For the next sommelier we go a bit up north from the country where our previous sommelier, Croatia. A country that has a special place in my heart as my grandparents originated from Zadar. Anyway this is not to put me in the spotlight but the sommeliers, please allow me to introduce to you Daniela Kramarić owner from the Michelin starred and in the list of the 50 best restaurants in the world of San Pelegrino Plavi Podrum.
Although Daniela did studies in International Correspondence, after taking her first wine courses at the Croatian Sommelier Club she found her new passion. Years later the student became the teacher as Daniela is a lecturer and examiner for the HSK. Daniela did keep writing and still is doing it today for multiple magazines or newspapers like Cosmopolitan, Akademija, Gastronomika , Novi list (newspaper) and even for Playboy (no, I’m not mistyping myself :-) )
In 2001/2002 Daniela won the title of Best Sommelier of Croatia. Next to that she also became semi-finalist during the ASI European and World Championships which is definitely a very nice achievement. To achieve those goals she travelled a lot and spread her horizon as much as possible. I can only add that a visit to her higly rewarded restaurant in Volosko is definitely a must if you are in Croatia.
What is your favorite wine region to work with?
At home, in Croatia, that would definitely be Istria. The region has witnessed significant growth in the last 20 years. We’ve seen an explosion of talented, young, ambitious winemakers that are creating great wines using local grape varieties, the white Istrian Malvazia and the red Teran. They are not afraid of experimenting... from wines in stainless steel tanks and classic whites, meaty along the spine, aged sur lie in wood, to the extreme biodynamic orange wines, macerated and full-bodied in style.
I adore good old Europe, Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Piedmont, Tuscany.... they are enchanting me, as are Priorat, Duero and Duoro. Hungary is awakening. My heart is full.
What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?
A good sommelier must have excellent theoretical knowledge, undergo continual professional training, and be able to effectively manage the wine service in the dining room. It is not just about the wine list, the list has to live in symbiosis with the gastronomic offer, yet, at the same time, reflect his/her personal style. The sommelier must constantly search for new wines, create wine trends, but never lose sight of what is rational and economically responsible. Most importantly, he/she must really listen to the guest, and above all, avoid indiscriminately imposing his/her opinion in a haughty manner.
Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?
The sommelier profession is quite young in Croatia, and in 1994, when the Croatian Sommelier Club was founded, many were completely oblivious of its existence. Today, this highly respected profession is seeing a growing trend, although it is still not sufficiently widespread, and, interestingly, is covered by a veil of secrecy. The nose and the sense of smell are a true mystery.
When and how did you get the passion for wine?
I was born to a restaurateur family. My father was one of the founders of the Croatian Sommelier Club, and in our family, everything has always centred around food and wine. I should say, however, that my hunger for knowledge was sparked by my guests’ inquiries. It was then that realized that that there was no excuse not to be knowledgeable. Consequently, I set out to explore and study the field. I am becoming increasingly amazed by how dynamic the profession is. New challenges, new vintages; there is no standstill. The world has become widely accessible, yet remains overwhelmingly vast. There is still a lot of work to be done.
Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?
I would like to single out Mr. Giuseppe Vaccarini, who has selflessly shared his knowledge, and has always wholeheartedly supported our Club. However, the leading figure in our profession is Gerard Basset. He has conquered all the peaks, there really are no challenges for him. A man of impressive knowledge, perseverance and ambition.
What is your approach for pairing wines(or other beverages) with dishes?
Pairing local ingredients and local autochthonous wines cannot go wrong. I do not follow the rules blindly, I try to take into account the guests’ preferences, the atmosphere, and the climatic conditions, among others.
Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?
I am a patriot. Come to Croatia. We are a small country with very interesting wine styles. We are also home to a diverse array of autochthonous grape varieties, ranging from fresh whites to ice-wines, and Mediterranean full-bodied reds. Unfortunately, our best wines are only available on the Croatian market as the production is so small that we manage to drink it all.
I am a wine traveller and I have never visited a wine region that has disappointed me. Every region is intriguing and fascinating in its own unique way.
For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?
Today, I am willing to sacrifice less for big wines. Unfortunately, even big wines do not always meet my great expectations. In our line of business, we sacrifice ourselves every day, we taste labels, but when one stands out, outshines the others, that is the true experience.
What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school or viticulture studies?
My background is not in hospitality management, I went to language schools. However, I do have very fond memories of the first course I attended at the Croatian Sommelier Club. I still remember the incredible energy, expertise, dedication and passion of the sommelier and restaurateur, our Italian-Slovene colleague Josko Sirk.
A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop, winery, etc..?
All the wine experiences that I have shared with dear people and close friends are invaluable and unforgettable. Wine has an incredible communicative power, it brings people closer together.