On a typical, normal Saturday around noon, Vivat in Martićeva street has plenty of customers. A lady is asking the kind staff about the selection of sparkling wines. The sales people who know plenty on wines and other goods in Vivat, immediately offer five options, depending on how much the lady wants to spend. A second shopper is trying to decide which of the six Plavac he should buy, a third hovers around the glass showcase with luxurious wines. Almost every minute the bell on the door sounds as someone is entering. Owner Boris Ivančić sits at the large central table full og open tasting bottles, with a view of the wall with Magnums and Imperials at the other end of the table. Ivančić can often be found there, talking about everything with friends, acquaintances, business partners and frequent shoppers.
Vivat Wine Lovers in Martićeva street has become a central spot of social wine life in Zagreb, as well as an effective retail sales unit. Last year in December they reached the level of sales from the pre-crisis 2007, considered a serious accomplishment. Although Ivančić’s main business are import and wholesale, the secret to the success of Vivat’s wine shop is its excellent measure of democracy. In Vivat’s locked glass showcases are some great global wines such as Penfold’s Grange, a label with probably the highest price average in the world among more available wines in the last 15 years. Its price of 4.400 kuna corresponds to the world prices of this Australian classic.
But right next to Grange is a ten times cheaper “baby Grange” Penfolds Bin 389. Close to them are a white and red Chateau de Beaucastel, most valued wines from Chateauneuf du Pape, along with Prunott’s Barolo Busaia, Masi’s Vaio Armaron, brilliant Bordeaux white Chateau Smith Haut Laffite, while above them is a collection of Taittinger luxury cuvees Comtes de Champagne, whose price slightly over a 1.000 kuna are good value for money in their genre. Only a few steps further on are rather affordable Spanish Zorzals, all for under a hundred kuna. Jancis Robinson declared a few years ago Zorzal’s Graciano, available in Vivat for 50 kuna, the best value for money wine she had tasted in a long time.
The wall across from the entrance is lined with all possible Dalmatian wines at competitive prices, while the small room next to the register is reserved for Malvasias, Slavonian and wines from Croatian Highlands, also at supermarket prices. Democracy in the approach and in prices are a matter of the owner’s philosophy of relying on large but family foreign partners. Vivat imports Antinori, along with Zonin the largest Italian private wine company. Antinori himself produces an exceptionally large palette of wines, from the cheap Santa Cristina to Tignanello and Solaia (unavailable in the beginning of the week as they were sold out despite high prices), and enables access to other wineries he works with, such as the producer of a very good Prosecco Col de Salici.
Gigantic Freixenet, Ivančić’s strategic acquisition from the last century, is also a family company, as is Taittinger. The last family bought out their winery six years ago from banks and investment funds. Perrin family from the Rhone, owners of Beaucastel, brought Vivat to the fantastic Miraval, as the Perrin’s are partners are Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Ivančić’s cooperation with the Symington family brought to Croatia a spectacular collection of Port wine, in a range of prices – from basic, widely available rubys and white Port to 30 year old Tawnys. Symington’s also export to Croatia some excellent dry wines, which like many Portuguese ones don’t cost much. Also, along with Port wine, Vivat offers some of the best Sherrys in the world, Lustau for example.
Besides representing large global family companies, Ivančić developed a close cooperation with smaller private niche winemakers; great Austrians Loimer, Sattler, Wineninger and Heinrich, as well as a line of Spanish winemakers who with very good or excellent prices represent terroir and variety diversity of the world’s third largest wine producer.
Vivat’s democracy is also manifested in the champagne selection. Alongside the great Taittinger for years they have imported the small, exceptionally high quality Louis and cheaper Louis Barthelemy, lately available in restaurants, bars and hotels. Their ultra dry Topaz is already considered a champagne classic.
For a wine store to succeed, it must radiate good mood. Wine stores are hedonistic places, not just exhibition and sales spaces for expensive or less expensive bottles. Hence in wine stores are necessarily snacks and chocolates. Catalonian Amatller thus produces excellent almonds in cocoa, but also very good dark chocolate originating from Ghana and Ecuador. Provence chocolate “olives” also seem irresistible, especially with Port or sweet Sherry. We especially liked excellent parfaits and mousses from foie gras, flavoured with wine. A respectable offer of domestic olive oils (Chiavalon, Salvela, Belić, Ipša) complete Vivat’s gastronomy portfolio.
Boris Ivančić has been in wine business almost a quarter century, only 51 years of age. It is impressive he has remained in the very top of wine distribution in Croatia for nearly twenty years, without any serious declines. Such consistency in Croatia, in any business, is quite rare.
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