Today, on 13th April, 2012, the international festival of wine and gastronomy "Zagreb Wine Gourmet Weekend" started in the premises of the Croatian Academy Glyptotheque in Zagreb, and it will last until 15th April, 2012. The first festival day showed that wine lovers and enthusiasts, renowned professionals, experts, wine makers and journalists around the world flocked to this event.
At the festival, one can immediately feel organizer's strong intention to turn Zagreb Wine Gourmet Weekend into one of the major wine & gastronomy festivals in this part of Europe.
Considering the number of exhibitors, this Croatian wine festival doesn't look bigger than this year's BeoWineFair 2012 in Belgrade - both events attracted about 120-130 wineries. However, Zagreb Wine Gourmet Weekend brought to one place top stars of the wine world, let's mention just a few of them: Lynne Sherriff, chairwoman of the IMW, Dominic Symington, renowned maker of premium port, David Gates of California's Ridge Vineyards, Dimitris Leivadas of the Fat Duck restaurant, Bernard de Laage de Meux of Chateau Palmer. Regretfully, no Serbian winery presented their wine at this festival. Montenegrin wineries were represented by Plantaže 13. Jul which exhibited their flagship wines Vranac and Vranac Pro Corde. Chateau Kamnik and Bovin wineries presented Macedonian wine-making tradition.
Two interesting panel discussions were held during the first festival day. Panel discussion on Eno-Gastro Media, in other words about the present and future of eno-gastro journalism, brought together journalists/editors of renowned Decanter as well as Croatian eno-gastronomic magazine Iće & Piće and Hungarian magazine VinCE. The discussion led us to a conclusion that Croatia, Russia and Hungary are similar to Serbia, since in all these countries wine culture has been flourishing in recent years.Participants in the panel discussion noted that in these markets, an average wine lover who reads wine magazines is aged 25-40, which means that young people start discovering the world of wine early, so they have enough time to learn and develop their knowledge of wine.
At the second panel discussion, marketing experts presented their project on branding wines of Croatia, Argentina and South Africa. What Serbian wine-makers still need to grasp is currently underway in Croatia as brand building project "Vino Croatia" run by Tony Hodges and his company "Brand Story". Small and big wine producers, public & private sector, journalists and wine writers were all involved in a project initiated by the Association of Croatian wine-makers, Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Croatia and "Brand Story" company. All of them have finally united to make Croatia a recognizable wine destination characterized by high-quality wines. Until recently, the main obstacle to implementation of such a project has been fragmentation and disunity of vinegrowers and wine-makers and their unwillingness to unite for the common goal.
In exports, Croatian wine makers face similar challenges like our wine-makers in Serbia: insufficiently recognizable wines characterized by high prices and unstable quality, indigenous grape varieties which are difficult to pronounce for West European wine consumers. However, all participants in the panel discussion agreed that the first and the most important step is to motivate wineries to unite, and then this circle of stakeholders should be widened so that everybody works simultaneously towards the same goal. This advice surely applies for Serbian wine-makers as well. And there is no doubt that we will also face the same dilemmas in the future.
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