Vedran Obućina (born 1982) is a political scientists from Croatia, but he dedicates his time now to wines and gastronomy. The is a slight connection between the two fields, as food is often perceived as culture, identity and wealth of nations. He writes for several newspapers and periodicals, and he was working in Croatian media for eight years. He is the president and co-president of several Croatian NGOs. After some time spent in tourism, he decided to begin his own tourism business with his partner Aleksandar Peša, so he opened a food&wine travel agency. In his free time he enjoys hiking, literature, music, movies, and making barbecue in his garden. He lives and works in Rijeka, Croatian biggest port city.
INTERVIEW WITH VEDRAN:
When did you discover your passion for wine?
Wine is traditionally always present on Croatian tables. I don't think there was a time I wasn't surrounded by wine, although the quality of that wine can surely be disputed. When I've started to work as a travel journalist for a Croatian travel magazine, I’ve specialized in food and wine destinations. Soon my main job in the magazine turned out to be selecting restaurants, taverns and wine fairs. I went to numerous wine fairs and re-discovered the wine heritage of Croatia. I was attracted to the wide range of aromas and tastes, carefully blended with the help of soil, wind, sun and rain. At that point, I've realised why winemakers say wine production is an art, and wine itself is a symphony. Love was born!
What are you key highlights of the Istria wine region?
First and foremost – people. The mentality here is influenced by both Mediterranean and Middle European cultures, is a perfect mix also shown in everyday meals. The second thing is sheer enjoyment. As Vina Laguna describes their product – they are not selling wines, but a lightness of being in Istria. Easy going, relaxing and always smiling, people here are truly blessed with good quality of life. All other things stem from these two. I wouldn't miss Central Istrian hilltop towns, agritourisms, UNESCO sites and natural beauties to be discovered on foot, on bike or on sea.
When are the best times to visit Istria?
Spring and autumn. In spring you can smell the freshness in the air and Young wine festivals are also held then (although it isn't young – the name is only showing the essence of spring, reawakening). It is not hot as it can be in summer, and you can enjoy traveling around, sightseeing, and experiencing fresh products, such as asparagus. Traditionally, one of the biggest wine festivals, Vinistra, is held in Poreč, accompanied by Malvasia wine fair.
Autumn, on the other hand, gives three most important Istrian products – wine, olive oil, and truffles. It is time of great field works, but also great enjoyment. Istrians like to make parties, and local wine festivals are especially lively.
What is a traditional local wine and food pairing dish?
Tradition of drinking wine is so present in Istrian culture, that there is no dinner goes without wine. Fish and sea dishes go well especially with a particular sort of Malvasia. Authentic Istrian ox, boškarin, cannot be eaten without a sip of red Teran. Either two go well with Istrian prosciutto and cheese, a classic appetizer. And strong taste of truffles can be supplemented with Malvasia. One really unique dish is Istrian soup. It is Teran wine, in which you put a bit of olive oil, sugar, black pepper and toast. In past, when hunger struck poor Istrians, people used to give this „soup“ to children, it was easier for them to fall asleep with empty stomach. Today, however, Istrian soup is regarded as a delicacy, and is often part of easy talk after the meal.
Which wine region in the world would you like to visit next?
Although I've travelled much, I've never been to Portugal. I am passionate about culture, scenery, food, and of course, excellent wine, things that I often enjoy home but would like to try the Portuguese version.