When exploring the wines of the region, these true wine enthusiasts, the young American-Singaporean couple, Charine Tan and Matthew Horkey, decided to stay in Croatia a bit longer than planned and to issue their second book, with an interesting title 'Cracking Croatian Wine: A Visitor- Friendly Guide'. This book is a practical guide for all wine lovers. It has been highlighted that many wine lovers often face time constraints when visiting a certain country and need to spend more time (which they often don’t have) to explore everything about the country's wines and authentic sorts.
We talked with them briefly about the wine industry in Croatia, their plans and experiences.
What has brought you to Croatia?
In 2016, we wanted to cover the ex-Yugoslavian countries as part of our world travel through the lesser-known wine regions. As lovers of nature, gastronomy, and culture, Croatia has always been appealing to us with its swathes of coastline, traditional recipes, fresh seafood, numerous indigenous wine grapes, and heterogeneous society. Before we made our way to Croatia, we saw a few programs that made us particularly excited about the country. Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations: Coastal Croatia and a few episodes of Gary Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library TV presented Croatian wine in such a charming way. In the end, we spent one out of the three months we set aside for our ex-Yugoslavia tour in Croatia. We fell in love with the views, cuisine, wine, and most importantly, the people. Since our first trip, we've spent a total of nine months in Croatia. With all the knowledge and love for Croatia, we felt we had to channel all that energy somewhere. Hence, Cracking Croatian Wine was born.
In one of your interviews, you mentioned our last year's associate, Cliff Rames, who significantly contributed in promoting Croatian wines, especially in the USA. How much influence did he have on you to start exploring Croatian wines?
Cliff has helped us a lot. His website basically set the foundation of our initial research. Without his work, we might have had to spend another month or so in Croatia to get the legwork done. Also, let's not forget that he was featured on Gary Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library TV! He brought Croatian wine onto THE show--that's really cool. The producers featured in the show, like Zlatan Otok and Clai, were the first few that we visited.
The guide was published in August. What are the first impressions? Have you got any feedback? Have you got any comments from wine critics and sommeliers?
Our books are meant to be practical. They are not pretty coffee-table books or fine literature where the reader would chew on every word and ruminate. Instead, they are meant to be a cross between Lonely Planet's travel guides and Karen MacNeil's The Wine Bible: informative, handy, smart but never snobbish, and cater to wine lovers of all levels. We've received excellent testimonials and reviews from people in the business and visitors of Croatia. You can see some of the testimonials and reviews here: http://exoticwinetravel.com/cracking-croatian-wine-guide
Based on their feedback, I think we've achieved our objectives. We received quite a number of emails and messages from sommeliers, wine writers, wine importers and wine lovers who used our book when they were in Croatia.
What are your favorite wine regions in Croatia?
We've found vinous gems, exciting stories, heartwarming experiences, and the loveliest people in all the regions. It's not possible for us to say what's our favorite. But what surprised us the most during our research was Plešivica. It's about 30 kilometers southwest of Zagreb yet we've met so many wine-loving locals living in the capital city that haven't visited Plešivica. The views there remind us of Barolo in Italy. And some of the best wines of Croatia are born there as well. Oh yes, let's not forget the krvavica (smoked blood sausage) of Plešivica; it makes us want to spend every winter in Croatia.
You visited more than 40 countries and explored numerous wine regions. Compared to other countries, what are you impressed by the most in Croatia?
Croatia has a long tradition of winemaking and over 130 indigenous grape varieties. Many of those have unparalleled clonal heritage. The vineyards are located in some of the most beautiful places on earth. With a multitude of microclimates and soil types, coupled with the many autochthonous grapes that remain unknown to wine lovers outside the country, Croatian wines offer distinctive qualities that can amaze both casual and experienced drinkers. Sparkling wine, dry red, dry white, botrytized dry wine, sweet wine, and ice wine, Croatia can produce all that.
What do you expect from Croatian wine industry in the future?
Maybe not what we expect but what we hope to see? A constant increase in quality at a rapid pace. More indigenous varieties being made into wines in commercial production. More wine associations and groups that are able to bring together individual producers and work on marketing, branding, quality control as an entity. More market sensibility in pricing. A stronger presence on the international market. Better segmentation and targeting of market niches.
Future plans? Currently, you're in Belgrade?
We're heading to Sardinia next week to judge at the National Enological Competition for Vermentino. Thereafter, we will spend a few more days to learn more about the wines from Sardinia. Even though Italy is an established wine country, there are still many lesser-known wine regions in the country. That means there's a lot of work for us to do all over the world!
In November, we're doing a preliminary research on the wines of Hungary and we'll be there for a month. We're also spending some time in Slovakia in December to attend the Furmint Forum and learn more about Slovakian wines. Next year, we aim to explore Uruguay. To be honest, we're trying to cut down on our plans for exploring new wine countries, so we will have more time to deep dive into the places that we already know very well and publish books about them! We'll most likely work on a wine travel book about Serbia, Cyprus, or Mexico next year.
Will we see you again in Croatia?
Absolutely. We'll be back in Zagreb in November 2017 for VinoCom, and we hope to attend Dubrovnik FestiWine next year. We are also planning to do a book tour all around Croatia in 2018. That will be fun and a good time to meet up with our readers and fellow wine lovers.