Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Ivan Jug

We continue our journey to put sommeliers in the spotlight, as to our opinion a sommelier is as important in the gastronomical experience as a chef. On top of that we also want to put the job as sommelier in the spotlight, as still too many people have a misconception of the job and think it is only about wine, although we all know it is much more. Therefore we try to put top sommeliers from all over the globe in the spotlight. For our next sommelier we travel to sunny Croatia to meet top sommelier Ivan Jug

After finishing his studies at the Zagreb hospitality and tourism school, Ivan started working in the kitchen, as when you are looking for your first job you're not sure yet what you want. The kitchen adventure didn't take too long tough, as quickly Ivan noticed that it wasn't entirely his thing and quickly exchanged the back-office for the front office :-).

After his first work experience he worked at several popular Zagreb pubs like the famous Dublin pub. He enjoyed those years a lot!! But the most significant job, or better the one that influenced his further life and career the most was his job at fine dining restaurant Appetit, as it was there where he horizon spread and he finally knew what he was missing all those years before.What happened next is history...

Ivan also did his fair share of competitions as in 2018 Ivan won the Best Sommelier of Croatia contest and obtained the first 2 level diploma's from the Court of Master sommeliers. He also represented Croatia during the 2019 Best Sommelier of the World in Antwerp. He also found time to obtain his ASI diploma and become a certified sake sommelier :-) and who knows what is still coming in the future?!

Today Ivan co-owns the Michelin star awarded restaurant Noel, that according to Michelin is a "Must Visit" when you are in Croatia!! We've put it on our bucket list for when we are allowed to travel again :-) :-) We can only hope that all of you readers will do just the same

Please join us to meet this extraordinary sommelier. Enjoy the read!!

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

I don't have specific regions I love to work with. As head sommelier of a Michelin star restaurant in Croatia - Noel, for our guests the Croatian terroir is always interesting and it gives us the chance to promote and uplift Croatian wines. But if I need to specify one region of wine country, that would be France – Burgundy, Champagne, Loire Valley and Alsace... But I also have a weakness for Italy – Alto Adige, Piedmont, Tuscany, and Sicily. Since I am a Riesling lover too, Riesling is very nice to work with because of its palettes of aromas. It is specific for early harvests, different profiles which range from dry to sweet and similar. As sommeliers, we can nicely work with them. As you can see, I love to communicate with the guest and feel what they would like from our wine cellar and that gives me the dose of adrenaline; when the guest is happy.

What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?

First of all, the love for gastronomy and wine. The drive to learn and get to know the people who are behind the labels, to meet and greet them, see how they feel and what makes them produce wine. It's also the investment of private time for personal growth and development, but also the devotion to the profession. When working, the key is a good communication. Everyone approaches this profession differently and in the end, it's very personal, individual, how the one feels.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

Depends from country to country, for example, in Western Europe and New World it is very valued. In Croatia this profession is in its beginnings while the roots are there. There is a wine scene forming and everything starts to make sense, while my team and I were among the first ones on the scene. I believe that the time for the uplifting of the profession has come, slowly but surely.

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

I had finished culinary school to become a chef and I started getting to know the culinary scene a little bit. Suddenly,I came in touch with wine and still not sure what or how it happend, but I fell in love with wines. Especially after I got a book by Jancis Robinson as a gift, I told to myself that I should start exploring the wonderful world of wines. And the rest is history

Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?

I would say Arvid Rosengren is my role model in sommelier's world. He is fascinating with his charisma. I watched him in 2016 in the Championship for the best Sommelier in the World. I think he has huge knowledge and can be a role-model to every young sommelier who wants to learn.

Over the years I explored some wine regions, and the ones that left a trail on me are Olivier Leflaive, Jacques Selosse, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Dr. Burklin Wolf, Antinori, Eric Rodez, Domaine Paul and Droin, Giuseppe Quintarelli, Chiara Boschis, Jean Louis Chave. But I need to add, every winemaker in general is specific in some way and has its own personality in wines.

What is your approach for pairing wines (or other beverages) with dishes?

The most common method I use is the traditional one, where I try to pair the wine with what-works-well based on learned principles. Sensibility between me and the guest, because I always try to discover what she or he would like to taste. Lastly, the pairing according to the well paved specifics, like tendency of sweetness or nice fatness which goes well with freshness/minerality. The most interesting part are the tools that one needs to use to try to find the perfect match, and that is getting to know the other side for which is necessary to have developed social skills.

Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?

Germany – Mosel, Rheingau and Rheinhessen. Because it is filled with absolutely beautiful vineyards on terraces upon the river. It is simply the place to stop and stare. I chose it also because of Riesling is for me the best white wine variety that exists.

For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?

I already made a lot of sacrifices for the wines I tasted, but I am also ready to make even more sacrifices to discover some new wines.

What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school or viticulture studies?

I can just say that the most beautiful part was to meet other people and other cultures during my studies. It was a new surrounding and it has been like a fairy tale, if you love it of course. When I applied for ASI certificate and when I traveled, it was just lovely to hang around with other students or Master Sommeliers, it is a special memory that leaves its trail.

A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop, winery, etc..?

We're very much in love in artisan teas that we get directly from Japan, like Sencha, Gyokuro, or the best Taiwanese Oolongs or the best black Chinese teas. We pair food with all of them. Also, we love the bar culture, luckily we have the most talented barman, Karlo Ferenčak and we have around 500 various distillates which are able to accommodate the style of everyone's taste. I would also say that we have a partnership in which we produce the Olfactive dinner where we pair food with cocktails and perfumes. While maybe it might sound crazy, we do it in such a way which is interesting and entertaining. I am also certified sake sommelier and for demanding dishes, I love to play with sake, while with those same dishes, wines can't be paired with. It is in our plans to launch the fine perfume line with one very famous perfumer. To wrap it all up, those are the unique experiences someone could have in Noel Zagreb.

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