USA Today: The #5 “Best Wine Region to Visit” is Croatia

(Photo: Copyright © Cliff Rames)
(Photo: Copyright © Cliff Rames)

Okay, we already knew it. Anthony Bourdain discovered it (literally, he fell off his chair in wine-fueled amazement). And now the readers of USA Today have confirmed it: the wine-growing regions of Croatia are awesome – among the best in the world.

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Croatia’s 2014 Dalmacija Wine Expo: Three Things I Learned

By Cliff Rames © 2014

Sensory overload. That is how I would describe any one of my whirlwind visits to Croatia.

I mean it in a positive way. The country is simply brimming with vinous, culinary and natural delights. Gnarly old grapevines improbably clinging to sun baked seaside slopes. Nearly 1,200 islands sprinkled like seashells on the impossibly blue Adriatic. Countless villages and hamlets of seminal charm nestled in coves and on mountainsides. Fresh caught seafood and farm-to-table produce so succulent and cooked to perfection. The warm faces of family, old friends and new acquaintances (and an occasional donkey).  Swoon-worthy views and secret spots where you can enjoy the sights and sounds of nature that – to this New York City boy – are so intimate, pure and wonderful.

Dingač (Photo © Cliff Rames)
Dingač (Photo © Cliff Rames)

And then there is the wine. Indigenous grapes, local producers. Most of it delicious and distinct. So this is what all this beauty… this land…this Croatia tastes like, you may be inspired to declare.

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Blood from Stone: Stina Wine from Brač – Best New Label Design

By Cliff Rames © 2012

Jako Vino, a recently-renovated winery in the circa 1903 Dalmatinska Vinska Zadruga (Dalmatian Wine Association) building in the town of Bol on Brač island, Croatia, has launched a brand new wine called “Stina”.

Stina is a quality red wine made from the locally indigenous Plavac Mali grape. “Stina” is a local word that means stone – or, more precisely, the high quality white limestone blocks that are quarried on Brač and exported around the world to be turned into great works of sculpture and architecture (“stina” from Brač was reportedly used in the building of the White House in Washington DC and as construction blocks and as sidewalk pavers in various cities, including New York City).

Jako Vino winery (photo by Cliff Rames)

While the verdict is still out on how delicious this wine possibly is (I haven’t yet tasted it or come across any reviews), what stands out is not so much the wine but its label (actually there are currently several different versions of the label, so collect them all!).  🙂

Designed and published by Zagreb advertising firm Bruketa & Žinić and brand consultants Brandoctor, the Stina label is magnificent. Strikingly sleek and eye-catching, it is a marvel of design: at once stark yet beautiful; simple yet powerful; rustic yet elegant…skillfully merging the accidental with the deliberate, the rudimentary with the artistic and wine snobbery with mainstream chic appeal.

(photos courtesy of Jako Vino)

As you can see by the photos and video below, the label’s textured white paper background serves as a canvass for free-form, breezy drawings that take their shape and inspiration from what would otherwise be unfortunate and unsophisticated drips of wine down the sides of the bottle.

Which leads me to wonder: In the history of wine drinking, how many prized labels in the hands of would-be connoisseurs and collectors have been ruined by renegade trickles of wine, staining noble depictions of Coats of Arms and names of  Great Chateaus with clumsy crimson tears?….

But that doesn’t happen here. Here a wayward drip becomes a serendipitous moment…the muse that manifests as a high-effective and über contemporary brand of folk art: wine label sketching in the blood of Brač stone.

The Jako Vino Facebook page says it best (interpreted by me from the Croatian):  Stina, which means stone, is the symbol of Brač island. The Stina wine label symbolizes a piece of virgin stone that summons sculptors to shape it; a white canvas that invites artists to paint it; a sheet of blank paper that incites bards to scratch poetic verse on it, or writers and musicians to lay down the words and notes to the most beautiful stories or musical compositions on it.

With all of this clever and creative imagery in mind, I feel inspired to (unofficially) nominate Jako Vino’s “Stina” label(s) as Croatia’s – and quite possibly the world’s – Best New Wine Label Design of the year.  🙂

My nomination means nothing, of course, except to further fuel my own curiosity and thirst (and maybe yours too?). In other words, I can’t wait to taste what’s in that bottle!

If anyone has tried this wine, please let us know your thoughts in the comment section.

You can watch the video showing the label’s creation below. Cheers!