However, the festival is an excellent story taking place in the Governor’s Palace, the Naval and History Museum of the Croatian Primorje in the very heart of Rijeka, a wonderful building made for such events.
As for wine stories, Rijeka itself and Kvarner are often neglected. Probably because we view Krk wine region as a separate whole, and across the Učka Mountain is Istria, another story. This is why Rijeka is an ideal town for a wine festival. It is at sea and tied to tourism, but many small places are bound to Rijeka which have exceptionally strong gastronomy, which is interesting to winemakers. This includes Crikvenica, Opatija, Lovran, Mošćenićka draga and so on. Proving this, at this year’s festival you could have met Časlav Matijević, Karin Mimica and of course Dantes Begić and so on – all of them work in eno-gastronomy across Croatia, but are nominally tied to Rijeka.
The fact that town authorities realized the potential of such a manifestation is of course important, giving it full support as it raises Rijeka further culturally.
I did not inquire of the precise number of exhibitors, but there were more than 80, quite enough for this space; if there had been more, I’m afraid it would have been crowded. It is interesting they came from all over Croatia and beyond, which confirms my thesis that Rijeka is an interesting area for winemakers.
The organization of the festival was more than good – from the fact that every table had cubes of cheese and bread (constantly refilled, which is not often the case), more than enough ice so that wines were properly cooled, staff was speedy, smiling and unobtrusive, nearly perfect… The decoration was like in most festivals; this area awaits new ideas and upgrades. Special commendation to the live band – an excellent musical choice without being bothering anyone; nearly unnoticeable, but perfectly audible.
Personally, I was most impressed that this festival has that ‘something’ – a positive vibe, which is important. This ingredient cannot be bought with money and cannot be created by force – this simply happens and makes the difference from event to event. People understand if you are doing something honest and with passion or are just looking for profits. If you do it honestly, then you build a following; the story expands and slowly grows into something big. I believe this Rijeka story will go in that direction. Of course, no need to stress the audience was full of experts, caterers, sommeliers, giving additional credibility to the manifestation.
Singling out and listing individual winemakers makes no sense. The festival is simply that good that you must visit it. What I would single out is OPG Zlatkov (Tramontana Wood Craft) – Igor Zlatkov truly makes masterpieces; his prosciutto holders and other products he makes from wood are truly remarkable. As he is from Cres Island, he is slowly becoming a truly recognizable brand of this area. I hope some other people will realize this and help him to become a regional brand.
If you thought this festival did not have an educational component… well, you were wrong! The workshops taking place during the festival saw presentations from indigenous wine producers from Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, Ilok Cellars winery and Kutjevo winery. At one of them the Požega-Slavonia County presented their new tourism offer, with the county tourism board director Maja Jakobović Vukušić inviting Rijeka residents and guests to visit the Golden Slavonia Days of Taste in the first week of May.
WineRi also has a humanitarian character. This year’s partner association if the Istrian “Hoću-Mogu,” which brings together parents of children with development difficulties.
It is important to mention this festival is not only two festival days, but a line of manifestations mostly taking place ahead of the festival – WineRi Štajun, WineRi Šetemana and WineRi WTF party.
Rijeka, see you next year!
Translated from the G.E.T. Report, for the original click here.