Wine stories of Srijem - a different and interactive presentation with the aim of branding Srijem as a top wine destination

At the recently held 17th Edition of the Decanter World Wine Awards 2020, as many as 226 Croatian wines received one of the Decanter labels. Of that, our wines have three platinum medals, 11 gold, ...

At the recently held 17th Edition of the Decanter World Wine Awards 2020, as many as 226 Croatian wines received one of the Decanter labels. Of these, our wines have three platinum medals, 11 gold, 68 silver and 88 bronze medals and 56 Decanter recommendations.

So we have another great tourist product, but unfortunately we do not have a well-rounded story because Croatia is not yet recognized as a wine destination with top authentic varieties and wines. On the other hand, tourism is one of the strongest engines of domestic wine sales.

Tourists expect and want to taste authentic and local food, as well as wines.  

It is also the meaning of tourism, to get to know a new way and culture of living. I recently spoke with one manager, who has and within his hotel wine room with an offer of Croatian wines. On that occasion, he told me that imported wines are sold poorly or not at all on the wine list, because foreign tourists want to try something new, local, authentic, that is, our domestic wines, which is why he made a wine room. Logically, right? Another proof of the importance of tourism for the promotion and branding of Croatia as a wine region. 

Also, in a conversation with the hotel management, but also the guests on the topic of branding Croatia as a wine region, we once again came to the conclusion that the guests are not familiar enough with our wine story. On the contrary, according to them, foreign guests are pleasantly surprised by the quality and our authentic wines. The conclusion reached by the guests is how we have to better promoted as a wine destination. Interesting information from this wine room. The conclusion of the main and responsible person was "that Dalmatian wines are 30 percent overestimated, and Slavonian wines 30 percent underestimated". We are clearly talking about the prices of Croatian wines on our market.

I can't agree more! So, the logical conclusion would be that we need stronger branding and positioning of all wine regions, and I will again focus on Slavonian winemakers, both in Croatia and on the global wine list.

A step forward towards branding Croatia as a wine destination was made at the end of 2018, when a new Wine Act was adopted, which established four wine-growing regions: Slavonia and the Croatian Danube region; Croatian Istria i Kvarner; Dalmacija te Central hilly Croatia.

It’s a big step forward because marketing labeling wine through four new wine-growing regions encourages synergy of all winemakers and facilitates branding and communication to the market. Less is more, because this is how everyone in one wine region communicates with one main narrative - the narrative of the branded region. 

However, the topic of this story is focused on the fact that Slavonia, which is certainly one of the best Croatian wine regions, is not sufficiently recognized in Croatia for its top wines. Namely, the mentioned hotel also offers several top Slavonian wines, which proudly stand on the shelves of the wine room, and which clearly attracted my special attention and encouraged me to talk about Slavonia as a top wine region. 

Namely, on several occasions, including in the mentioned conversation, the conclusion is that Slavonian wines on sale are 30% cheaper than other wines, and in fact they are just as high quality or at least at the same level as our other top wines from other regions. as the hotel manager said in this case, they were underestimated. 

And as life writes strange life stories, a workshop was held in September this year Wine stories of Srijem in Zagreb, which aims to brand Srijem as a top wine destination. This story attracted my attention and gave me a motive for this writing of this article.  

Wine stories of Srijem - a different and interactive presentation with the aim of branding Srijem as a top wine destination

Wine stories of Srijem is a project of the Tourist Board of our easternmost, Vukovar-Srijem County, and aims to just branding Srijem as a top wine micro region.

When we talk about Srijem, I have to point out how it is about Danube and the slopes of the Srijem vineyards, which, descending towards the Danube, create the most beautiful landscape images which, in combination with the rich eno-gastronomic offer, invite you to rest and relax. This vineyard is located in the easternmost part of Vukovar-Srijem County and Croatia, on the southern and southwestern slopes of Fruška gora with its center in Ilok, so it is often called the Ilok vineyards.

Photo: Lollipop Agency

Thanks to the large number of hours of sunshine on the hills from 200 to 250 meters high and drained soils on a flag base, which do not retain moisture, the vines produce high quality grapes. This is the basic condition for the production of top wines that go from Ilok to Croatia, Europe and the world. Thanks to these climatic conditions, Traminer provides its maximum here and is the leader in quality in Croatia, but also abroad.

In addition to Traminer and Graševina, the two most important white varieties in the Srijem vineyards are Chardonnay, Paradise Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Silvanac Green od A from the black varieties Merlot, Cabernet, Sauvignon and Frankovka.

Let's go back to Wine stories of Srijem.

Namely, it is a different and interactive presentation, which through two narratives, professional and destination, represents Srijem as a top eno-gastro destination

On the one hand, a famous Croatian sommelier Jelena Simic Valentic tells the story of wines from Srijem, while on the other side Rujana Bušić Srpak, director of the Vukovar-Srijem County Tourist Board, with each wine connects the tourist story of the destination. 

The goal of the workshops is to get to know each other HoReCa channel with the offer of wines from Srijem, which should result in putting top Srijem wines in their wine lists. Also the workshops told the story of the wine from Srijem to the sommelier and professional media and presented the whole region as a cultural eno-wine destination according to travel agencies in order to encourage the arrival of tourists in Vukovar-Srijem County.

Excellent "triple helix" through the sale and positioning of wine in restaurants, promotion of wines and destinations and encouraging tourist arrivals - all in one workshop. Certainly a great combination, because one cannot do without the other, ie that is exactly what tourism does, it creates the motive of arrival as well as the complete tourist story of a destination.

"The concept of the workshop, in addition to a special professional target audience, is that through the offer of wine from Srijem, led by the famous Croatian sommelier Jelena Šimić Valentić, we continue with a story that practically guides participants through the offer of our destination. So we tell a story about each winery and winemaker and fit it into the context of the destination. We present the product, the story around the product and the winery, give a broader context about the destination and communicate with the visitors themselves to get feedback. That is why we decided for these workshops in small professional and target groups ", points out Rujana Bušić Srpak, director of the Vukovar-Srijem County Tourist Board.

Rujana Bušić Srpak, Director of the Vukovar-Srijem County Tourist Board / Photo: Lollipop Agency

It is interesting that Srijem wines were presented at all three workshops, but without Graševina, and according to Bušić Srpak, everyone knows that Graševina is one of the main varieties in Slavonia, but they also wanted to present other top wines and varieties offered by Srijem, which are so far it has been in the background.

“It was through the selection of wine that we showed the diversity, strength and possibility of wine creation that Ilok offers. But we are still talking about the destination. Because when you talk about the wine that comes from the easternmost wine-growing position in Croatia, Radoš from Ilok, you have to say something about that winery. When we talk about wines from the most award-winning wine cellar in Croatia, which has 8 Traminers only in its production and the cellar built in the 15th century and the castle above it, then we must give you the narrative of the destination - all part of an excellent tourist wine story. That is the wealth and the reason we took wine as an invitation. Because that wine is not just a product, it is a destination wine in a glass ", pointed out Bušić Srpak.

The first three workshops "Wine Stories of Srijem" were held in Split and Zagreb

The first workshop "Wine stories of Srijem" was held in Split last May in the famous hotel Vestibul Palace where it was presented five famous wineries from the area of ​​Vukovar-Srijem County, and Bušić Srpak linked an interesting tourist story to each wine. Along with Silvanac, for example, a story was told about the leisure and ease of traveling around Srijem and Slavonia with a visit to the cellars on the Ilok wine road.

He describes the top semi-dry Chardonnay from 2017 from the Trs Winery and the exceptional Chardonnay from 2016. Ilok cellars as quiet rulers and connects them with Ilok nobles, who left this town a rich cultural heritage - castle, medieval walls, old cellars from the 15th and 18th centuries. …

Buhačev Merlot from 2016, the only red wine at this workshop, connected with the beautiful nature, Srijem and Slavonian rivers and forests. Drinky and soft, it was a pleasant surprise for Dalmatians accustomed to powerful and bitter blues. 

The story is rounded off with the royal variety that gives the best results in this vineyard. It is, of course, about Traminer, and it is known that the one from the Ilok cellars was drunk on coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Its sweet variants are also loved by those who do not drink wine. At the Split workshop, Traminac of the selective berry harvest from 2015 of the Dragun Winery was tasted, and as a special surprise for the end, Traminac of the selective harvest of dried berries from the 2011 Ilok cellars.

Wine is joy - it says at the entrance to Pupitres, the wine shop of the famous Croatian sommelier Jelena Šimić Valentić who wants to demystify the story of wine as something sublime and exclusive, reserved only for connoisseurs. It was held in Pupitres in May another workshop Wine stories of Srijem.

Photo: Borna Subota, Exe production

The tasting began with the atypical drinking Chardonnay from 2017 of the Trs Winery, an everyday wine that can be sipped as an aperitif or paired with light dishes such as salads and white meat. Light, pleasant and expressive Silvanac green from 2018 by Mirko Čobanković, with a bit of predicate notes, is a real surprise for this variety, while Buhačev Rose from 2018 - otherwise the best-selling wine in this cellar - stands out with its salmon color and its sweet taste reminiscent of wild strawberries. , raspberries and berries. Harmonious and elegant Cabernet franc from 2016 Trs Winery, transparent-ruby color offers a taste of black currant, raspberry and blackberry.

With delicate elements of vanilla and a subtle note of pepper, it suddenly stood out among the wines, and the unusual, very interesting and special Principovac Chardonnay from 2016 in Ilok cellars, style, smell and taste was a great introduction to Traminer predicates - a variety that best results. Dragunov's Traminac of the 2015 berry harvest is reminiscent of roses, rahatluk and apricots, while Traminac of the 2011 dried berries harvest is a distinctive and powerful wine from the Ilok cellars.

"I was especially impressed by the Principovac line and I think that every restaurant that sticks to its wine list should have at least one wine from that line. We can be proud of such wines and offer them to every foreign guest and I could hardly wait for the expression of delight on their faces when they taste them. These are complex, powerful, characterful, distinctive wines, beautifully balanced, masterfully made.", She concluded Jelena Simic Valentic and added that she was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful and refreshing Vine Chardonnay and the elegant, fruity and floral Cabernet Franc, which has huge potential.

Bušić Srpak: Wine is the most beautiful invitation to visit Srijem and Slavonia

He is positively surprised and famous for Srijem wines chef Marin Rendić who points out that the value for money of wine is an extremely important component, and the price-quality ratio of Srijem wines can get great results on the market and attract many guests to the far east of Croatia. "For example, the excellent Buhačev Rose with a surprisingly good price of 35 kuna, on the other hand, offers high value and arouses strong impressions.", Says Rendić.

"Our story is distinctive, it leaves no one indifferent, it makes a strong impression, every wine is promising and will not disappoint you in terms of quality or price. The long tradition of winemaking, modern technologies, the knowledge of our winemakers, the breadth of tastes and experiences confirm the fact that we have a lot to offer. Wines from the slopes of Fruška gora, the Croatian part of Srijem, are one of the biggest surprises of our destination, which has yet to be discovered, and in Zagreb we presented a small part of that magic.", Says Rujana Busic Srpak.

Third workshop from the cycle The Wine Story of Srijem was held in September at the Le Premier Hotel in Zagreb, where it was presented eight top Traminers Srijem vineyards.

Photo: Borna Saturday

Two interesting Traminers were chosen to start the story. From the easternmost Croatian winery Papak, arrived Radosh, a dry wine from 2017 with an intense aroma of nutmeg aromas, honey and old roses, creamy and sweet taste, and from Dragun Winery semi-dry Traminac from 2019, dominant honey notes, gently sweet and drinkable.

Two fresher Traminers were followed by more complex variants. In the semi-dry Traminer from 2018 of the Trs winery, the scents of honey, caramel and roses were felt. It has a pleasant freshness, stronger body, nicely balanced, balanced sugars and acids, points out Šimić Valentić and adds that the semi-dry Traminac Principovac from 2018 is intense. . From the same cellar, the 2017 vintage Traminac arrived. Its powerful, layered scent with sweet notes offers a completely different experience. It is warm, drinkable, with great aging potential…

After Traminac, the 2016 vintage of the Trs Winery, exceptional in taste with almonds on the aftermath, was delighted by Ivan Čobanković's 2008 vintage of berries. It has a layered scent with honey and smoky notes, a thick and wonderful taste with an oxidative finish reminiscent of cherry. Ice vintage from 2016. Papak wines, offer subtle aromas of caramel, mandarin, orange peel…, but also layered flavors with lots of butter.

"Since the first Traminer vine was planted in 1701 on Principovac, the country estate of the Odescalchi family and the most famous Srijem wine-growing area, this variety has aroused the interest of the wine world. Srijem Traminers drank at the royal courts, won world awards and are a trademark of the Ilok Wine Road with about twenty charming wineries, including the Old Cellars from the 15th and 18th centuries. This is the best invitation to visit Srijem and Slavonia especially for wine lovers", Points out Rujana Bušić Srpak, director of the Vukovar-Srijem County Tourist Board.

Organized thematic cultural wine tours and communication according to the HoReCa channel

The aim of these workshops, in addition to branding Srijem and Vukovar-Srijem County as wine destinations, is, as I said at the beginning, to introduce the HoReCa channel to the wine offer of Srijem in order to put it in their wine lists, but also communication with travel agencies to become organized. thematic cultural wine tours.

There is certainly not too much to say about the potential, because it is a top wine region, and the main question is how to accelerate the development of branding in order to start the tourism economy and get the whole story wind in the back.

Wineries as mini destinations within the destination must unite, emphasizes Bušić Srpak and adds that everyone together with winemakers must go beyond Ilok to present Ilok and the whole eno gastronomic story. “The wine story of Srijem is in Srijem, but it needs to be presented further in order to affirm itself. Winemakers cannot just produce good wine and stay within Ilok, and we in tourism expect the effects of that. Winemakers may sell all the wines, but we will not achieve the right effect in terms of tourism. We have to "use" them and present them outside the destination, so that they really become a motive for coming to the destination."

Photo: Lollipop Agency

I certainly agree with that, because much more synergy is needed, as well as stronger involvement of the winemakers themselves, in the joint branding of the region. Because we must be aware that continental tourist boards, in addition to having much less financial and thus human resources, are fighting for a place under the sun with other wine regions that are already recognized and have maritime tourism as a perpetual flywheel.

In the end, Bušić Srpak points out that what was presented at the workshops is over tourist tour tour of Ilok and peculiar wine guide for exploring Ilok through the wine road, but also the entire rich tourist offer of Vukovar-Srijem County.

"Welcoming the sunset in Slavonia and Srijem with a glass of top quality wine, especially on the banks of the Danube or at the most famous Ilok wine-growing locations Principovac and Vukovo, is a special experience. Our rivers, castles, museums, richness of traditional heritage, famous hospitality and gastronomy, along with the inevitable wines, are the best invitation to visit Srijem and Slavonia.", Concluded Rujana Bušić Srpak.

Srijem's wine stories are certainly refreshing and a great approach, and with the modest budgets available to continental destinations, it is always a question of the effectiveness of the promotion. So we have to think outside the box, be innovative and creative in order to attract attention.

The average daily consumption of tourists is higher in continental Croatia

Tourists on the continent, much more than the average, spend their time in museums, galleries, various exhibitions and visiting national parks / protected areas, so it is logical that the daily consumption of tourists in Continental Croatia is higher than in the Adriatic.

According to the TOMAS Croatia 2019 survey “Attitudes and consumption of tourists in Croatia” average daily consumption of tourists in It is higher in continental Croatia than at sea, and it amounts to 115 euros per person.

On the other hand, the main activities of Continental Croatia are going to restaurants, sightseeing, visits to national parks, historical buildings, museums and galleries, hiking and other sports, recreational, entertainment and cultural activities.

Photo: Borna Saturday

More than half, more precisely 53% of tourists goes on self-organized excursions (54% in the Adriatic and 39% in Continental Croatia), and 19% on excursions organized through Travel agencies. Also, a key piece of information is how the proportion of guests who go on trips to organized by a travel agency in Continental Croatia it is only 19,7%, which clearly speaks of the huge space for rast.

Slavonia certainly already has a minimum seven days of quality content to offer tourists. It is the activation of travel agencies and the focus on Slavonia that is crucial. Yes, it is easier to sell the sun and the sea, but especially in today's context caused by the coronavirus pandemic, where continental and rural destinations are in the focus of consumers, it is time to reversal. Agencies wake up, because tourism on the continent lasts throughout the year, especially in the pre- and post-season when the main peak of the tourist season on the continent.

In conclusion, the continent does not have the budgets that sea destinations have, but it certainly has something to boast about and something to show. Slavonia does not need help, but strategic development. And that’s why one constructive critique of agencies: Don’t whine, but open your eyes. Turn to new markets and niches, such as a focus on continental tourism. After all, this way you will avoid the seasonality of income, because as I have already mentioned, tourism in Slavonia happens all year round. Do not wait for the summer season, but offer the market an attractive offer.

And when tourists are in Slavonia, the unavoidable place is certainly Srijem and its wine story. In the end, the cooperation of everyone is needed, both destinations, winemakers and agencies, in order to create a quality rounded story. Especially on the continent where it is a different type of tourism and motives for coming.

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