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article imageAngela Muir MW assesses Croatian wine scene after Zagreb Vinocom Special

By Paul Bradbury     Dec 16, 2014 in Food
Zagreb - One of the world's leading wine experts is just back from a week in Croatia after Zagreb Vinocom. Master of Wine Angela Muir shared her thoughts on the Croatian wine scene.
The emerging Croatian wine scene is continuing to make waves in the international wine community, and a group of international journalists from 18 countries toured the country's vineyards ahead of Zagreb Vinocom last month, a party which included Master of Wine Angela Muir, who spoke to Digital Journal on December 16, 2014, about her trip and wine discoveries therein.
Muir has been a Master of Wine for more than 30 years, one of just over 300 in the world. Her knowledge of the wines of Central and Eastern Europe is second to none, and one of the titles she currently holds is the Regional Chair for Central and Eastern Europe, and Southeast Mediterranean for Decanter. She toured the islands of Brac and Hvar, as well as Imotski with Digital Journal before the Zagreb Vinocom wine fair in the capital, after which she sat down to share her thoughts on the Croatian wine scene in 2014.
The Grabovac family  true pioneers of wine production in the Imotski region. Brothers Nikola and Mil...
The Grabovac family, true pioneers of wine production in the Imotski region. Brothers Nikola and Milan on the left, father Ante, and winemaker cousin Mislav Marsic.
G.E.T. Report
1. You have been covering the obscure vineyards of Central and Eastern Europe for more than 30 years. What excites you about the Croatian wine scene in 2014?
The dynamism and optimism of so many of the producers. The rate of change. It has speeded up in the last decade especially, and that trend looks set for the foreseeable future. The extraordinary wealth of indigenous grape varieties, some potentially able to give great wines and some more appropriate for more everyday drinking, but all offering a massive broadening of the spectrum of flavour.
The award-winning Stina labels  which consist of a blank  stone canvas with embossed wine name.
The award-winning Stina labels, which consist of a blank, stone canvas with embossed wine name.
Ana Rogac
2. Croatia has a wealth of indigenous grape varieties which are getting experts excited. Which are the varieties to watch out for in your opinion, and why?
The ones that give wines with really concentrated flavours and the ability to keep and develop complexity. We only find out which ones can do that as people learn to make them well. They definitely include Grk, Posip, Parc, the different again Posipel. I’m finally beginning to see some real proof that Plavac Mali will eventually take its place among the greats now that there is an increasing number of wines and styles that are almost or totally free of the dreaded Brettanomyces. These are just a few examples.
Hvar Wine Association president Ivana Krstulovic Caric has been a driving force for promoting the Hv...
Hvar Wine Association president Ivana Krstulovic Caric has been a driving force for promoting the Hvar wine story since becoming president in 2012. Here she presents the island's wines at the Tomic winery in Jelsa.
3. You have vast experience in wines from the region trying to compete in European markets. What are the common mistakes winemakers make trying to access these markets, and what advice do you have for Croatian winemakers to help them succeed?
Most producers tend to have expectations that are way too optimistic. It will be a long, hard slog to become as known and well understood as you deserve to be in markets such as the UK.
Agreeing to appoint an agent/importer is a big decision: you need to pick someone who has the time to hand sell your wines. You need to listen to and understand exactly what they tell you about pricing structures to arrive at retail prices in the importing country. Especially, you need to understand what segment of the importing market your wine will be competing against. Once you are out of your own milieu (all of former Yugoslavia and not just Croatia), your competition is every other wine in the world.
If a winery could wine an award for location  there would be few to beat the Jako Vino winery on the...
If a winery could wine an award for location, there would be few to beat the Jako Vino winery on the fabled waterfront in Bol on the island of Brac.
Finally, you need to know that your wine is not sold until the consumer (NOT the importer) voluntarily buys the second bottle after tasting the first one. You won’t be there to help them make that decision. Your wine: how it looks and how it tastes, is your ambassador. How can you help your agent sell it through.
4. Do you think EU entry is a bigger opportunity or threat for Croatia's winemakers, and why?
Of course it’s an opportunity. More people will become familiar with your country and its culture and that, ultimately, is what will establish the expansion of your market.
The new organic Plavac Mali vineyards of Andro Tomic on Hvar  voted the best in Central Dalmatia for...
The new organic Plavac Mali vineyards of Andro Tomic on Hvar, voted the best in Central Dalmatia for 2013.
Bastijana
5. What were the big discoveries of Zagreb Vinocom? Winemakers to watch? Individual wines which particularly impressed?
Here’s a few at random (let’s not forget a couple of particular stars from the earlier trip round: Stina and Grabovac); Pjenusci Istenic Sparkling wine especially the Pinot Noir rose 2006; a charming Manzoni from Vinarija Safran, Tomac@ pjenusac Diplomat (and another interesting grape Jute Plavac…blends so well with Chardonnay); Sember’s 3 week macerated Rhein Riesling 2011; a complete lesson in macerated white wine making from Dubokovic whose 1999 macerated Marastina was the most astonishing wine I tasted; an interesting change of pace from Korta Katarina throughout their range (whose Posip 2013 was later to provide a superb food and wine match with some excellent grilled hake); Vinarija Jokic’s Posip and red Cuvee; the same two wines from Degarra (their cuvee: Bonterra 2013); Rizman (including their 2009…not in the programme); Posip p.z. from Korcula: Marco Polo and their Rutakac; Bire…no surprise there; Lipanovic: a huge but whistle-clean Plavac Mali…really showed what this grape has going for it; and then an honourable mention for two non-Croatian companies: some delicious interpretations of Kadarka from Vinarija Tonkovic and a hugely capable range from Chateau Kamnic in Macedonia: their Syrah has really come good.
Another Master of Wine  Jo Ahearne  inspecting freshly picked grapes at the Bastijana winery in Jels...
Another Master of Wine, Jo Ahearne, inspecting freshly picked grapes at the Bastijana winery in Jelsa, as she embarks on her journey of winemaking on Hvar.
Bastijana
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