Raise a glass to the man who helped place Croatian wines on the world map
I was taken aback on learning that the true legend and founder of modern Croatian winemaking Zlatan Plenković passed away on March 17, 2016. He was in his prime, with so much more to give, but obviously, some greater power had other plans. He passed away on a ferry, travelling back to his beloved island Hvar. The very same island he could not leave some 50 years ago to go to university because his family could not afford it, a fact he never regretted because then he would have never become the Prometheus of Hvar, and a man behind one of the most fascinating wine stories in Croatia.
But this is not an article about his untimely passing. It’s a celebration of his life and his art. The art of winemaking. Because that is what he will be remembered for. To many of us, he will be the symbol and initiator of modern winemaking in Croatia, our first real wine entrepreneur and one of the few enthusiasts that put Croatian wine on the world map after it seemed that even we forgot how good our wines are. Only a few months ago, his Zlatan Plavac Grand Cru, probably one of the most extraordinary red wines of Croatia, was included in a prestigious top 10 list of the world’s best oak-aged wines by respected French wine experts Alliances du Monde at their annual awards.
Zlatan Plenković was a visionary who started his family owned horticulture company back in 1986 and started selling their own wines in 1989 and finally changed their name to Zlatan Plavac in 1991, a name they would make famous all over the world. But this is information you can find in any newspaper, online article and by doing a very simple online search. Besides, I will leave it to our TCN wine experts to say more about his wines and his life. What I will remember is reading out his name in a newspaper, while I was still in Australia, as one of the very first Croatian winemakers to win an international award. I remember returning here and opening the very first bottle with anticipation thinking it will not live up to expectations considering that, as a kid from Kaštela, I grew up hearing stories we simply do not know how to make good wine. I remember the relief to find out that, not only was the wine brilliant, but it also thrilled my guests, among them a fashion editor of Vanity Fair who knew a thing or two about wines.
We all have reasons why we will remember Zlatan Plenković The special occasions we celebrated with a glass of his wine in our hands, business deals sealed with a glass or two or occasional bad day that was made better with his Plavac or Pošip. Our dear colleagues at GET Report shared their memory of Zlatan Plenković with us: Here, at G.E.T. Report, we will remember Zlatan Plenković as a great winemaker and a visionary. The man who almost ended up in prison, because, back in the 1980s he came to the idea that he wanted to put his wine into his own bottles with his own label. Of course, the institutions in the old system did not take kindly to the idea, to say the least. And then in the 1990s, the big six appeared on the scene with their private wines: Enjingi and Zdjelarević from Slavonia, Lebar from Međimurje, Tomac from Plešivica, and from Hvar Plenković and Plančić. We would dare to say that Zlatan did the most out of the above mentioned six when it comes to promoting wine in Croatia and abroad, after all, his wine made it to the top-ten in the world.
We were lucky to live in the age of Zlatan Plenković, try some of his wines in his company and share the same passion for wine in general. Zlatan, thank you for everything!
Our hearts pour out to his family, and all of us that had a chance to meet him will miss his wise words when it came to winemaking and the future of Croatian wines. But, as corny as it sounds, his spirit and tirelessness will live on in the drops of Zlatan Otok wines from his very own sanctuary, the golden island of Hvar. He’ll be holding a glass under his favourite tree.
Adio šjor Zlatane, neka ti je laka zemja.