Alen Bibich, first great wine, then hospitality
For those visiting the Dalmatian Coast, you will often hear the term “Balkan Hospitality” bandied about. Once seeing the Jägermeister shot tents, expensive hotels, and the menus at restaurants printed in all languages except that of good food, you might wonder, “Where is the so-called hospitality in this?” It’s still there, you just need to back away from the water a good 10km (maybe more in July & August) to find it. Venture further inland and you’ll still find it in great abundance, especially in Continental Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia. Admittedly, outside the May-September boom time on the coast, it comes back there as well.
Balkan Hospitality can basically be surmised as, “host your guests as you would yourself be hosted”. Once you know people in the region, you understand what it is and how this culture, born of being a crossroads for Europe, is infectious, genuine, and dare I say, one step towards world peace–if only everyone ascribed to it. Alen Bibich and his wines are the embodiment of this.
I don’t know how Alen (no, not Alan, Anglophones) and his right-hand man Šime managed to make as much time for everyone as they did for the festival last weekend. But somehow they welcomed everyone to their table to share in their wines and then to a really fantastic party at Apetit one night.
Host your guests as you would yourself be hosted, which meant making sure that glasses were never empty and full of any one of Alen’s amazing high-end wines such as the Lučica or his new Bas de Bas in both white and red. While the later are high-ticket, they are the penultimate embodiment of Alen’s wine philosophy where he focuses on native grapes such as Debit for the Bas de Bas white. Or, his love of Syrah that you see in the Bas de Bas red which shows that it is quite a happy grape in Dalmatia. The wines open up with time and others around you.
But, it’s the structure of all the wines that makes them so impressive in how they ascribe to this model of hospitality. When I first met Alen he claimed that you could drink both his reds and whites, pretty much all day long. Last Friday we found out that that was indeed true. They’re wine for company and they’re wine for meals. They’re meant to hang around as long as your company wishes too. You simply can’t do this with the huge alcohol wines of California.
A well-known and respected enolog in Spain once told me that a good wine is: 1/3 vineyard, 1/3 cellar, and 1/3 marketing. I think you can easily scratch that last third and substitute it with 1/3 hospitality. As an example to this, yes, I could be paid to write 500 words about a wine, breaking down its virtues and what it means to me. But, invite me to taste what it is you make and host me as you would like to be hosted when visiting me, I’ll write about said wine purely as a gracious return in hospitality.
Alen, I think a great many of us who attended Zagreb Wine Gourmet Weekend would like to thank you for opening up your wines and hosting us.
Note that the header photo is actually from a tasting that happened the next night, which also deserves being written about.