Seven Most Important Events in the Croatian Restaurant and Wine Industry in 2016

Total Croatia News

Restaurants, chefs, harvests, VAT – all major factors that shaped the year

When talking of domestic gastronomy and winemaking, this year can be called quite vibrant. Fact is restaurants did better business due to tourism and a rise of domestic purchasing power. Fact is also the scene saw, both with chefs and caterers and most importantly consumers, a return of a true gastronomy enthusiasm last seen in mid-2000s. Fact is, furthermore, winemakers enjoyed two excellent harvests in a row, 2015 which is on the market and 2016 being prepared in cellars. Wine merchants also had their best results since 2008, published on November 12, 2016.

On the other hand, Croatian gastronomy is still below a serious global level, domestic wines are not making a significant export while more bad foreign wines are imported. Finally, the decision by the government to increase VAT rates for catering might turn the tide in the restaurant industry. Here are seven events that marked 2016.

1. VAT increase for restaurants to 25%
Here we must reiterate two key facts which HDZ and MOST will not take into consideration. Firstly, the entire Croatian catering sector based their business models on the 13 percent VAT rate. Based on such business plans almost all serious caterers made very serious investments this year: Carpaccio and Plavi Podrum bought new kitchens, Vinodol is building a new butchers, Pod Zidom is planning another bistro and ten new employees and so on. Secondly, the restaurant industry along with hotels makes the backbone of Croatian tourism. Since the 25 percent VAT is truly braking the spine of the industry, it is directly compromising the development of Croatian tourism. A land without good gastronomy cannot be a tourism destination. It is truly sad bad news must be declared the event of the year in domestic restaurant and wine industry, but if the ruling coalition does decide to double the VAT rate, it will be a negative point for the development of Croatian gastronomy and marketing of Croatian wines that depend on the success of restaurants.

2. The affirmation of a tough generation of Croatian chefs
As we’ve written before, none of them is yet a chef by international criteria. But Priska Thuring, Filip Horvat, Goran Kočiš, Marina Gaši and several other chefs who were in the top of Croatian gastronomy this year are surely the most fantastic generation of culinary professionals we’ve ever had. Their work ethics, will to learn, passion for food and awareness that cooking and restaurant business do not take place on Facebook and television but in the kitchen and complex supply process, are a sign of a true mass movement of haute Croatian gastronomy. The spiritual father of this generation is surely Dino Galvagno, while the intellectual one is Rudolf Štefan.

3. Phenomenal olive harvest
This may sound like a routine event, but it is not. Olive oil is one of only three gastronomically important ingredients in which Croatia is best in the world. The other two are the Kvarner shrimp and white truffles. Although Croatia doesn’t produce enough oil to be a relevant player in the global scene, this year’s sensational harvest in quality and quantity may strengthen our champion status among global connoisseurs of olive oils. Not to speak of how much larger crop will financially bolster serious producers. Istria, naturally, remains the domestic and international champion of superior olive oils.

4. Cocktail-mania and Craft-mania
Domestic liquor market was marked with two new features not related to wine. The first is an explosion of cocktails. Noel had to, for example, along with the great Roman Barbik hire another bartender, as on good days they sell around 70 cocktails per day. This summer the most exciting alcohol event in Zagreb was the Unusual Gin Weekend Festival. Cocktails are the present and future of Croatian catering, which is good, not only because we can enjoy countless attractive tastes, but because mixology expands the culture of decent consummation of alcoholic drinks, as well as the culture of haute style of behaviour in catering. Besides, cocktails are a terribly strong argument for foreign tourists. Craft beers have expanded so much every unpretentious bar has some excellent domestic beers, some of which, like the Vis Saison or Gose, were designed for gastronomy.

5. The rise of island restaurants
This was the first year in which we marked a strong rise of island gastronomy. Classic favourites like the Kornati konoba Opat or Šipan konoba Kod Marka were joined by two gastronomically extremely ambitious restaurants: Lošinj Alfred Keller and Hvar Laganini. Since islands are undoubtedly the loveliest areas of the Croatia coast, we hope this trend of haute island gastronomy will continue in 2017.

6. International successes of Croatian wines
It is quite obvious that after the rise in 2012 and 2013, Croatian wines are losing import battles. Less wine is exported, more wine is imported. Global relevant successes by domestic wines are thus even more important, as they at least partially reflect Croatia on the map of wine relevant countries, while that map is quickly changing with the large growth of China and Brazil. This year the best international results were made by Ilok Cellars with a selection of dried grapes of Traminer from 2011 and Veralda with Istriana from 2015. Both wines received 95 points and platinum medals at Decanter’s world championship.

7. Successful start of new restaurants
Zagreb’s Noel and Ab Ovo offer reason for optimism for the entire Croatian restaurant industry. Both were opened this year, and both are almost always full. And both are coherently and minutely conceived and with demanding cuisine. Zagreb hasn’t seen such a successful start of two new restaurants for quite a while. We hope Tvrtko Šakota and Andrej Barbieri will next year repeat the market successes of Noel and Ab Ovo.


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