Escape / November 2018

Connecting with Croatia

The International Festival of Wine and Culinary Art in Zagreb showcased some of Croatia’s best food and wine. By Sari Kusumaningrum

Croatia in Central and Southeastern Europe is a land of many riches. From urban centres filled with squares, parks, churches and more; to forested highlands and low mountains, the country’s physical location allows natural beauty to thrive. Emerging from a particularly tumultuous political period in the early 1990s, Croatia has become a favoured country for tourists and businesses alike. Its vast natural resources and physical beauty have made it an ideal destination for those visiting Europe and those looking to trade. The International Festival of Wine and Culinary Art was held at the stunning Hotel Esplanade in Zagreb in late November. The festival presented 145 wine producers and more than 70 small manufacturers including the country’s best wine and food for visitors to sample and enjoy. I was invited to attend the event by 11˚ Zagreb VINOcom and the Croatian Indonesian Business Council. The organisation has been working on developing trade relations between the two countries. In April this year, there will be a presentation of some of the major Croatian food and wine products at the Food and Hotel Indonesia fair. The event is being held with the support of the Croatian Embassy in Indonesia. Among these products are wine, truffles, olive oil and seafood. WINE A sparkling wine from a Croatian winery was recently named  as one of the best sparkling wines in the world. The Tomac Amfora Sparkling Wine produced by the Tomac winery was recently named as Decanter magazine’s best sparkling wine among 75 contenders. The magazine described it as a bit rustic, with strong and almost burnt caramel and orange aromas and nuances of autumn fruits with vivid acidity. The Tomac family was the first in the world to make a sparkling from amphorae wine. It is a mix of Chardonnay and ten white sorts which were usually planted together on Plešivica before the Second World War, among them Graševina, Green Silvanac, Yellow Plavec, Red and Green Veltliner, Neuburger. The vineyard is a family heirloom and is nearly 80 years old. Badel 1862 is the largest and oldest wines and alcoholic beverages producer in Croatia, continuing and cultivating the rich tradition inherited from the renowned companies Pokorny, Patria, Arko and Badel Vinoprodukt  by the quality of its products. The company  has an exclusive wine line named Collection in addition to its regular wine offer. These are wines from Daruvar, Zelina, Benkovac and Havar and are available in limited quantities and reflect the entire nobility. These wines are distinguished by abundant and deep fragrant taste of fruits, raisins with a touch of noble rot. Badel 1862 stores and cultivates its archive wines, upon their bottling, in cellars where they are tended  in Sv. Kriz Zacretje. In special, ideal conditions in terms of temperature, humidity, they await until they are mature to drink, a gift for true wine connoisseurs. Croatian wines are selected varietal quality wines from Coastal Croatia. The west coast of Istria, the southernmost part of Coastal Croatia is an area suitable for growing numerous Mediterranean varieties. The Bolfan Winery is also well-known in the country and produces some award-winning wines. Bolfan is commited to reach the peak in wine production - completely natural wine.  This is a fresh wine, different mineral and fruity natural aromas, flowery varietal fragrances. Bolfan’s philosophy is that wine is made for personal pleasure, relaxation, dancing, socialising and special moments.

TRUFFLES One of Croatia’s other delights is truffles. In particular Natura Tartufi. A family owned business, spouses Anita and Kvinto Zigante are guards of the Soviscina inspiration and have been providing the world with the inspirational gifts of truffles. The truffles have become a business, love and a way of life in their family as well as the Puh Family. Each product is filled with finely selected raw materials and the love that goes into the production is obvious. Nearly half a century of experience in the truffle business validates the respect for this underground mushroom.

OLIVE OIL In the picturesque Istrian olive groves of the regions of Fažana, Galižana and Peroj, the Belić family initiates the same magic life cycle every year - the cycle from the olive fruit to the olive oil, taking its course with full respect for centuries-old traditions while utilising the latest agricultural techniques and technologies. Carefully selected olive varietals, hand picking of the fruits at the medium stage of ripening, cold-worked pressing within 24 hours, keeping and storing of the oil in air-proof inox barrels, as well as bottling by the strictest technical standards - all synergistically combine to meet the requirements for creating the supreme quality of a signature product Oleum viride. The range of olive oils available are perfect for meats and seafood, cheese, fruit and even ice cream. While Ascolana tenera, Buza, and Casaliva, for example, are best with vegetables, seafood and meats, based on their piqancy, fruity scent and varying degrees of bitterness, Leccino and Istarska Bejelica are perfect to pour over fruit, cake and ice cream which heightens the taste of these dishes. Istarska Bjelica has almond flavours along with wild asparagus and radicchio and is ideal with bittersweet chocolate and hazelnut cake. Leccino has aromatic herbs and the fresh taste goes well with creamy dishes like ice cream, pana cotta and dishes with vanilla undertones.

CHEESE Cheese from sheep’s milk is popular throughout Croatia. Paška sirana is the oldest cheese factory on the island of Pag. It was founded In 1946 as an agriculutural community, a little cheese factory that owned its own heard of sheep. Throughout its history, Paška sirana has withstood various events such as the war and privitasation until 1992 when it became a joint-stock company. From a little agricultural community, today Paška sirana is a modern company that exports to EU countries and the United States. Paška sirana is situated in the town of Pag, on the island of Pag. In 2008. Paška sirana opened new factory with brand new, modern equipment for milk and cheese production. This was the first island plant built partially from PreAccession funds of EU and SAPARD agency per EU standards and produces 800 tonnes of cheese annually. Paška sir cheese won the Supergold medal and was awarded as the Best Central & Eastern European Cheese.

SEAFOOD Croatia’s coastal location yields some of the country’s best seafood such as oyesters, mussels and various kinds of fish.