A guide to discover all the secrets
From Italy just set sail across the blue and green waters of the Adriatic Sea, if you’re lucky even accompanied by dolphins, to encounter the dazzling splendour of Istria and Dalmatia, with Venetian citadels and hundreds of Islands.
Croatia has been for centuries a source of inspiration for artists and sybarites. from Cassiodorus to Dante Alighieri to Shaw all dedicated countless verses to its beauty and its artistic and natural heritage. The region of Slavonia in Roman times was called vallis aurea thanks to the abundance of the harvest and the quality wine produced in the area.
“Cracking Croatian Wine” presents itself as a guide for the discovery of the territory and of the indigenous grapes that are making a come-back in the international wine scene after centuries of slumber, co-written by authors Charine Tan and Matthew Horkey, duo which abandoned their easy lives in Singapore in exchange for travelling tirelessly to discover the wines of the world.
Croatian wines are certainly distinctive and original, well made and with reasonable prices. To date, few visitors tend to explore the territory to discover vineyards and grapes, but the views of insular rows that slope down to the sea at sunset are evocative even for teetotalers.
The local varieties, which date back for centuries, include the famous Istrian Malvasia and the Plavac Mali (brother of Zinfandel and Primitivo di Manduria). But let’s avoid spoilers and let the book reveal the secrets and the surprises that this remarkable country has to offer. The writers report addresses in detail, varieties, labels and personalities with which to interact, to make discovery even more fun and flavorful.
We also interviewed the authors to discover their passion and unique lifestyle. Zivjeli! (Cheers).
Passion for work and work for passion, the perfect mix for a fulfilling life. When and how was your passion for wine born?
My interest in wine (and flavours in general) began at a very young age, kindled by a mix of curiosity and appetite. But it was only when I was 18 years old, after drinking a Burgundy village red at my birthday dinner, that I fell in love with wine. For Matthew, it was after graduate school when he made a backpacking trip through Europe that opened his eyes to what wine could be and should be: in Lucca, Tuscany, he was blown away by a Vino da Tavola Rosso.
Matthew and I met in Singapore in 2012 and soon became a catalyst for each other's interests, including wine. A few weeks into our relationship, we were attending wine-tasting events at least three times a month.
Matthew had always wanted to travel the world, while I was happy with my career and life in Singapore but was also looking for an opportunity to start my own business. From the beginning when we started dating, we knew that someday we would take a long-term trip around the world together, but there was no timeline attached to that intention.
In May 2015, we left Singapore for what we thought would be a sabbatical. The original plan was to travel around the world for as long as possible while simultaneously figure out the next chapter of our lives. In the first seven months of travel, we were spending most of our time and resources on wines. By the time we reached Georgia (the country) and Armenia, we had an epiphany.
There was a problem to be solved: at that time, there was limited information in English about the wines of those wine countries. There was a motivation: We were moved and inspired by the many producers, wines, and traditions that we encountered; all those experiences compounded into a sense of 'civic responsibility' as we asked ourselves how we could contribute to those people's lives. And the answer was to offer our skills and make their wines known to the rest of the world. There was an alignment: Having a focus on lesser-known wine regions would allow us to travel to different parts of the world, learn about wine at a rapid pace, and satisfy our sense of adventure.
As to how hard it was to leave behind the stability of a job, it was indeed a challenging and emotional transition. Matthew and I were both in a good place in our respective careers and income levels. So it wasn't merely a loss of a sense of stability but also the comfort of money and the emotional support from family and friends. Yet, the hardest thing to leave behind was not the physical possessions and comfort, but our sense of identity. There was also the challenge of getting family and friends to understand what we are doing and why--it's still a challenge today. A calculated risk to one person can be interpreted as foolishness and irresponsibility by other people.
The activity of Exotic Wine Travel is mainly linked to reviewing wines, producers and territories. How important is social media for the promotion of your work and research?
Social media is an environment that demands value-driven conversations. It's great for connecting with people on a personal level and an effective platform for spreading information. It also plays a crucial role in the promotion of our books as we use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vivino and YouTube to deliver the latest information in a multimedia, digestible format to our readers. But ultimately, Exotic Wine Travel is about propagating wine culture and diversity in the wine world. So we strive to be real and curious human beings in the social media sphere by connecting with our readers and encouraging peer learning within the Exotic Wine Travel's community.
Wine is about culture and communication, have you found similarities among producers of different countries?
Absolutely! Regardless of the background and differences, the same theme plays out: wine is an extended expression of a producer. As we wrote in our first wine book entitled Uncorking the Caucasus, "Wine is an extension of human existence and personality." Nearly every producer seeks to capture or immortalize the stories about themselves, their heritage, homeland, value system, or preference.
What would you suggest to who has dreams but is too afraid to follow them?
Being afraid (to have fear) has a pervasive effect on one's life. Fear keeps us in a safe zone; it protects us from losing but it also keeps us from growing. Being afraid stops us from participating and from doing what we’re capable of. So the first question we have to ask is: Are we more afraid of losing or are we more afraid of never realizing our potential?
The next step is to recognize that there’s a big difference between being realistic and being resigned or stuck in a situation because "that's the way something should be or has to be”. And the second question we have to ask ourselves is: Are we really unable to change a circumstance or are we merely unable to give up a context that we have created in our mind?
Often, we box ourselves in with self-definitions influenced by the environment and the context we live in. We forget that we can change those definitions at will, and we can close old doors and open new ones by doing so.
The vessel that will lead us to our dreams is made up by our belief and motivation. And our greatest source of motivation is a compound of our fear and excitement. Learn to act in the face of fear. It's fun and fulfilling.