I have to admit I started out for Zadar, for the wine festival held on March 24 and 25, with the idea it will be yet another local festival more resembling a fair and with a ton of organizational problems. Such an opinion is unfortunately a result of trips to wine manifestation in the past 15 years, but at the G.E.T. Report we aim to give everyone a chance and be convinced ourselves in what reality is, instead of writing from a chair and downloading info from the internet.
Before the trip we asked winemakers how the previous one, first one to be precise, Zadar Wine Festival was and most answers fell under the common denominator – it was good. Who are the organizers? – was my next question. They are two young guys, they have restaurants and now they want a festival, they are not quite from the wine world. This got me seriously interested – I have to see this, not something that happens everyday.
With a serious amount of curiosity, we arrived to Zadar and the Zadar Wine Festival…
The space: Arsenal hall. If there is a better space than Lauba in this country, in terms of wine events, then it is the Arsenal. Fantastic Dalmatian architecture, all full of stone, but also windows, lots of light. The hall has two levels, visually connected (the upper is a gallery), so it all blends into one experience. The high ceiling enables plenty of air, so it wasn’t stuffy at any point. The space itself – fantastic. Arsenal is a monument of the highest category, built in the 16th century during the Venetian administration as a warehouse for the naval fleet. It is close to city walls and the Muraj promenade, on the Three Wells Square, quite close to the Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun installations. A multifunctional space of 1,800 m2 is today part of the Ilirija Company as a cultural and conference center with unique conditions for various events.
The festival itself: very well envisioned. Tables are set relatively wide apart, but not for the lack of presenters, but to allow them enough room – to avoid bunching around tables and overcrowding already with 2-3 guests. The idea here was to give winemakers enough working space and they succeeded. As the organizers say, there is room for a few presenters more, but when they reach the limit, they will not reduce individual spaces to fit more. There is enough room for the visitors to pass too, so we don’t have to rub shoulders, but can truly enjoy wine. Every detail was taken care of, uniformity of tables, spit buckets, large enough ice buckets, with plenty of ice… Even the small snacks on tables were not regular bread, but small pastries; the idea is excellent.
The staff is well-mannered, discrete, available all round, they were not in the way of anyone – quick and efficient. Yes, a lot of details were taken care of. The setup of the festival and colors of equipment were made for the entire scene to blend in with the space, as if they all belong right where they are.
Visitors: at first glance, not a lot of them, but that glance is deceiving.
Firstly, the space is much wider than at other festivals so it seemed there were less people, which is not true. Secondly, there were no mass waves, but visitors kept constantly dripping. And what is most important, most of the visitors were professionals – caterers or sommeliers – say the winemakers themselves. Almost all winemakers arranged a deal. Well, that’s fantastic! This festival has gone farther than any in the B2B variant. They managed what many aspire to, brining professionals to the festival. Hats off! How did they manage it? We will write about this next year, when we are convinced it was not an accident.
The workshops were quite good. They were all led by Mario Meštrović and of course done superiorly. As usual, they were well visited, not surprising considering the visitor profile, and I would single out the one about the Škrlet variety, as Škrlets found many admirers in Zadar.
A special note and a very good one for the festival came from live music. I was a bit unsure how that would turn out, but the band choice and position in the hall turned out fantastic; a true music background. Just enough to pause for a second, sing a note and move on. Absolutely commendable.
Presenters came from all around Croatia, with a smaller number of foreigners. There were many winemakers from Plešivica and Moslavina. Istria was quite well represented. Winemakers from the south of Dalmatia were not abundant, but still present. Quite a nice dissection of the Croatian wine scene. I will not get into listing all those who were there, not to leave anyone out, but let’s say I spent most of my time with Zdjelarević and Tomaz, whom I admire specially. Of course, one cannot pass up tasting sparklings from Kolarić and Kurtalj and Barundić, but I must say I was surprised by the Kezele winery sparkling; we’ll have to stop by and check him out. We also visited the Peraks and Deklićs… Yeah, I fell into that trap… I should list all presenters, but no room for that. I only regret not tasting wines from Krauthaker, but the constant crowd kept us waiting for a better moment and in the end it never came.
In the end… An extraordinary story, a festival which surprised me quite pleasantly. In every way. Without exaggeration it belongs among the very top of wine festivals in Croatia. I already look forward to the next one. And what I need to stress – my journalist colleagues, this festival deserves more of your attention.
Yes, yes, I know what you’ll say, I owe part of the story; the one about the organizers.
They are Danijel Peroš and Ivan Stiblik. Danijel owns two restaurants in Zadar – Groppo and hedonist, and Ivan is the manager and sommelier in Groppo. These men are so good and reserved it’s a wonder. We have eaten in Groppo and the restaurant is excellent; it is evident they know what they want and what they’re doing. But a bigger story on them, as well as the restaurants, will come in the future, as we will certainly be back in Zadar to do a major story on them.
Translated from the G.E.T. Report, for the original click here.