Croatian Wine Producers – Alen Bibić, From Professor of Croatian and Literature to prof.dr. of Tourism

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A visit to an experienced Skradin winemaker and great businessman in the world of eno-gastronomy who’s high season lasts at least seven months

Alen Bibić, from literature and Croatian language professor via eno-gastronomy to prof.dr. of tourism. And tomorrow?

Higher education in the social sciences, richness of diverse experience in world travels, very developed hedonistic trait, good knowledge of the technology of production but also placement in the segment of food and especially wine, purity of product, luck in finding an expert wife in a creative kitchen, endeavour to be original and affirm comparative advantages of the region, great familiarity in general business, skill of choosing high value and loyal colleagues in the business, ability to penetrate circles of buyers of highest category of products… Aren’t these all predispositions for – the minister of tourism?!

He met us – Ivan Dropuljić, director of festival and me – in his spacious and well decorated tasting hall in Plastovo near Skradin. Soon after our arrival guests began to arrive. Later, judging by the occupancy it was easy to conclude his high season didn’t end with August but stretched into autumn. Bibić says his high season lasts at least seven months. In any case, he is always ready: two years ago when the festival, held at the end of November, hosted a group of foreign eno-gastronomy and tourism journalists and guided them through wine growing areas of Dalmatia, we stopped at Bibić’s. All functioned perfectly, experienced foreign journalists later said they didn’t dream to find in a village in a non tourism area reception and offer much like in exclusive restaurants in their own country.

The location in Plastovo, where his wine cellar is, is just one of the platforms where the Bibić family sells their rich offer made up of the wines made by Alen and delicious bites made by the master of the kitchen, Alen’s wife Vesna, as well as olive oil with Mediterranean herbs, Pag cheese in olive oil, dried figs with honey and other typical traditional Dalmatian delicacies. A large number of buyers of Alen’s wines, some of which like the Bas de Bas and Aleph are at 500 or 1.000 Kuna per 0.75 litre bottle, are yachtsmen dropping anchor in Skradin bay. Not necessarily foreigners! Bibić has domestic buyers, not necessarily yachtsmen. As they become more frequent – and this is where the domestic market plays a large role – the intensity of the season will increase… Naturally, some of the wine Bibić sells through wine shops in Croatia, some he exports, gladly boasting he is doing well on the US market…

A welcome drink – Bibich sparkling brut from Debit, made by classic method. Very good. Base wine is a mix of several harvests, champagned in 2010, degorged in July 2016, spending 6 years on yeasts. Something domestic of that category can rarely be found. Hats off! Although he could have reached for the classic Chardonnay, Bibić attempted to affirm what his region offers and showed that the local sort Debit, without any special pedigree with the public, is surely useable for added value products. Next was a mix Cuvee R5, from five sorts – Debit, Pošip, Maraština, Pinot Grey and Chardonnay in equal amounts.

“The offer of food is diverse, from a tray of interesting and very tasty small bites, just so, when buying wine, a glass of wine doesn’t go down on an empty stomach, to a complete menu with complicated courses of creative kitchen from appetizers to dessert. Guests mostly choose the tasting menu, with several different plates and a different wine with each plate. This is how we got started: with programmes of combining food and wine, starting with a simpler offer and upgrading from there. I have to admit, my luck is that the marina in Skradin is quite close and Šibenik, where more tourists are coming, is also close and considering I knew how to take advantage of that, we not only have enough guests but very good guests. We use the internet to promote ourselves, with great support and help from smaller tourism agencies specialised for more demanding guests. I am also connected to naval agencies who work with larger yachts, advising guests where to find local products,” Bibić explains.

Then he brought small bites for tasting from his wife’s kitchen – dehydrated pork ribs, Pag cheese with almonds, smoked Krka trout caviar on a Krka trout parfait, olive pate, dried but not smoked sausage… And with it an interesting Pinot Grey titled PS 2015 and soon the La Sin 2015, his very successful version of red wine from the local Skradin sort Lasin. He imagined it as his version of Pinot Noir. And managed to create it as such, using in ripening twice used Burgundy barrel piece (228 litres). It’s a wine Bibić doesn’t place in his higher quality segment but in everyday drinks, but it has to be said it is in no way a simple drink, but a quite gentle and soft, drinkable and interesting wine with 13% alcohol, light ruby colour characteristic for Pinot Noir, with very strong fruitiness.

So the two of in a way entered the programme of the tasting menu and since we didn’t have time to enjoy every classic course, they became small bites, with a different label of wine with each bite.

The above described tourism offer is not all from Bibić. His new project for next season will have five stars.

“We plan to open accommodation along our Bas de Bas vineyard in two old adapted stone houses with full comfort. Guests will be able to sip Bas de Bas and watch from up close the vineyard that gives grapes for the wine,” adds Alen.

Some years ago several elite Croatian wine producers, with vineyards and cellars on the Adriatic coast, such as Bibić, Saints Hills, Korta Katarina, Meneghetti, Boškinac, Duboković, Baković, Roxanich and the continental Bolfan Vinski Vrh founded the organisation Grand Cro for the joint promotion of their wines and high quality Croatian wines in general. Bolfan and Roxanich left in the meantime. Other still jointly appear at fairs and wine festivals – they will be present at 2016 in the Esplanade, but also cooperate in the way of animating and exchanging tourists. Previously they promoted a yachtsmen visit programme from winery to winery via the sea, slightly changing it to a more practical one: pointing guests to visit other cellars of Grand Cro members.

Our meeting in terms of wine tasting came to a climax: Bibić, who now owns 12 hectares of vineyards and buys grapes from another 12 hectares from chosen contractors, most of them his relatives, sadly did not pour his eno-icons Lučica from Debit, nor the white Bas de Bas, from 90 percent Debit and 10 percent of other local sorts, macerated three months in stone, as they are not ready. He did pour Sangreal Merlot 2011, lovely, elegant, nearly pitch black, fresh, quite fruity and with a well blended note of barrique; then the Aleph 2010, from 67 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 percent Merlot and 13 percent Cabernet Franc, very fruity, slight taste of barrel, still incredibly young, on the rise. The crown: Bas de Bas 2013, from the vineyard of original local name Ispod Podi, internationally renamed Bas de Bas. The vineyard is said to be at Grand Cru level, at some 200 metres above sea level, on a slope where there used to be vines, but later deserted and renewed by Alen. The wine is from 90 percent Syrah and five percent each of Merlot and Plavina, selection of grapes takes place in the vineyard, with 15.5% alcohol, but despite all that very drinkable, harmonious and elegant, benefiting from some more time in the bottle. Hopefully Bibić will still have some from that harvest when we stop by next time…

For the original and more from Suhi u Čaši blog on wine, click here.


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