on Hvar island.

How do you like them apples?

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2) Pronunciation

The two names – while similar – are written and pronounced in completely different ways. “Prošek” is enunciated as “Pro-shek”, while “Prosecco” is pronounced “Proh-sec-coh”. Two syllables versus three. A “sh” sound as in “Shirley” versus a “sec” sound as in “secular”.

3) Grapes

Prošek is produced from any one or a blend of several different varieties – white and red – indigenous to coastal Croatia. Permitted white varieties include bogdanuša, dubrovačka malvasija, grk, malvazija istarska, maraština, plavac mali, prč (aka parč), pošip, tarpinka, trbljan, vugava, and žlahtina. Red varieties are primarily babić, lasina, plavina, and plavac mali.  

Plavac Mali (Photo: Cliff Rames)
Plavac Mali (Photo: Cliff Rames)

Prosecco is most often produced from the glera grape variety (previously known as prosecco), but small amounts of bianchetta, charnonnay, perera, pinot noir, and verdiso are permitted.

(Photo courtesy of wine-searcher.com)
Glera (Photo courtesy of wine-searcher.com)

4) Area of Production

Prošek is produced all along the Adriatic coast of Croatia but mainly in southern Dalmatia and on many of the islands where vineyards thrive in limestone soils among olive, fig, and pine tree groves. As winemaker Alen Bibić observed to the Wall Street Journal, when you sip on Prošek, “you can feel the Mediterranean”. Dried fig, raisin nectar, candied orange peel, and roasted nut characteristics reflect the wine’s sun-baked, seaside terroir.

Prosek-Region

Prosecco is clearly a product of Italy, where it is produced throughout the Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Conegliano, and Valdobbiadene regions in the northeast corner of the country. Much of the growing area lies in the foothills between the Dolomites and the Adriatic Sea, with the highest vineyard elevations located in the Valdobbiadene zone, particularly in Cartizze. The clean, zippy green apple, fresh melon, and citrus character of the wine reflects its pristine Alpine terroir.

prosecco-map

5) Production Amounts

Traditional Prošek is typically made by small, family-owned wineries, of which 27 are registered producers (I do not count the non-traditional, industrial Prošek produced from cooked musts and caramelized sugar, such as the supermarket products from Dalmacijavino and Vinoplod) with an annual production of 15,000 liters – or 30,000 500 ml bottles. For example, BIBICh winery produces about 5,000 bottles a year of the multi-vintage BIBICh Ambra, while in a good year Andro Tomić of Bastijana winery produces up to 4,000 bottles of his acclaimed Hektorovich Prošek.

Andro Tomić
Andro Tomić

Over 3,000 registered wineries produce Prosecco in Italy, and over 2,400 are members of the Consortium. The Prosecco DOC zone contains 19,700 hectares of vines planted to allowable varieties, and the Consortium reports that another 5,650 hectares are registered within the DOCG  growing area (for a grand total of 25,350 hectares). Wine production amounts total approximately 225,000,000 liters – 300 million bottles a year.

By comparison, the total area planted to all varieties across every winemaking region in Croatia equals 24,000 hectares, with approximately 10,000 hectares under vine in Dalmatia where Prošek varieties are cultivated as a minor component of the grapes reserved for still dry wines. Total wine production in Croatia amounts to 60 million liters – or 80 million bottles – of all types.

At 15,000 liters, Prošek production equals less than 1% (.025%) of the total amount of wine made in Croatia and .006667% of Prosecco production.

6) Winemaking Techniques

Prošek is made from grapes harvested with a sugar level of 100° Oechsle (approximately 23.5 Brix, or the equivalent of the German Auslese classification). Once harvested, the clusters are laid out on straw mats to dry in the sun for 3-4 months or until the grapes  shrivel and achieve a sugar concentration of 120° Oechsle (28 Brix, or the equivalent of Beerenauslese). The grapes are then crushed and the must is macerated for 2-5 days, when the juice is pressed off the skins. Yeast must be selected based on its ability to function in a thick must with a high concentration of sugar. Fermentation can be extremely slow – often lasting up to a year or longer. Once the wine has finished fermenting, it is then aged in wood casks (usually older, neutral wood) for a minimum of one year. Most producers do not filter the wine. Typically it takes about 1 kilogram of dried grapes to produce 750 ml of Prošek.

Traditonal Dalmatian grape press (photo: Cliff Rames)
Traditional Dalmatian grape press       (photo: Cliff Rames)

Grapes for Prosecco are harvested with low sugar levels and high acidity. The (usually) non-vintage wine is produced using the Metodo Charmat (tank method), whereby the secondary fermentation takes place under pressure in large steel tanks called autoclaves and not in the bottle, as with Champagne (Méthode Champenoise). The idea, as described by Tom Cannavan in Wine-pages.com, is to “capture the fresh fruitiness” of the glera grape and highlight the wine’s distinctive “icing sugar and lemons” character. The wine is then bottled under pressure to retain its carbonation and quickly shipped off to market.

metodo-Charmat

7) Wine Styles

Prošek is a still wine with a minimum alcohol content of 15%-22% that has been aged in wood for at least one year. Residual sugar content ranges from 70-150 grams per liter (g/l). Prošek is dark, thick, unctuous, and sweet, with flavors of dried fig, raisin nectar, coffee, toasted hazelnuts, burnt toffee, candied orange rinds, honey, vanilla, and carob.

Prosecco is a sparkling wine with an average alcohol content of 11% and no wood exposure or influence. Depending on the level of carbon dioxide, Prosecco can be either Spumante (3.5 bars of pressure) or Frizzante (1.0-2.5 bars of pressure). Styles include Brut (0-13 g/l residual sugar), Extra Dry” (12–17 g/l) and “Dry” (17–32 g/l). Prosecco is light, bubbly, delicately perfumed with notes of citrus, apple, melon, and spring flowers.

8) Wine Color

Depending on the types of grapes used and the age of the wine, the color of Prošek can range from deep gold to amber, neon orange, maple syrup, and dark brown.

Prošek (Photo: Cliff Rames)
Prošek (Photo: Cliff Rames)

Prosecco is simply straw-colored or light to medium yellow with a watery white rim.

Prosecco
Prosecco

9) Bottle Shape

While there is no standard bottle shape for Prošek, traditionally it is stored in large straw-covered jugs or demijohns for home or non-commercial use. When available for commercial sale, dessert wine bottles of 375-500 ml are the norm. These vessels are often fancy and oddly shaped and include short, small jug-like bottles (BIBICh Ambra) to tall clear cylinders and tapered obelisks.

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one type of Prošek bottle

Prosecco is typically packaged in the easily-identifiable and customary sparkling wine bottle, which is similar in shape to the Champagne bottle and includes the mushroom-shaped cork and often a metal cage under a foil wrap. Prosecco can also be packaged in aluminum cans similar to those used for beer.

Prosecco bottles
Prosecco bottles
Prosecco in cans
Prosecco in cans

10) Serving Glass

Customarily Prošek is served in a small, tulip-shaped dessert wine glass. However, there is no “official” serving glass; any small, flared-rim vessel will do.

Prošek (Photo: Cliff Rames)
Prošek (Photo: Cliff Rames)

The most commonly used glass for Prosecco is the Champagne flute.

Prosecco flutes
Prosecco flutes

11) Availability on Export Markets

Ask yourself this: When was the last time you saw a bottle of Prošek in your local wine shop? Most likely the answer is, never. Because of the tiny production, very little of Croatia’s famous dessert wine is exported. In the U.S. BIBICh Ambra Prošek is imported by Blue Danube Wine Company but in such limited quantities that it quickly sells out. If you are in the NYC area, Bin 56 wine bar in Huntington, NY serves BIBICh Ambra Prošek. Grab a glass while it lasts!

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© 2013 Croatian Cuisine & Lifestyle

Needless to say, Prosecco is ubiquitous and warehoused in wine shops everywhere. It is often the best selling sparkling wine in wine bars and restaurants. To highlight this point (according to Shanken News Daily), in 2012 the top six Prosecco brands in the U.S. collectively represented 1.6 million cases (19.2 million bottles) of wine, with an annual sales growth of about 35%.

That’s a lot of bubbly.

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12) Price

Prošek: A 500 ml bottle of BIBICh Ambra Prošek retails for about $50.

Prosecco: Retail prices in the U.S. for a 750 ml bottle range from $10 to $20 for DOC bottles, and a bit more for DOCG labels. 

(Photo courtesy www.pz-vrbnik.hr)
(Photo courtesy http://www.pz-vrbnik.hr)

***

Conclusion

Similar-sounding words and spellings abound in the English language – and presumably in other languages. Take, for example, the head-spinning number of wine grape varieties that begin with the letter V: Verdejo, verdelho, verdello, verdicchio, verdiso, verduzzo, vermentino, vernaccia, vespaiola, vespolina, vignoles, vinhão, viognier, viosinho, viura, vugava…. Yikes!

Yet no one seems to be getting too excited about that muddled madness. Governments are not demanding new rules and regulations to sort it all out. Why? Because they are just names and we humans are able and accustomed to figuring out the subtle variances. I know a guy named Dana and a girl called Dayna. I would have to be a dope to confuse the two.

Then there’s McDonald’s and McDoogal’s. One is a famous hamburger conglomerate, the other an Irish pub in Kokomo, Indiana. Each has its loyal customers. And I think it’s safe to say that not one of us is foggy about which assembles Big Macs and which tops off Guinness on tap. 

Slovenia, Slovakia, Slavonia. The first two are each sovereign countries, the latter a wine-growing region in Croatia. All three manage to survive, despite their names sounding alarmingly alike. And I suspect that few travelers would accidently board planes for Slovenia when they meant to go to Slovakia.  

Prošek and Prosecco. The first: a hand-made, limited-production, sweet dessert wine that will never be exported in large quantities and most likely attracts only consumers who have heard of it and seek it out. The latter: a mass-produced, widely distributed, usually dry to off-dry sparkling wine that is synonymous with summer, quick refreshment, and good cheer.

Simply put, the two wines have NOTHING in common, like apples and oranges. Cannot they happily co-exist without bureaucrats in Brussels spoiling the brew? 

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In that wonderful spoof of a movie from 1980, Airplane!, an in-flight emergency prompts Dr. Rumack (brilliantly played by the late-great Leslie Nielsen), to ask Ted Striker (an ex-pilot suffering from a fear of flying played by Robert Hays), if he can safely land the jet. Striker responds, “Surely you can’t be serious?” To which Dr. Rumack famously retorts, “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley”.

Silly, huh?

So let us not call Prošek Prosecco. Or visa versa. Surely we are all sophisticated enough to manage that without getting ourselves tied up in knots and discovering that the bottle we just grabbed off the shelf is not our beloved wine.  

Aren’t we, Shirley?

airplane-the-movie

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Reflections on the 2012 Zagreb Wine Gourmet Weekend – Part I

By Cliff Rames © 2012

Once there was a Big Bang. The resulting release of energy and matter went hurling out into the dark undeveloped universe, where it swirled around aimlessly for a while. Eventually these building blocks organized themselves into neat systems where Life could take root. Order was created. Man was born. Grapevines grew. The hand of Man eventually discovered how to make wine from grapes. An industry arose and prospered. Festivals and expositions unveiled the many ways Man could pay homage to and revel in the magic of wine. Glasses were raised in salute (or is that “salut”?) and song.

In the living yet still nascent system of Croatian wine festivals, three entities eventually emerged as the reigning forces for vinous celebration. Call them the Big Three: Vinistra; the Dalmatia Wine Expo; and the Zagreb Wine Gourmet Weekend.

Founded in 1994 as a platform to showcase the wines from the Istria region of northern coastal Croatia (particularly malvasia istriana), Vinistra is by far the most mature, successful and important wine festival in Croatia. Each year it attracts even greater numbers of international visitors and hundreds of producers (not just from Istria). This year Vinistra will be held May 11-13, 2012 in Porec, Croatia.

The youngest and self-proclaimed “most charming” festival is the Dalmatia Wine Expo. Having just concluded its second annual presentation, the DWE is the only significant wine festival in the Dalmatia region of coastal Croatia, held each April in the lovely seaside town of Makarska. While showcasing a series of seminars, workshops and over 150 producers of wine, olive oil and other delicacies, DWE is (for now) the least “international” of the three events, seemingly more focused on regional participation and raising the standard of quality wine awareness among domestic consumers and home-grown hospitality professionals (which is actually a very good thing, but that’s another subject for another time).

Throughout Croatia a smattering of other smaller, regional wine festivals – such as PosaVina and the Festival Graševine – are equally passionate about presenting their local wines and culinary specialties but none have yet to wield any influence or gain international attraction.

(photo by Cliff Rames)

Only four years old, the Zagreb Wine Gourmet Weekend is quickly and forcefully establishing itself as a primary contender for the most “international” and perhaps most important wine festival in Croatia. Not a regional presentation, ZWGW has smartly positioned itself to be the Place where Croatian wines from all wine-producing regions of Croatia can be showcased and put in context alongside quality wines from neighboring countries and better-known regions such as Bordeaux and Napa Valley. The organizers also take great care to invite international journalists, bloggers, and VIP wine professionals from important foreign markets.

(photo by Cliff Rames)
(photo by Cliff Rames)

This year’s Zagreb Wine Gourmet Weekend was held April 13-15, 2012 and featured over 130 producers of wine, olive oil and other delicacies representing over 200 premium brands. Croatian wineries of course formed the majority of exhibitors, with nearly 70 producers on hand and every Croatian winemaking region represented. Most were pouring their new vintages, although treats could be found on occasion as some winemakers discreetly offered older vintages. Frano Miloš, a poet winemaker from the Pelješac peninsula, made me quiver when he poured me a taste of his 1994 Stagnum Plavac Mali, a wine that beautifully debunked some theories that Plavac Mali is incapable of long-term aging.

Frano Miloš (left)

Interspersed throughout the tasting halls was an impressive assortment of other regional and international wine producers from countries such as Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Italy, Austria, France and South Africa. A half dozen or so distributors were also present.

Let the tasting begin! (photo by Cliff Rames)
(photo by Cliff Rames)

The Organizers

While the brains and brut behind ZWGW is the dynamic team comprised of Dražen Lazić, Festival Director; Tomislav Ricov, Vice President of the Organizing Committee, Ingrid Badurina Danielsson, who was last year’s ZWGW director and has now taken on the role of Director of International Relations, and Irina Ban, International Public Relations Manager.

Official responsibility for the organization went to Digitel Group, a Zagreb-based marketing and communications firm. You can read more about the ZWGW organizers and official partners in this press release.

This year’s event was obviously a massive undertaking and logistical nightmare, and an event of this magnitude is bound to suffer from hiccups and oversights. But in general I give Digitel and their team high marks for a pretty enjoyable festival that was marked by just a few glitches. Most complaints that I heard were – like last year – related to the venue.

Glyptotheque building (photo courtesy of ZWGW)

The Venue

The Glyptotheque building of the Academy of Arts and Sciences was an interesting and okay (I think) venue. It is a sprawling old ivy-covered brick building in the upper reaches of the old town in Zagreb, about a 15-minute walk from the city center and Trg bana Josipa Jelačića square. Inside there were many different room on a number of different floors accessible by lots of stairs. At first it was a bit confusing, and I have to admit that I missed some events and tasting rooms because of wrong turns and distractions along the way. But eventually the layout made sense, although I feel that too much time and energy was spent figuring out where to go.

Masterclass with Ivo Jeramaz of Grgich Hills (photo by Cliff Rames)

What made things more confusing was that key seminars and workshops were located in an annexed space at an adjacent shopping mall, the Centar Kaptol. As perplexing as it seems, it is true: discussions of terroir and other high-brow wine topics were occurring in shopping mall conference rooms and a movie theater. To get to these events, one had to navigate escalators filled with shoppers, meander past Fossil and other luxury goods outlets, dodge the lady who was enthusiastically spraying passersby with perfume samples, and resist the café bar with the alluring aroma of fresh brewed expresso.

It was a surreal experience. But I eventually accepted it all and took it as a challenge: Find the seminar. Don’t get lost. See what is behind this door, up those stairs, around that corner….I felt like I was on a treasure hunt, and indeed there were many treasures to be found once I learned to navigate the various levels and locations.  🙂

For what it is worth, my only advice for the organizers would be this: If you decide to hold the 2013 ZWGW at this venue (which is a good idea for the sake of consistency and proximity to the city center and hotels), everyone should receive a more detailed map as part of the welcome package. While this year’s packet did include a color-coded map, it was small and didn’t really give me a good sense of the relationship between the different spaces in terms of distances, direction, and importance. For example, it was not until nearly the end of the festival that I found the hall where the specialty food vendors were located (and by then I was already half-starved). And judging by the low attendance at the panel discussions and seminars held in the movie theater, it seems likely many people either could not find them or didn’t know where they were, being so far removed from the tasting room halls.

(photo by Cliff Rames)

Overall I liked the Glyptotheque venue. It allowed for good flow of the crowds and a diversity of programming (such as a series of wine-related films in the Centar Kaptol movie theaters). Better maps and directions would help to save critical time and hopefully improve attendance at some of the more off-site events.

Food

Maybe it was me. Perhaps I was too busy, too distracted, a little too overly saturated with wine. But I could not find anything to eat at this so-called “wine gourmet” festival. Yes, there were vendors selling fig cakes and hand-made chocolates and rustic cured meats and sea salt. All great stuff! But I needed some wholesome and hearty sustenance. A burger. Soup. Some fried calamari perhaps. Something to ward off the encroaching effects of too much wine.

This week I attended the Wine Spectator magazine “Grand Tour 2012” gala tasting in New York City, where over 200 of the world’s finest wines were flowing. At the back of the main tasting hall was a large area full with buffet tables: cheeses, prosciutto, braised short ribs, grilled vegetables, gnocchi in a tomato cream truffle sauce, Asian dumplings….You get the picture. Where there is much wine, there must also be much food.

Chocolate!

Perhaps hot food vendors should be allowed to set up stands and sell their products at the next ZWGW? Just an idea to consider…. I know I would have happily stopped in between tastings and seminars to pay a few Kunas for a quick bite of something substantive to eat.

You?

(to be continued…)

(photo by Cliff Rames)

Blood from Stone: Stina Wine from Brač – Best New Label Design

By Cliff Rames © 2012

Jako Vino, a recently-renovated winery in the circa 1903 Dalmatinska Vinska Zadruga (Dalmatian Wine Association) building in the town of Bol on Brač island, Croatia, has launched a brand new wine called “Stina”.

Stina is a quality red wine made from the locally indigenous Plavac Mali grape. “Stina” is a local word that means stone – or, more precisely, the high quality white limestone blocks that are quarried on Brač and exported around the world to be turned into great works of sculpture and architecture (“stina” from Brač was reportedly used in the building of the White House in Washington DC and as construction blocks and as sidewalk pavers in various cities, including New York City).

Jako Vino winery (photo by Cliff Rames)

While the verdict is still out on how delicious this wine possibly is (I haven’t yet tasted it or come across any reviews), what stands out is not so much the wine but its label (actually there are currently several different versions of the label, so collect them all!).  🙂

Designed and published by Zagreb advertising firm Bruketa & Žinić and brand consultants Brandoctor, the Stina label is magnificent. Strikingly sleek and eye-catching, it is a marvel of design: at once stark yet beautiful; simple yet powerful; rustic yet elegant…skillfully merging the accidental with the deliberate, the rudimentary with the artistic and wine snobbery with mainstream chic appeal.

(photos courtesy of Jako Vino)

As you can see by the photos and video below, the label’s textured white paper background serves as a canvass for free-form, breezy drawings that take their shape and inspiration from what would otherwise be unfortunate and unsophisticated drips of wine down the sides of the bottle.

Which leads me to wonder: In the history of wine drinking, how many prized labels in the hands of would-be connoisseurs and collectors have been ruined by renegade trickles of wine, staining noble depictions of Coats of Arms and names of  Great Chateaus with clumsy crimson tears?….

But that doesn’t happen here. Here a wayward drip becomes a serendipitous moment…the muse that manifests as a high-effective and über contemporary brand of folk art: wine label sketching in the blood of Brač stone.

The Jako Vino Facebook page says it best (interpreted by me from the Croatian):  Stina, which means stone, is the symbol of Brač island. The Stina wine label symbolizes a piece of virgin stone that summons sculptors to shape it; a white canvas that invites artists to paint it; a sheet of blank paper that incites bards to scratch poetic verse on it, or writers and musicians to lay down the words and notes to the most beautiful stories or musical compositions on it.

With all of this clever and creative imagery in mind, I feel inspired to (unofficially) nominate Jako Vino’s “Stina” label(s) as Croatia’s – and quite possibly the world’s – Best New Wine Label Design of the year.  🙂

My nomination means nothing, of course, except to further fuel my own curiosity and thirst (and maybe yours too?). In other words, I can’t wait to taste what’s in that bottle!

If anyone has tried this wine, please let us know your thoughts in the comment section.

You can watch the video showing the label’s creation below. Cheers!

Wines of Croatia News Round-Up for March 4, 2012

In case you missed anything, here is a round-up of the latest links to the news articles, blog posts and videos that highlighted Croatia, its wine or wine culture.

1. Digital Journal: Hvar’s Organic Ivan Dolac Wins Gold

February 21, 2012

More good news for the Croatian wines from the island of Hvar: Svirče Cooperative’s Ivan Dolac wines are awarded two gold medals at the 2012 Mundus Vini Biofach in Germany.

 

 

2. Academic Wino.com: Are Copper Levels in Wine Safe? Case Study: Croatia

February 21, 2012

An assessment on the safety for human consumption of copper levels in Croatian wines.

 

3. Chicago Foodies.com: 2012 Matoševic Alba Malvazija Istarska

February 21, 2012

Chicago Foodies discover a “good, terroir-driven wine with a nice crispness and a respectable 12.8 percent alcohol” from Croatia in the Matoševic Alba Malvasia.

 

4. Bortabra.se: Video of Pula, Poreč and Rovinj in Istria

February 24, 2012

A nicely produced video about Istria by Freberg Production of Stockholm (mostly in Swedish but some English and Croatian). At the 4:12 mark there is a short profile of Kabola winery.

 

5. Wines of Croatia Blog: Journeys with Jody Ness & Wine Portfolio: “Croatia Calling” Video Series

February 24, 2012

A compilation of all five videos in the newly released “Croatia Calling” series by Wine Portfolio.

 

6. Taste of Croatia: Ice Wine Adventure in Zagorje

February 25, 2012

The Taste of Croatia crew brave the ice and snow at Bodren Winery in Zagorje to find out what it takes to harvest grapes for luscious Ice Wine.

 

7. Wines of Croatia Blog: A Report: The Croatian Wine Story Presentation in Imotski

February 26, 2012

Find out which wines were the winners at the February 17, 2012 Croatian Wine Story festival in Imotski, Croatia – hosted by Udruga Mediterra and Grabovac Winery.

 

8. Blind Tasting Club: Croatian Winemakers Take Things Seriously

February 28, 2012

The Blind Tasting Club learn a thing of two from the label of a bottle of Blato 1902 Pošip and expect “to see a lot more good things coming from Croatia…”

 

9. Digital Journal: Strong Hvar Presence at First Croatian Food & Wine Festival

February 28, 2012

A report by Paul Bradbury from the Hvar Wine Association stand at the first Croatian Food and Wine Festival in Zagreb.

 

10. The Graped Crusader: A Selection of Wines from Mountain Valley Wines

A review of three wines from the UK’s Mountain Valley Wines, including the Pelješac Plavac Mali 2010.

 

11. Wines of Croatia Blog: Grapes of Croatia: The Internationals

March 2, 2012

The first part in a new and ongoing series of posts called the “Grapes of Croatia”.

 

P.S. We love to hear from you!

If you have comments or other news to share, please comment on this post or email us at info@winesofcroatia.com

 

Vinistra Celebrates a Successful First “En Primeur” Tasting of Malvasia

 

It was a full house. On Monday, February 13, 2012 over 400 wine lovers and advocates, sommeliers, wine buyers, restaurateurs and chefs gathered in the elegant Regent Esplanade hotel in Croatia’s capital Zagreb for the first-ever “en primeur” degustation of malvasia istriana (malvazija istarska) wines from the 2011 vintage.

The malvasia en primeur tasting served as the inaugural event in an ongoing program over the next three months that will culminate with the 19th annual Vinistra (Association of Winegrowers and Winemakers of Istria) wine expo in May 2012.

In his assessment, Ivica Matošević, president of Vinistra, observed that the packed tasting room at the Esplanade “tells us that the first Croatian en primeur event was a smash hit. We wanted to do something different, something modeled after our global colleagues, and something that would showcase this truly great vintage in Istria.”

Ivica Matošević and Veljko Ostojić

Among the many guests at the event were Croatian Minister of Tourism, Veljko Ostojić; Assistant to the Minister of Commerce, Darko Lorencin; Administrator of the County of Istria, Ivan Jakovčić; President of the Tourism Board of Istria, Denis Ivošević; and Sandi Paris from the Croatian Sommelier Club, who spoke to the guests about the characteristics of the hot but excellent 2011 vintage and the range of complex aromas that are beginning to manifest themselves in the wines, ranging from floral to herbals to richly fruit-driven notes.

Thirty-six Istrian wineries were on hand to pour their 2011 malvasia and other select wines from their cellars, including Agrolaguna, Agroprodukt, Franc Arman, Marijan Arman, Benvenuti, Capo, Cattunar, Commot, Coronica, Cossetto, Damijanić Robi, Damjanić Ivan, De Valentinis, Degrassi, Ferenac, Geržinić, Kabola, Kalavojna, Kozlović, Legovina-obitelj Legović, Matić, Matošević, Meneghetti, Pilato, Poletti, Prodan, Radovan, Ritoša, San Tommaso, Sirotić Dario, Tercolo, Tomaz, Trapan, Vino P&P, VINobile and Vivoda.

The mission of the en primeur tasting was to show potential buyers and consumers the high quality of the 2011 malvasia istriana vintage and help facilitate investment in the wines and placement on wine lists both domestically and abroad. Vinistra hoped to also further raise the profile and credibility of the Association as a leader of innovative and creative programs that showcase the region’s best wines, terroir and lifestyle.

By the look of all the happy people with glasses full with golden malvasia, Vinistra achieved its goal.  🙂

(All photos courtesy of Vinistra)