September 6, 2020 – English-speaking lovers of Croatian wine may find it a challenge to locate the types of wine scores and quality ratings that seem to saturate the rest of the wine world. Programs for wine evaluation do exist in Croatia—the first of them was Vinske Zvijezde, or Wine Stars, launched in 2013. This writer helped judge a recent Vinske Zvijezde competition on Hvar to see how the program works, and reveal the top Bogdanuša, Bogdanuša blends and Plavac Mali on the island.
Each year, Vinske Zvijezde evaluates about 200 wines in small tastings. The judges, all volunteers, are enologists, sommeliers, wine journalists, and people in the wine trade. Judges are aware only of the category of wine being tasted, the vintage and the level of alcohol, and are responsible for scoring the wines for their appearance, aroma and flavor, with the most points awarded for “quality” of aroma and flavor. The judges’ scores are averaged to arrive at the final score for each wine.
(The next sample is poured for judges (from left) Miro Štec, Eva Krištof and Saša Zec. Photo: Julio Frangen)
The key to Vinske Zvijezde is that the competition is open to all wines on the market in Croatia. It is intended “to present the wines that a customer can find in a wine shop,” according to co-organizer Marija Vukelić of Zlatne Riječi, a wine promotion firm in Zagreb. Saša Zec, an enologist and sales and marketing specialist who organizes the tastings with Vukelić, emphasizes, “We don’t depend on any wine producer here in Croatia. Most important is that we are independent and earnest.” Enologist Eva Krištof participated simply “because I love Hvar and Hvar wines.” A former Hvar resident, she brings a keen local wine knowledge to the judging.
The results of each tasting are announced (in Croatian) on the organization’s Facebook page. Wines with scores of 90-100 points are presented with award certificates at a ceremony at the end of the year. Last year’s presentation was at the Vino.com wine festival in Zagreb.
Vinske Zvijezde was founded by three wine journalists—Vitomir Andrić of Večernji list newspaper (retired); Ivo Kozarčanin, an editor at 24sata newspaper; and Željko Suhadolnik, editor-in-chief of Svijet u čaši magazine. Svijet u čaši was the first wine magazine in Croatia, and the first to include ratings.
The top-scoring wines of the tasting of August 29 in Jelsa:
Bogdanuša (from 6 submissions)
- Pavičić Vina 2019 (48kn)
- Vina Carić 2019 (50kn)
- Zlatan Otok 2019 (50kn)
Bogdanuša blend (from 6 submissions)
- Zlatan Otok Cuvée 2018 (50kn)
- Vina Carić Cesarica 2019 (55kn)
- Tomić Beleca 2019 (70kn)
Plavac Mali (from 20 submissions)
- Vina Carić Plovac Ploški Barrique 2013 (130kn)
- Hvar Hills Pharos Maximus 2013 (200kn)
- Vina Leše Plavac Mali 2017 (60kn)