For the first time town of Rijeka hosted an international wine event in its historic Governer’s Palace. An enjoyable event gathered over 70 wine makers on February 22 and 23 to somewhat uncharted territory of wine exploration in the third Croatian largest city and the country’s major sea port.
B2B meetings, lectures, workshops, and not to forget the WTF – Wine Tasting Fest, of course – party in the “Bačva” club and Wine&Coffee Bar “Kod Zajca” adorned the oeno-gastro event with participation of Par Business School, several Croatian counties and cities, tourist organisations and high-level officials.
The grand palace of Rijeka’s history was too small for such a big number of exhibitors and guests looking to try some new stuff and recollect the old wine love. Our own grand tour of the palace began in the atrium, where some of the most famous Croatian wine makers were present. As it was expected in the end of Carnival season, the wine makers and their friends were greeted by the bell ringers.
The entry point occupied Curo distribution, the Jarbola Association with a specific wine story of authentic Zvoneće wine, and Krk’s favourite Ivan Katunar whose žlahtina and chardonnay are nationally famous. Going clockwise, Katunar’s neighbour in clifftop town of Vrbnik is Gospoja wine hotel, a boutique hotel of local traditional architecture and indeed an enjoyable place to spend your wine holiday. Local Rijeka’s pride is LikeRi, a liqueur home of lemon and mint, and aronia liqueur, but special varieties include the white wine Žlahtina’s liqueur and especially interesting cannabis brandy MamyJuana.
This local introduction to the Kvarner wines included also other members of Žlahtina Association, named after famed golden island Krk and Vinodol Wine, which include prize winning Pavlomir Winery (where old traditions of wine growing have been renewed), Šipun Winery, House of Wine Ivan Katunar, Agricultural Association Vrbnik, and Nada Winery (that includes beautiful restaurant), all based in Vrbnik, centre of wine production on largest Croatian Adriatic island. Next to the littoral, the home county also proudly presented excellent and unique story of Vid Arbanas from Gorski Kotar, with his splendid brandies made from handpicked herbs and roots.
Slavonia was overwhelmingly presented at this fair. Slavonia has excellent conditions for winegrowing and winemaking. In the past, the wines of Slavonia were often found on the tables of emperors and noblemen and it is this tradition that the present Slavonian vineyards derive from: Srijem, Baranja and Đakovo in the east and Kutjevo in the west of Slavonia.
The atrium featured excellent Slavonian wineries, Galić from Velika (with standard but top wines from this terroir); Belje wines which proudly presented its “Danube Prince” Graševina that is awarded with numerous praises; and Pinkert from the Baranja’s Kneževi Vinogradi, more than a century old vineyard where Frankovka, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Graševina give the best from the land bounded by two rivers, Drava and Danube. Here is also Trs Winery from Ilok, the easternmost Croatian town, which is an agricultural community that produces “eight jewels of the Srijem terroir” (Graševina, Rhein Riesling, Chardonnay, Traminer, Frankovka, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Franka). The same wine area is home to the Krešić Winery from Šarengrad near Vukovar.
Buhač from Ilok further accentuated the red wines of Slavonia, while Krauthaker, Perak, Mitrović, and Tandara present the legendary wine territory of Kutjevo, wine growing area known from Roman times to the Templar Knights, monastic orders, right to the present day, giving an enduring name of Vallis Auera – the Golden Valley. Iuris Winery from Dalj is yet another example of ever greater tradition of Slavonian wines. This tradition is well known in the Feravino, which inherits two hundred years of tradition of wine making in Ferinčanci region. Wines from Erdut is another Slavonian brand, especially considering the white wines. Vitis Josipović is a great choice for anyone into the sparkling wines.
From Pleternica arrives Vina Markota, a rather unknown winery but with a very nice story of wine-and-rose, which the family cultivates together while offering classic Slavonian white and red wines. Also from Baranja one should try Kusić, Szabo, and Dobrovac wines. Ever growing demand is for the Slavonian red wines, which have great possibilities, such as the line of red wines from Papak Winery. This trend notwithstanding, white wines still make majority of Slavonian offer, such as the beautiful wines from Agricultural Association Orahovica which also grows hazelnuts and freshwater fish. Many Slavonian family homesteads now combine wine growing with additional agricultural business; one of these is Glavaš from Bizovac which also makes excellent semi-hard cow cheese.
Second most presented Croatian region was Istria. Wine has become a must in Istria. Naturally, times have changed, and recently, wine is not so important for the economic prosperity of this region; however, it strongly accounts for the development of a unique Istrian identity.
Noble presenters of Istrian heritage included north-western Istrian wine celebrities such as Prelac from Momjan, Savudrija’s Degrassi, Umag’s Monte Rosso, Buje’s Franković and Kabola; and Moreno Ivančić from Novigrad. This Istrian area is among the most developed wine area in Croatia. Malvasia, Teran, and Muscat grow beautifully here, and wine makers care for the heritage of local viticulture.
Poreč terroir was presented by Banko Winery, which also produces olive oil, while other Central Istrian Wineries were presented by family Deklić which will in 2020 celebrate a centenary of its existence; Legovina from Kaštelir with its beautiful Malvasias; Poletti, where six generations care for the viticulture; Vicinim, where you can also try donkey milk and meat; and sparkling wine producer Peršurić Misal from Višnjan; Pilato and Franc Arman from Vižinada. From Gračišće arrives a newbie Domaine Koquelicot, which produces French style burgundy wines, in a unique and still untested mix of Istria and France.
Medea was a wine emissary from Southern Istria, delivering its “passionate wines”, while from Eastern Istria comes Licul Romeo. A very special Istrian representative is Buzet’s Aura, the house of exclusive Istrian brandies.
Other regions were rather scarcly presented. From Dalmatia came only Skaramuča from Pelješac, giving a pleasure of tasting famous Dingač, while Kopjar from Budinšćina extinguished Zagorje eco-wine with Sauvignon Blanc, Rhein Riesling, and Pinot Noir. Kos-Jurišić winery from Donja Zelina presented the Zelina terroir near Zagreb.
As Slavonia was in the centre of interest on this festival, it is only natural to learn more about palates going along rich red wines and gentle whites of this historical Croatian region.
We await for this noble wine gathering to become a tradition in the European Culture Capital 2020, in the Port of Diversity.