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12 Nov

Wine & Cheese Bar in Split

Until recently, neither Split nor Dalmatia had a wine bar where a guest could enjoy exclusive wines by the glass, while at the same time sampling more than one type of cheese.

Even though, one would think that offering wine and cheese would be at the heart of the region’s wine and gastronomic culture however, such a pairing has been largely overlooked. This was one of the reasons why Kotor-born Zoran Pejović and his longtime friend from Split, Marko Sučić, decided to dub their wine and cheese bar, opened just a year ago, Paradox. The guiding principle behind their project was to offer wines made from autochthone Dalmatian grape varieties. Therefore, the majority of the wines on their extensive list, which features some 120 labels, are Dalmatian wines from grape varieties such as Pošip, Debit, Maraština, Kujundžuša, Plavac Mali, Babić, Lasin and Crljenak. ‘I believe that guests in Dalmatia should be enjoying Dalmatian wines and food in order to fully experience the region. That’s why we work mainly with small, family-owned wine and cheese producers. Also, we put a special emphasis on the service side of things, which is what makes the difference’, says co-owner Pejović, who has versatile hospitality background. He graduated in hotel management at the American College of Management and Technology in Dubrovnik, worked at five star hotels in California and China, and worked at the world renowned resort chain Amanresorts. He also worked for the prestigious Silver Sea Cruises as Head Sommelier. Pejović says that ‘After ten years in the luxury hospitality segment, the only natural thing was to start a business of my own where I could implement the experience and knowledge gathered while working around the globe. Split seemed like a great choice, as I believe it is the city with the greatest tourist potential on the Adriatic. Currently, probably at no more than thirty percent of its potential, I see Split as the Barcelona of the Adriatic – the Mediterranean wine and food capital, but also the center of sports, music, culture, and historical heritage... That is what we need to strive for and that is what we do, at a smaller scale at Paradox, by offering the best and most representative Dalmatian wines and cheeses.’ Paradox combines two very traditional Dalmatian products, wine and cheese. They offer almost 60 wines by the glass, of which at least 50 are from Dalmatia. ‘The way I select the wines for the wine list is extremely subjective’, admits Zoran. He chooses wines and moreover winemakers that he personally respects and makes his final selections after visiting their production units. During the winter months, Paradox offers some imported Old World wines, but come summer-time, the focus is truly local. As tourists know very little about Croatian wines, and certain varieties are difficult to pronounce, Žlahtina or Crljenak for instance, the wine list at Paradox is not sorted by grape varieties or regions but based on the wine intensity. Wines are listed in 9 categories, with 10 to 12 wines in each category. That way, a guest who likes full-bodied reds gets to choose from a list of 10 to 12 wines instead of looking at a list of 100 wines. Professional, highly trained staff is one of trademarks of Paradox as waiters are there to guide the guest by offering cheese pairing and other suggestions. Their education is ongoing, sometimes just by sampling new wines, listening to the winemakers and being part of the organized consumer wine tastings held in the bar. ‘Wine is a rather complex subject, and the French are largely to be ‘blamed’ for that. By mystifying the wine and using complex vocabulary, they have tried to keep the secrets of the wine world to themselves, only to be understood by wine connoisseurs. Our goal is to try to demystify the wine and bring it closer to the general public’, explains Zoran Pejović. Wine culture in Croatia is not at a desired level, somewhat due to bureaucracy. For example, in the Croatian classification of restaurants and bars we still do not have ‘wine bar’ as a separate entity while there is ‘beer pub’, even though Croatia should be, because of its thousand yearlong winemaking tradition, a wine and not beer country. Also, up until a decade ago, you couldn’t serve wines by the glass, only by the bottle. However, local guests have voiced very positive feedback to Split’s first wine and cheese bar. ‘Guests cherish the possibility to sample three or four different wines at a time. They very often listen to our recommendations as well. During the past few months we held 19 wine tastings and we have already developed a regular clientele. They come for a glass of wine, fine cheeses, a pleasant atmosphere and great service’, says Zoran Pejović. Internet and Facebook play an important role in bringing Paradox closer to their foreign guests. TripAdvisor, the world’s most popular travel site, has Paradox listed at the top of its list of Split restaurants. Guests mainly comment about the waiters who are very knowledgeable, about the pleasant ambiance and the great wine and cheese selection. ‘I do what I like and what I believe in and do it sincerely. My wish is for the guests to leave Paradox and Dalmatia with the feeling that they have experienced something unique, as that experience will be the reason for them to come back’, concludes Zoran Pejović.

extracted from Yachts Croatia magazine