Can we have a Croatian wine museum to celebrate Bourdain’s “world class wine”?

Summer is coming to an end and the first day of the new school year is fast approaching.

It’s been yet another eventful year for Croatian tourism, with plenty of debate, from cruise ships to statistics, from famous visitors to what to do on the ever-increasing rainy days.

I split most of my summer between Jelsa and Varazdin, and it was a truly fascinating exercise to watch the progress of the tourist season in Jelsa, especially as what I saw on the ground seemed to have little of correlation with these impressive statistics that were being pumped.

But what was most interesting to me was how little content the destination actually used productively, and a strong available brand was also left unused. I put my thoughts on the future direction of Jelsa tourism in Simple steps to improve Jelsa 2 star strategy on Hvar.

But it’s not just Jelsa. With the bad weather of early summer, Google searches on TCN for “what to do on a rainy day in…(supply destination)” skyrocketed. Take the sun and the sea out of the equation, and what’s left to do?

The fact is that there are so many things to do in Croatia, but you need to look a little deeper because accidental tourism kings are not very good at bringing the information and attractions to tourists. As I said in a recent interview for Balkan Insight, Croatia is the most content-rich destination I know, but tourists sometimes struggle to find this content.

Let’s take a simple example – wine.

Going back to Jelsa for a moment, none of the locals could tell me what the tourism brand of Jelsa was, despite being in the 108th year of tourism in the city. As a foreigner, the answer is brutally obvious. Jelsa is historically (and currently) the most important wine town in Dalmatia, so let’s make some of its mark the wine capital of Dalmatia. Combined with Jelsa’s great lifestyle and safe and family destination, a brand such as Relaxed Family Lifestyle in the Dalmatian wine capital immediately gives Jelsa more personality and points of interest than the current non-brand.

It’s crazy to me that the majority of tourists coming to Hvar, for example, have no idea that Hvar is a famous wine island. And not just Hvar – the level of understanding of one of Croatia’s greatest assets is still minimal.

But not surprising. After Anthony Bourdain told the world about Croatia’s world-class wine, world-class food and world-class cheese, what was done to showcase Croatian wine history and make it accessible to tourists?

Where, for example, is the Croatian Wine Museum which can tell the incredible story of Croatian wine, offer tasting experiences and provide great entertainment on a rainy day?

There is actually a Facebook page called Wine museum in Croatia – based in New Zealand. It looks like this:

On the initiative of Croatian winegrowers from California and New Zealand in 2009 and 2010, we wanted to create the Croatian wine museum…

Far from Croatia.

A viticulture and winemaking museum opened in July on the Peljesac peninsula, but apart from the initial press release, it seems that there is no more information in English or Croatian. There is a Facebook page, which I can no longer find, with 84 likes.

And yet Bourdain’s appreciation aside, wine and food tourism are at the heart of the Croatian Ministry of Tourism’s 2013 – 2020 strategic plan.

What exactly has been achieved in the past 6.5 years?

There is still no wine route for Dalmatia, surely an essential ingredient for wine lovers who wish to explore. When I asked the press service of the Ministry of Tourism, they claimed that was not true and that there are several wine routes in Dalmatia, including the Biokovo wine route – a beautiful mountain, but not one blessed with award-winning grapes. Or winegrowers at all.

Last year I tried to find Croatia’s wine routes through official channels, which one would expect to exist in a tourist country with wine at the heart of its 7-year strategy. The very helpful Croatian National Tourist Board press service conceded that even if such a thing didn’t exist (why not, I wondered), they would try to get the information. And, for the most part, they did. Type of. Within a few emails, I received the results of most – but not all – responses from regional tourist offices with lists of wineries within their territory. If I had been a wine journalist researching Croatia for the first time, I would have been embarrassed. Having lived here for many years, I was not surprised. And it is enough to look at another former Yugoslav republic – Macedonia – to understand that it is possible to present its wine references internationally, as we discovered in Lessons from Macedonia: How Croatia can learn to market wine.

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The lack of coordinated promotion of the history of Croatian wine is all the more strange as it is one of the most sought-after centers of interest (the number 5 after the Dalmatian coast, the walls of Dubrovnik , National Parks and Blue Grotto) for the US market, which is one of the top priorities of our tourism chiefs.

So why not give them the content they crave?

Why not do something constructive and concrete instead of writing meaningless reports and strategies? The current 7-year plan, which started in 2013, foresees for example 30 golf courses by next year – so far not only have none been built, but none have even been launched. or has received a permit. But the department managed to attend two of the three golf tourism conferences scheduled for this year.

So why not offer tourists what they are so desperately looking for: content? Why not build (or convert – there are SO many amazing buildings that could be used) not one but four wine museums in each of the country’s major Croatian wine regions – Dalmatia, Istria and Kvarner, Slavonia and Plesivica, Zagorje and The Medjimurje region? Keep the core content similar, but with a detailed focus on that particular region, so visitors can learn and be tempted to try local wines, while having a better idea of ​​what to look for later in their holidays.

Imagine a wine museum that would have the following elements:

The timeline of Croatian wine history, stretching back thousands of years.

A detailed look at at least some of the 130 native grape varieties that set this country apart.

A section on the history of the original Zinfandel.

A section on the 1976 Judgment of Paris and the story of Mike Grgich.

A section on international winemaking stars of Croatian descent.

A history of the winemaking process in Croatia, with relevant materials from the past.

A section on the particular region where the museum is located – wine route, notable winegrowers, grape varieties, regional history.

A tasting room, of course, where guests can learn about the region through various themed presentations.

A boutique (and online store) where you can buy wine and other souvenirs.

It could be a great promotional tool for food tourism in Croatia, as well as a great destination for rainy days.

And at least we would tell tourists about one of the treasures of Croatia that we never cease to congratulate ourselves on. For others to understand the message, you have to give them content.

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I am sure European funds would be available. As for locations, the Stari Grad winery in Hvar has just been returned to the city. Located on the edge of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Stari Grad Plain, this would be an exceptional location.

We offer our visitors a world-class wine tourism experience to accompany Bourdain’s world-class wines.

Learn more about Croatian wine with the Total Croatia Wine in a Page guide.

Elisha A. Tilghman