A legend in his own right with an impressive accolade of qualifications in London, Mario has recently earnt excellent reviews on TripAdvisor in his latest venture as a tour guide in Croatia. Past tour attendees describe him as a knowledgeable, informative and passionate guide with an infectious personality who always makes the day memorable and fun. I organised a phone interview for a chat and to learn more about Croatian wine…
Heather at Unforgettable Croatia: Hi Mario, lovely to talk to you. Whereabouts are you?
Mario: I’m in Dubrovnik. I arrived here the night before last. Beautiful weather, a bit fresh but sunny and very nice.
Heather: Sounds lovely. It’s really grey and not very nice here in London.
Mario: I know, I know!
Heather: It would be great to talk to you about Croatian wine, as you’re our resident expert.
Heather: Could you tell me about how you started doing what you do, and about your love of wine?
Mario: I used to own a restaurant in Central London, in Earls Court. Whilst there I did the first two levels of sommelier education in order to learn a bit about wine and to be able to sell it in my restaurant.
So that’s how I started in wine. Actually, it was a long time ago! Then we sold that place, the restaurant, in 2004.
Then after that I gained several other levels of wine education. And in 2004 I enrolled to study full time in London at WSET, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, which is the number one really for wine education in the world. And it took me nearly four years to get a diploma in wine and spirits which is their top educational level, so that’s fairly serious in wine business today.
Heather: Yes, well that’s longer than quite a few university degrees.
Mario: Yes it is!
Heather: Let’s talk about Croatian wine. What do you think makes it unique?
Mario: So, there are unique grape varieties, not grown anywhere else, alongside a fantastic climate all over Croatia, especially on the seaside. It’s quite unique, the style of the wine produced, so that’s why Croatian wines are becoming more and more popular everywhere now. So unique grape varieties and fantastic climate for grape growing and wine making, make a really good combination.
Heather: Ok. So they’re becoming more popular across the world, so are exports to specific countries becoming bigger?
Mario: Yes, so export is growing at unbelievable speed. Croatia has been, as you know, part of the EU for the last three years, so that has opened up all the 28 countries within the EU. So you can now find Croatian wines in London and all over Europe and some wineries now are starting to export to the USA and Canada as well, so it’s growing in big way.
Heather: Yes, great news for the profitability of the business in Croatia. And next question, if someone who doesn’t know much about wine, asked for your advice about where to start learning, what would be your top tips?
Mario: The best way to learn is to learn about grape variety. There’s more than 1,300 used today in wine making, so that’s a lot of grape varieties! And each of them is different. The best way to learn about wine is to learn about characteristics of grape varieties, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, they’re all different, they all have unique characteristics. This, coupled with tasting. The more you taste, the better you get.
Heather: Ok, thank you. And one last question, if you had an afternoon to spend with your friends and family, where would you take them and what would you eat and drink?
Mario: If I am in Dubrovnik, I would take them for seafood. We would probably go to one of the best seafood restaurants in this part of Croatia.. It specialises in seafood, they have an abundance of the freshest seafood you can possibly have. We’d have a combination of seafood platters and a really good Croatian wine called Pošip.
Heather: Sounds idyllic. Thank you, Mario.
To book your own private wine tour with Mario, give the Unforgettable Team a call on 020 8004 2345. You’ll also be able to find out about all our Croatia day tours and our top tips for the best restaurants.
Unforgettable Croatia offer wine tours from Dubrovnik on our Croatia Twin & Multi centre Holidays.