Monday, 20 September 2021

Sip Back and Relax: First International Plavac Mali Day Celebrated Today!

September 21, 2021 - Today marks the first official celebration of International Plavac Mali Day! To celebrate this special event, Croatian Premium Wine Imports, Inc. gathered top experts, sommeliers, winemakers, and connoisseurs for a fun online symposium on Croatia's "King of Red Wines".  Sip back, relax and have a look into the wine-growing regions, wine industry, and wine tourism of Croatia. Also, don't forget to use the official hashtag #internationalplavacmaliday!

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). 

zoom.pngPhoto 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. 

 

241969868_115552204183613_6119300288372847463_n.jpgPhoto 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.

For more on Made in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

For more on lifestyle, CLICK HERE. 

Find out more on the latest Croatian news.

 

Monday, 13 September 2021

International Plavac Mali Day Celebrated on September 21

September 13, 2021 - September 21 is officially celebrated as International Plavac Mali Day!

Croatia has a unique wine history dating back 5000 years, and four key wine regions, each growing distinct grape varieties – Slavonia and Danube, Uplands, Istria, and Dalmatia. Croatia’s gastronomic offerings have been on the rise and its exceptional wines are beginning to get the attention they rightfully deserve. With the recent changes in economic development in the region, it has quickly become a sought-after destination for many around the world. While tourism is a very strong industry sector, Dalmatia has also invested in the IT infrastructure on the continent and the islands to not only offer a complete solution to visitors, but also enable everyday productivity for the digital nomads.

Marlais_plavac_2020.jpeg

"There are countless vineyards in Croatia, each with its own character, that reflect the various terrains, and the region of Dalmatia is certainly one of our jewels," says Ina Rodin, Director of the Croatian National Tourist Office, North America.

"In Dalmatia, one can enjoy sophisticated experiences in Michelin Star restaurants, but also the local konobas and wines coming from world-known vineyards to smaller producers - all taking pride in the country’s gastronomic legacy and celebrating our ties with the land and sea."

Plavac Mali variety is grown in the Dalmatian wine region, which has begun engaging with tourism as early as 1800, based on its natural beauty, mild climate, and its millennia of history. Plavac Mali grape variety,  recognizable for its distinct aromas, predominantly dark berries and Mediterranean herbs with expressive tannins, and mineral on the palate -  is a predominant and the most important red wine variety in Dalmatia. The annual production of Plavac Mali is over five million bottles, which is 7.5% of the total Croatian wine production, according to the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, and due to its distinct taste and a capacity to age well is the most likely red wine purchased and exported by both the wine industry and the consumers.

Plavac Mali means ‘little blue’, referring to its appearance, small and dark blue berries. Leo Gracin, Doc. Dr. Sc. of Oenology, president of Vino Dalmacije Association and assistant professor at the University of Split, Studies of Mediterranean Agriculture says:

"Plavac Mali achieves a distinctive quality on the steep, southern slopes of the islands and the Dalmatian coast. The wines from Plavac Mali are full-bodied, strong with ripe tannins and pronounced aromas of dark-berry fruit but it is also important to say that this variety produces several styles of wines, from medium-bodied and easy-drinking, to elegant and robust wines. In addition, by maturing in wooden barrels, this varietal acquires an additional structure and, with its delicate oak aromas, achieves its full potential that only the world's best wines from warm areas can be proud of."

plavac_mali.jpeg

Some time ago the UC Davis and the University of Zagreb conducted a DNA study of the variety only to discover that Plavac Mali (vitis vinifera) is a descendant of Zinfandel (aka Tribidrag or Crljenak kaštelanski) created a natural hybrid with another indigenous variety, Dobričić.  The variety like that - most certainly deserves a special celebration, and when better than around the time it is typically harvested.

The Croatian Wine Alliance, a group of global teams promoting Croatian wines led by the US-based duo, Aroma Wine Co., and Croatian Premium Wine Imports, Inc., recently announced September 21st as the International Plavac Mali Day. This collaboration is a public and private partnership among organizations from the US, Canada, Australia, Europe, and Croatia – all dedicated to telling the many stories of this indigenous Croatian red variety. 

"We have looked at ways to combine various branches of the economy into making Dubrovnik and Dalmatia an enjoyable and productive destination for people who would like to stay here longer than for a quick vacation," said Nikolina Trojic, Mr.Sc, president of the Dubrovnik county’s Chamber of Commerce.

"From the older, famous appellations to the newer ones, wineries have created wine tourism content, combining their award-winning wines with gastro offerings, and fun and educational content."

"To learn about all celebrations worldwide and the participating organizations, follow the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/internationalplavacmaliday  and the #internationalplavacmaliday hashtag," said Mirena Bagur, co-founder of Croatian Premium Wine Imports, Inc., an importer, online retailer, and advocate for wines of Croatia. And continued:

"This day will be recognized annually in the week surrounding September 21st, with various events, educational and promotional content in local geographies where Plavac Mali is presented. For example, in Boston, we are organizing a wine pairing dinner featuring various Plavac Mali wines and a few tastings in boutique wine stores. Croatian Wine Alliance is a Public-Private Collaboration lead by Aroma Wine Co., and Croatian Premium Wine Imports, Inc., The US-based duo is working with organizations around the globe to raise awareness of premium Croatian wines, including the Wines of Croatia, https://vinacroatia.hr/en/, a wine organization within the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, Vino Dalmacije, https://vinodalmacije.com/  the association of winemakers in Dalmatia, and Croatian National Tourist Board, importers and distributors in the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe.  In addition, the Republic of Croatian Embassy and Consulates in the US are supporting the US importers.

For a full list of participating organizations, visit https://www.facebook.com/internationalplavacmaliday.   

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.
  • For more on lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Friday, 18 September 2020

Six of the Best! Croatian Protected Produce On Sale in China

September 18, 2020 – Six items of Croatian protected produce are among the 100 European items to go on sale in China

Six items of Croatian protected produce are among the 100 European items to go on sale in China. In a reciprocal deal, 100 Chinese products will also be recognised and recommended on the European market.

34933c5e0f633c5d1e4f45c5b0cd6dc9_XL.jpgDalmatian prosciutto © TZ Vrgorac

Baranja kulen, Dalmatian prosciutto, Drniš prosciutto, Lika potatoes, Dingač wine and Neretva mandarins are the premium six Croatian protected produce chosen to be among the European 100. All of the Croatian protected produce is already recognised at a national and at an EU-level and designated its status based on its unique place of origin.

Dingač.jpgDingač wine © Silverije

339ed3435d099dd0a91c267af376e8f0_XL.jpgNeretva Mandarins

The European products will be specially marked and receive special privileges when they go on sale in China. Alongside the Croatian protected produce, other items on the European list are French champagne, Greek feta cheese, Italian Parma prosciutto, Italian mozzarella, Irish whiskey and Portuguese port. On the Chinese list of products are distinct varieties of rice, bean and vegetable products, some of which will already be popular with Europeans who eat or cook Chinese cuisine.

_DSC5737_DxO.jpgDrniš prosciutto © Tourist Board of Drniš

The full list of Croatian produce protected at an EU-level currently includes Istrian olive oil, Dalmatian prosciutto, Pag cheese, Lika lamb, Poljički Soparnik, Zagorje turkey, Korčula olive oil, Istrian prosciutto, Sour cabbage from Ogulin, Neretva mandarins, Slavonian honey, Drniš prosciutto, Cres olive oil, Pag salt, Baranja kulen, Bjelovarski kvargl, Varaždin cabbage, Pag lamb, Šolta olive oil, Meso 'z tiblice, Zagorje mlinci, Krk prosciutto, Lika potatoes, Slavonian kulen, Krk olive oil.

MK4_5082.jpegBaranja kulen, featured within a traditional Slavonian platter © Romulić & Stojčić

b9def02b6d20f4f0adb6e889f99af491_XL.jpgLika Potatoes

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Sunday, 9 August 2020

Croatia Wine: ”Every Visit Is A Voyage Of Discovery”

August 9, 2020 - Meet Marc Hough, a former international DJ who became a wine importer after visiting Dubrovnik and trying Croatia wine. In 2020, he returns for his 20th summer.

Situated in the north of England, about halfway up the island called Great Britain, the city of Manchester is famous for its football and music. Mancunians are proud of this. Two members of TCN are from the city, and when someone local asks “Odakle si?”, usually we say “Ja sam iz Manchestera” (I am from Manchester). We don't say "I'm from England" or "Great Britain". Everyone knows where Manchester is.

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Marc Hough, a former international DJ. His passion for the Plavac he discovered in Dubrovnik turned him into a wine merchant.

20 years ago, Marc Hough was a high profile member of Manchester's famous music scene. He counts members of bands like The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays as close personal friends. As longstanding DJ to New Order (the band that was once Joy Division), he toured the world playing the music of Manchester to many. But, no more.

“I reached the age of 40 in 2010 and thought, what am I doing with my life?” Hough told TCN over the phone, as he was preparing for a trip Dubrovnik. “DJing and the music business is a young man's game.”

And so, inspired by an enthusiasm for Croatia wine, he turned his back on a high profile DJ career and became a wine bar owner and wine merchant.

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One of Marc's 'Cork Of The North' wine bars / stores near Manchester © Cork Of The North

“When I started, I was literally just selling wine out of the back of my car. I only had five customers and three of those were my dad, my brother and me!” remembers Marc, who has built his independent business considerably since then. He is now a wholesaler, recommending and selling wines to top bars and restaurants in the north of England. He has also opened two of his own wine bars 'Cork Of The North' (which are also wine shops), in Sale and Heaton Moor, near Manchester.

“Croatia plays such a big part in the story,” stresses Marc. “I've been visiting Dubrovnik for over 20 years. I had a friend from there who I met in Manchester. She came to live here for a while to escape the war. After it finished, she went home, invited me to Dubrovnik and I just fell in love with the place.”

“There was a wine bar in the Old Town called D'Vino, run by a half Croatian half Australian guy called Saša. After I saw what he was doing there with Croatia wine, I thought that's exactly the kind of place I'd like to have in Manchester.”

Already passionate about wine thanks to his grandad, that first trip to Dubrovnik made Marc curious to return. On his next visit to Croatia, he travelled further than just the Pearl of the Adriatic and went to the source of some Croatia wine itself.

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Part of the Pelješac peninsula, which features heavily in Marc's 20-year affair with Croatia wine © Anto

“I came back on a sailing holiday with Bernard Sumner (guitarist of Joy Divison and singer of New Order),” Marc recalls. “He loves sailing and he has his own boat. We went all round Pelješac, Korčula, Brač. I fell in love with Dingač. Since then, I've travelled all of Dalmatia and through Istria learning about the wines. I've been to Bosnia to try their varieties like Vranac. But, for me, the most recent, amazing discovery has been Slavonia. They make some incredible white wines there; Graševina, Cabernet Franc, Traminac.”

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New Order, the band that was once Joy Division. Marc Hough toured the world as their DJ © RL GNZLZ

“For me, it's always half holiday, half work,” Marc tells us, as he packs for his 20th annual trip to Dubrovnik, which begins on Sunday 11 August. “Amazing views, amazing people, amazing food and amazing wine. But, the wine always inspires thoughts of work. I can't help myself. I love visiting the vineyards, meeting the winemakers. It's not the same as when you do it in other countries. In Croatia, you'll often be invited into the kitchen or onto the terrace of the winemaker's home. You'll leave with arms full of different bottles - some gifted - and you can even be sold fine wine unceremoniously in a plastic bottle. I love that informal, homemade feel of the experience. It's charming and honest. When I go on buying trips in France, Spain and Italy, it's rarely like that.”

Dubrovnik's tourist season has this year stalled in response to COVID-19. Its visitors' reliance on charter air and cruise ships has proved inflexible. Yet, a little further up the coast, in Makarska and Omiš, the city centres are now full of families who drive to these places every year. Dubrovnik's offer is more once-in-a-lifetime, less loyalty. Unless, of course, it's the wines and not the walls that call you to Dubrovnik.

“It's inevitable that I'll find something new that I want to bring back with me,” Marc says of his impending trip. “Every visit is a voyage of discovery. This time, although I'll again be based around Dubrovnik, I'm determined to go to Slavonia to look at some Graševina and Cabernet Franc, which thrives in the terroir there.”

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Marc Hough with just one of his famous friends from the Manchester music scene. Bez, of the band Happy Mondays, is now a customer at Cork Of The North © Cork Of The North

“I wanted to start importing Croatia wines years ago but, for someone at my level, it was so difficult before Croatia became a full member of the EU. Tariffs were payable on the borders and if you wanted to move wines from south Dalmatia - Dubrovnik and the islands - you'd have to go through the border with Bosnia. I lost several whole shipments to the Bosnian police, who said my paperwork was incorrect (it wasn't). It's much better these days. But, there's still very little Croatian wine in the UK, even though the interest in Croatia wine is massive. There's a big demand from people who are really passionate about wine, but also people who come back from holiday, have enjoyed Croatian wine, go searching for it, and just can't find it.”

Cork Of The North varies its selection of fine wines throughout the year. At the moment, Marc stocks Kozlović Teran and Kozlović Malvasia from Istria and Septem Pontes Plavac Mali from Pelješac.

“For an independent like me, I buy an export pallet for each wine I want to bring back. That's 600 bottles of each wine.,” he says, “and as my own personal passion right now is for Graševina, I expect at least one of those to be filled with Slavonian wine on this trip.”

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Marc Hough on one of his Croatia wine buying excursions

Monday, 1 August 2016

The Indigenous Grapes of Croatia: Plavac Mali

Continuing TCN's look at the indigenous grape varieties of Croatia on August 1, 2016, the pride of Dalmatia - Plavac Mali.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Hvar Wine Featured in Best Dutch Restaurant

Carić Winery Plovac Ploški from Hvar featured in best restaurant in Holland. Three Michelin starred De Librije even created a special menu item to match the big Croatian red.

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