By Grace Williamson
Doris Srpek (co-owner of Bornstein Wine Bar and Shop) brings an old coat rack just beside the clothed table and hangs on it a color-coded map of Croatia, illustrating the major wine regions: “This is my project I am proud of.” The colorful map reflects in her black framed glasses while she carefully explains each region, her passion showing through in every detail.
Just beneath the surface of Kaptol street in Zagreb (the capital of Croatia), lies a two-hundred-year-old wine cellar. The vaulted ceiling connects with the original exposed brick pillars. Wooden stairs leading down into the beautiful venue are lined with empty bottles, showing the remnants of good times. Bornstein Wine Bar and Shop started the commercial wine scene in Zagreb 29 years ago, creating a space for a younger generation of wine producers to showcase their product. Today, they still promote the up-and- coming wine makers and place a definitive focus on the continuance of tradition. Owners Ivan and Doris Srpek have been operating the wine bar and shop for four years under the Bornstein name, establishing a reputation amongst locals and travelers. Each week, they host many tastings for guests to enjoy an array of exquisite wines from various regions throughout the rich land of Croatia. The “Wine Flight” is a tasting available Monday through Friday without reservation and is perfect for an afternoon lunch precursor. Featuring three different wines from areas around Zagreb, guests are able to acquaint themselves with the Purger (local of Zagreb) wine scene.
At this particular tasting, the first pour is Pušipel Classic—a white—coming from a native variety of grape north of Zagreb, where it flourishes in the cool, humid climate and rolling hills. An aroma of green fruit radiates from the glass, with hints of pear and apple. The fresh, crisp taste is perfect paired with fatty foods, as Srpek explains, “It breaks up the fatness in a meal.”
The next glass is filled with Malvazija Istarska, a white from Istria, produced by a young gentlemen named ClaudioTomaz, native to the region. Originally, the Malvazija grape was found in ancient Greece, but this brand is specific to Croatia, and Srpek elaborates, “they share the same genes.” The aroma of pears and peaches makes this dry, white wine perfect for the summer when many Croats sip a glass while vacationing along the coast.
To finish, there is a Plavac Dingač from a small village along the coast of an island in the Dalmatia region. The vineyard faces open sea and is known for taking pride in its meticulous harvesting process. Come September, no machines are allowed to pass the entrance; all the picking is done only by hand and donkeys are used to transport the grapes. The final product is a full-bodied red with a lingering aftertaste, emanating scents of plum.
Bornstein’s commitment to promoting the small business owner shows the Srpek’s appreciation of quality. In creating a place to taste wines native to Croatia, they have given travelers and locals the opportunity to enrich their cultural experience and deepen their understanding of a quintessential part of Zagreb life.