Wine Culture in Split: Meet Sommelier Roko Bekavac from Paradigma

Total Croatia News

The wine scene in Split is starting to blossom. There is no doubt that a large factor in the emergence of a wine scene in Split is down to the efforts of the team from the first wine bar in Split, Paradox Wine and Cheese bar, which opened a couple of years ago. Apart from being a very pleasant place to spend an evening, the quality and range of Croatian wines available is match only by the knowledge of the staff. For an introduction into Croatian wines (and a little cheese…), there is no better place in Split.

The Paradox group will shortly be opening their much-anticipated Restaurant Paradigma. Total Split caught up with head sommelier Roko Bekavac to learn a little more about the wine scene in Croatia.


You recently joined the Paradox Hospitality team and will be Head Sommelier for Restoran Paradigma. Tell us a little about yourself.

My 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry was mostly spent in Bluesun Hotels where I developed from waiter to bar manager. The world of wine has always intrigued me so after a friend convinced me, I started sommelier school, which I completed in just over a year. In the past five years, I have been devoted to just wine and to educate myself even further; I began in 2013 to study and certify myself with the prestigious Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) of London. This year, I joined Paradox Hospitality team as Head Sommelier for Restoran Paradigma, although my aim was to stay in the hotel industry and follow my dream of owning a luxury boutique hotel. However, Food & Beverage remains my passion and getting this career opportunity was impossible to turn down. Paradigma is a very important project for the restaurant scene in Split and Dalmatia and I am proud to be part of this challenge.


The wine bar culture is getting more popular, and Paradox was the first to develop the concept in Split. What can visitors to the new Restoran Paradigma that the group is opening expect?

Paradox has become the paragon of wine (and cheese) culture, not just in Split but even nationally and with Paradigma we will focus on the Mediterranean, the richness of its ingredients and its prized wines. The wine list alone will be very unique in that it spans the Mediterranean with a focus on Dalmatian wines, as well as Greek, southern Italian, southern French, Spanish… making it possible for guests to indulge in Mediterranean cuisine which will be paired with indigenous varieties from the Mediterranean.

Dalmacija Wine Expo took part in Split recently. How did you rate the event, and did you discover any great new wines?


Dalmacija Wine Expo, which after four years of being held in Makarska moved to Split, was an excellent decision from the organizers. The festival was a great place to try the new 2013 vintage release of white wines, which was an excellent year in Dalmatia and the rest of the country for white wine. In particular, I would like to praise the fresh pošip 2013 from Stina, Rizman, and Toreta, kujundžuša from Grabovac, malvasija Dubrovačka from Crvik, debit from Bibich and maraština from Marko Sladic. More and more excellent rose wines are entering the market, most famously from Senjković, Korta Katarina, and Saints Hills but newcomers from Jure Sladić and Galić should be noted too.

I also attended the Plavac Mali tasting workshop for the 5th year running and all the wines truly showed character, all from different regions, made in different styles, from traditional to modern. Newcomers Rozić, Volarević, Crvik, and Šimunović and traditionalists Poljanić and Skaramuća all impressed alongside the established cellars of Stina, Korta Katarina, Rizman, and Saints Hills.

Wine expert Darko Baretić presented his predictions on wines soon to be released that we should keep an eye out for; Tomac Rizling 2013, Krauthaker Graševina Kuvlakhe 2011, Clai Sv. Jakov 2012, Coronica Gran Teran 2013, Korak Pinot Noir 2012, Benvenuti Teran 2011, Bibich Aleph 2011, Boškinac 2011. Great workshop and the wines that we are impatiently waiting to be released!


Paradox Hospitality seems to be as keen on wine education as it is on wine sales. Can you tell us a little more about the philosophy?

Everyone in the Paradox Hospitality team shares a passion for wine and food. The majority of us are already educated in wine or are currently doing so. Every year we explore various wine regions together; we go to wine fairs both nationally and abroad. In Paradox Wine & Cheese Bar we organize tastings conducted by winemakers, sometimes with food pairings and in Paradigma there will be a lot of wine and food pairing on the agenda. Our goal is not only to further the team’s education in wine but in all segments of our industry, as we believe this is paramount for Split, Dalmatia, and Croatia to develop.


Croatian grape varieties are relatively unknown to foreigners. Introduce us to three, tell us why we should try them, and recommend a bottle or two from the Paradigma and Paradox list.

Croatia is 7th on the list when it comes to the number of indigenous grape varieties (37) of which 29 comes from Dalmatia which makes it an extraordinary small wine region.

After the more famed pošip, I would select Dalmatia’s grk as my favourite white varietal. Grk comes from the island of Korčula and grows in sandy soil in Lumbarda. This gives the wine exceptional minerality and natural freshness. It is mostly made to be enjoyed as fresh wine however, it has great aging potential. When young, Grk awards you with fruitiness; citrus and tropical fruits and stone notes (minerality) but if you manage to come across an aged bottle (very rare), you will be able to appreciate enhanced minerality and saltiness.

In Paradox Wine & Cheese Bar, you should try the excellent Grk Bire.

As for red varieties, I would opt for lasina which comes from Northern Dalmatia. It is mostly found around the Skradin area however, it is an almost forgotten variety. Thankfully, there are a couple of winemakers who showcase the impressive potential of lasina, a variety which in many ways is similar to Pinot Noir; fruity and light, with sumptuous acidity.

La Sin Bibich and Lasina Sladić is available in Paradox Wine & Cheese Bar and will be in Paradigma as well.

In Paradox Wine & Cheese Bar and Restoran Paradigma you will get the chance to try an array of Dalmatian varieties, even some peculiar ones from other Mediterranean regions.


There is no wine road of Dalmatia – why is that? Tell us a little about the potential of wine tourism in the region. 

I would not say there are no wine roads in Dalmatia. The biggest challenge is its mere size and accessibility. If someone is staying in Split or Dubrovnik, it isn’t so easy to get to Pelješac, Hvar, Brač or Skradin all within a day. In Istria is easier as it is on one concentrated landmass, which can be traversed within an hour whereas, getting from Split to Pelješac, you need 3-4 hours! This is what makes Dalmatia unique; visiting the state-of-the art Korta Katarina, Stina, and Saints Hills, the smaller Bire, Krajančić, Grabovac, and Duboković, and the hidden Senjković and Sladić, to the likes of Bibich where you need to book in advance for a gastronomic experience… and at the end of the day, you’ll make it back in time for a glass in Paradox.

I am confident that Dalmatia will develop into a big wine tourism region, and it is already well en route.


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