As TCN wrote a week ago, Croatia’s gradual rise in the international gastronomy scene allowed more and more people to discover the exceptional quality of Croatian wines, and rightfully so. Thanks to their growing popularity, three international wine days dedicated to Croatian wines came to life this year alone: the International Pošip Day (May 21st), the International Croatian Wine Day (June 25th), and last but not the least, the International Plavac Mali Day (September 21st).
Photo source: Kyla Ibero
TCN was invited to take part in an online symposium on the plavac mali variety, which was initiated by the people who are largely responsible for the undeniable progression of Croatian wines to the international market. The talk was hosted by Mirena Bagur, the Vice-president of Croatian Premium Wine Imports, Inc., and Anna Vidučić, the founder and president of Aroma Wine Co.. Together, they invited participants from all over the world including experts from the Croatian Chamber of Economy, Croatian sommeliers and winemakers, oenologists, wine connoisseurs, and importers.
The talk was conducted the day before the International Plavac Mali Day at 6pm CET and was attended by more than 30 experts in the wine industry. The guests who graced the event with their informative talks on the Croatian wine industry, Plavac mali grape production, and international promotion include:
- Leo Gracin, Doc. Dr. Sc. – Oenologist, Vino Dalmacije winemakers’ association president, assistant professor of Meditteranean Agriculture at the University of Split
- Siniśa Lasan – three-time Croatian National Champion Sommelier, Decanter Judge and head sommelier for Rixos Dubrovnik Hotel
- Ivo Jeramaz of Grgich Hills, Napa & Grgić Vina, Pelješac
- Antonija Car-Antunović of Saints Hills Winery
- Marko Šuman of Terra Madre Winery
At the beginning of the symposium, Mirena and Anna delighted us with the story behind the Croatian Wine Alliance. Anna Viducic, a French-born Croatian wine buyer from Paris, found herself in the USA in 1998 after following her passion for the hotel and restaurant business. “I arrived in the US at the time when most people did not even know where Croatia was”, she said. Later on, she started to work at a wine magazine. Anna recalled the time when no one wanted to write about Croatian wines but now, according to her, Croatia is a country that is known for its wine and its food culture. Fortunately, she met Mirena who shares her passion for Croatian culture. Eventually, the two decided to team up and promote Croatian wines in the USA and internationally – thus, the Croatian Wine Alliance was established.
Mirena Bagur also said that although Croatia has many wine varieties to offer, they are, at present, focused on promoting wines from the region of Dalmatia because Dalmatian wines such as Pošip and Plavac mali are the ones which are primarily consumed in the USA.
Meanwhile, Leo Gracin, the president of Vino Dalmacije pointed out that in recent years, associations in Croatia have been working hard to accomplish legal and administrative work to secure funding. “Many organizations didn’t have funding until recently.”, he said. The highly esteemed oenologist on Croatian wine earned his Master’s and Ph.D. with a special focus on plavac mali and its polyphenol and aroma content. “When compared to other variety, you will see that plavac mali is really unique. It is the most tannic variety but if it’s ripe, it’s good. It has perfect acidity”, he told the group.
Sommelier Siniša Lasan shares the same opinion on the unique “little blue” grape varieties and their current elevated status on the international market. He also commented that there are a lot of beautiful Croatian rosé wine selections that come from the plavac mali variety which consumers need to try out.
Ivo Jeramaz of Grgic-Vina shared the history of plavac mali which is very significant to their company because it featured his uncle, the legendary Napa Valley winemaker who founded Grgich Hills and also discovered and traced the close relationship between Zinfandel and Plavac Mali, the great Miljenko “Mike” Grgich. Their remarkable story can be read here.
Winemakers Antonija Car-Antunovic of the Saints Hills Winery and Marko Šuman of Terra Madre Winery both talked about wine production and wine-growing region of Pelješač, Istra, and Komarna. According to Marko, Komarna is the youngest wine-growing region in Croatia, and that the region produces the lightest kinds of wines. Meanwhile, the Dingać wine-growing region has always been known over the centuries as one of the best vineyards of Plavac mali variety.
Wine tourism and international promotion of Croatian wines
Nikolina Trojić and Vanja Kaludjer from the Croatian Chamber of Economy were also present in the meeting. They assured us that the HGK is devoted to promoting Croatian wines locally and internationally. On wine tourism, Nikolina commented that Croatia is a relatively small country compared to other established wine countries such as France and Italy and that the already limited production of Croatian wines is largely consumed “by the doorstep” mostly by tourists consumers. According to her, the highly regarded health benefits of the Meditteranean diet and the country’s selection of delectable wine varieties are a huge plus for Croatia’s tourism sector. She also noted that 47% of Croatian wine production comes from Plavac mali.
The symposium ended with Q&A as leading experts in the wine industry and connoisseurs from all over the world participated. One gentleman from Switzerland asked if Croatia will resume its international Croatian wine campaigns which were previously conducted in Zurich and Geneva a few years back and expressed that he thinks that this is a very important thing for Croatia to do in order to be recognized as a wine country. Vanja Kaludjer, from the Croatian Chamber of Economy, answered that Croatian wine promotions are conducted all over Europe including the USA, Canada, and even China. However, it is basically up to the council of wine associations to decide which country the promotion would take place in and that HGK is not in the position to decide on this matter. He also added that due to COVID-19 and earthquake damages suffered last year and this year, the funding was transferred to crisis measures and housing measures; but rest assured, the Croatian Chamber of Economy is doing its best to resume the international promotion of Croatian wines.
Sam Ramic, the Director of Sales at Wine Worldwide, Inc., commented that if he were to compare the Italian wine industry which conducts hundreds of promotional activities versus Croatia’s significantly less number of events per year, Croatia’s promotional efforts seem like baby steps. He then proceeded with a very important question: What is the next step to take Croatian wines up a notch? “Now everybody knows Croatia and so I think, we need to push it”, he remarked.
Vanja Kaludjer answered, “It’s all about the budget for us. We have done many administrative and legislative works in the construction of regional association development and we have resolved a lot of issues with basic financing and legal establishment for the past few years. There are also ongoing projects to promote Croatian wines to foreign markets and also many individual efforts of local wineries, winemakers, and importers are being done.”
Leo Gracin also emphasised that the promotion and production of Croatian wines were held back due to the previous problems in organising the associations which have now been fixed. He retaliated, “Now, it is ready for promotion. With better marketing, we can make better results twice. With the newly secured funds, we can get better-protected marks on the bottles. Upon saying that, we have more jobs to do for stronger marketing and obtaining protected trademarks. It will come, I promise you.”
Mirena added that associations are finally legally established and can now receive proper funding from the European Union and Croatia. “There is still more work to be done. For starters, importers like us are promoting Croatian wines by selling in other countries.”, she said. Mirena also hopes that through the alliance and its member associations, words about Croatian wines will spread fast.
The Q&A portion of the event ended up as a productive open forum on different promotional strategies and limitless possibilities of Croatian wines.
Photo source: International Plavacmali Day Official Facebook Page
How to Celebrate International Plavac Mali Day?
- Follow Plavac Mali’s adventures on https://www.facebook.com/internationalplavacmaliday
- Tag that page when you post your own content and use hashtag #plavacmali and #internationalplavacmaliday
- Create your own tastings, wine pairings, giveaways, or educational events – in person or virtually, and tag the social media handles
- Write articles about #plavacmali
- Invite the media to the virtual event on September 20, at noon Eastern time to present Plavac mali and the wine industry in the region. Media can register for the Zoom link, here: http://eepurl.com/hGY1xf
- Encourage others to participate in celebrations.
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