Croatian wine, made in Japan?
As crazy as the concept sounds, serious plans are underway to make it happen, just one of a number of strengthening ties between the two countries, as Japanese tourists slowly discover the magic of Croatia.
Next month sees the fourth Tuna. Sushi and Wine Festival in Zadar, an event which is growing in popularity and importance each year, but the Japanese - Zadar connection is yielding an altogether more ambitious project - Plavac Mali (and other Croatian varieties), grown and produced in Japan!
Zeljko Suhadolnik has already reported on the background to the story for us on Total Croatia Wine a few months ago, of how a group of Japanese businessmen have fallen in love with Croatian wine and came up with the plan to plant Plavac Mali on Goto Island, on an estate owend by one of the businessmen. The Japanese entrepreneurs have formed a close relationship with Royal Vineyards, near Zadar, where manager Zoran Pantalon is helping with the project, and his schoolfriend, Edi Maletic, from the Zagreb Agronomics Faculty has just made his third trip to Japan on behalf of the project.
Included in the project are the non-profit organisation, Japan Croatia Exchange Association NOP JCEA, who also coordinate the Japanese end of the Zadar Tuna, Sushi and Wine Festival, Pete and Punta Scala from Royal Vineyards, the Agricultural University of Zagreb and Memolead Group from Nagasaki, as well as several committed volunteers.
The project started with a love of Croatian wine two years ago, when the Japanese businessmen started to import Croatian wines into Japan. It is an expensive process and, during a visit to the veinyards on Goto by the owner of Royal Vineyards, the suggestion was made to perhaps grow the grapes in Japan and produce the wine under a Japanese label. Professor Maletic was invited to visit to give his opinion, and now he is there on his third visit.
It will not be easy, but the team is very committed and determined. Japan has strict quarantine laws which last a year, and then the decision will be made to focus on Goto or another vineyard near Nagasaki.
The Japanese climate is also providing its own challenges. Summer humidity gets up to 90%, with hot nights over 30C, followed by a long rainy season without much sun.
But the team is determined...
We wish them well and will follow their progress. In the meantime, for a little wine, sushi, tuna and Japanese - Croatian cultural exchange, why not head to Zadar for this year's tuna, sushi and wine festival?