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article imageDalmacija Wine Expo 2014: Interview with organiser Zoran Paunovic Special

By Paul Bradbury     Apr 22, 2014 in Travel
Split - Croatian wine is on the rise, and this year's Dalmacija Wine Expo will take place in Split for the first time. An interview with organiser Zoran Paunovic.
As Croatian wine continues to make impressive strides on the international scene, so too are its winemakers getting more organised, with this year's Dalmacija Wine Expo moving to a more central stage. Digital Journal went to meet Zoran Paunovic, one of the event organisers, on April 22, 2014.
The main part of Dalmacija Wine Expo will this year take part in Split on April 24-26, before reconvening at its original home in Makarska on May 1.
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.
1. Dalmacija Wine Expo is coming to Split for the first time, an exciting development. Tell us more.
After a very successful start in Makarska, we decided to split the festival this year, in order to enhance business engagement. As the capital of Dalmatia, Split is a bigger destination, and there is bigger demand foe wine here. Unlike most other wine festivals, we have divided the business time from the general public, and the expo will be open only to business contacts from 11:00 - 15:00, with the doors opening for the general public from 15:00.
We will continue our excellent relationship with Makarska by hosting a more fun event on May 1, where there will be 22-25 winemakers present, selling their wines directly on an evening of fun, which will include concerts and an attempt to enter the Guinness Book of Records by organising the longest line of people clinking glasses and saying 'Cheers' - the current record is about 1300 people.
Steep terraced vineyards are typical in Dalmatia.
Steep terraced vineyards are typical in Dalmatia.
Dalmacija Wine Expo
2. The expo is now regarded as one of the most important in the region. How did it come about?
Dalmatia is a region with a fine wine tradition and rich potential, but when we started in 2010, there was no serious wine festival in the region, and so we decided to start on a road to develop Dalmatia's wine potential, to realise our vision and to develop and evolve the wine industry. There is much to do, but we have made a solid start.
3. Croatian wines are attracting increasing attention on the international scene. What makes Croatian wine stand out from the rest in your opinion?
Croatia is a small territory with huge variation in terms of its vineyards and terroir. It also has an astonishing number of indigenous grape varieties, many of which are not known outside the country. Strong reds from Dalmatia are contrasted with more acidic wines in continental Croatia.
In addition to this, many international varieties are now being planted in Croatia, whose combination with the terroir is producing great results. The potential for Croatian wines is huge, but we need more marketing.
The sandy vineyards of Lumbarda on Korcula  where Grk is produced.
The sandy vineyards of Lumbarda on Korcula, where Grk is produced.
Dusan Jelic
4. EU entry supposedly brought new opportunities and markets to Croatia's winemakers. What is the situation now?
EU entry has brought opportunities and threats. Many winemakers were not ready for the changes and enjoyed previous state protection, whereas now there is competition from cheap New World wines. Winemakers in Croatia tend to have smaller plots, and so competitiveness is a problem. High quality producers will survive, which is why it is essential to invest in quality.
Croatian wines are increasingly finding their way to top international destinations  such as New Yor...
Croatian wines are increasingly finding their way to top international destinations, such as New York City.
Ivana Krstulovic Caric
5. Croatia has an astonishing array of indigenous grape varieties, which are unfamiliar to many wine connoisseurs. Tell us about 3-4 varieties to look out for and why.
It is indeed a country rich in indigenous varieties, many of exceptional quality. Not so many people know that the origins of Zinfandel, for example, are in Dalmatia.
Varieties to look out for include the pride of Dalmatian reds and a Zinfandel relative, Plavac Mali; Posip, a white wine whose most famous vineyards are on the island of Korcula, as is Grk, whose small quantities are grown on sandy soil. Other interesting varieties include Kujundjusa from the Imotski region and Dobricic from Solta. A very large mix.
Steep terraced vineyards are typical in Dalmatia.
Steep terraced vineyards are typical in Dalmatia.
Dalmacija Wine Expo
6. Dalmatia has huge potential as a gastro destination to rival Italy and Spain, and yet there is currently no Wine Road of Dalmatia. Are there any plans for this?
It is true that things go slower here in Dalmatia. It is due to the mentality of the people, who can be very stubborn. I can say this because I am Dalmatian. Being stubborn is good and bad. Everything will come in time, slowly (or 'polako' as we say here), and I would expect the emergence of wine roads in the near future - perhaps one to three years - certainly on Peljesac, but also maybe on islands such as Hvar and Brac.
Dalmacija Wine Expo opens on April 24 at Hotel Radisson Blu in Split. To see the full programme, click here.
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