Sometimes life surprises you when you least expect it. “We’d like to invite you to a vineyard this weekend, and it is really close to where you live in Župa,” came the question. My first thoughts were, vineyard in Župa, vineyard close to me??
The agricultural scene in Župa is similar to that in Konavle, in decline. It seems that the majority of the fields remain untendered and are left to support grass. Whereas through history both these southern regions were the main suppliers of fruit and vegetables to the Republic, those days are clearly behind us. In fact, even the symbol of Župa is a lady carrying fruit and vegetables on her head, a statue was even recently unveiled of Župka. Whilst the fields of Župa may still be fertile, finding a modern day Župka is like spotting a unicorn.
Yes, we all know why this has happened, well a combination of factors. We’ve all had our heads turned by the “easy” money from tourism, in the 16th century they didn’t have booking.com, or any .com!
We are tending to buy more produce from supermarkets than local markets, some land has been swallowed up by new construction, and working on the land is extremely hard work.
Yes, we all know the reasons, and of course motivating people to go back and work on the land is tough. “Yes, the vineyard is right next to you, like a three-minute drive away,” said a friend. I jumped onto Google and couldn’t believe my eyes, a vineyard on my doorstep.
I am not a great wine lover, although I worked for over ten years in the wine business in London. I mean I don’t mind the occasional chilled glass of Pošip after a good lunch, but that I’d actually go out and buy a bottle of wine, probably not. However, I can appreciate a good wine (ten years of working with sommeliers and connoisseurs rubbed off on me) and there are some really excellent fine wines throughout Croatia.
So last weekend I found myself in the foothills of the mountains that encircle Župa in the most charming vineyard. In fact, this vineyard was one of only two left in Župa!! “I was looking at maps and drawings from around 1830 and most of this land was covered with vineyards at that time,” stated the friendly owner of the land, who clearly had a passion for his grapes, and indeed olives. “I then compared those maps with Google maps today, and you can still see the rough outline of where the vineyards and other farms used to be, but they are all covered with grass, trees and bushes now,” he added. And indeed the view from where I was standing in his quaint vineyard echoed his story, the views were spectacular but the crops were absent.
Now this is where the clever part comes in, this vineyard owner had combined the analogue and digital worlds. For not only did he have a working vineyard and olive trees but he also organised tourist tours of his land, along with an explanation of how he produces wines and olive oils, and a tasting of his produce. Looked very much like a win/win situation.
Now while this is nothing new on Peljesac, he is the only person in Župa, and this close to Dubrovnik, to do this. You are so close to Dubrovnik that you can see Srđ from the vineyard, and there is clearly a demand for this as well. I guess you could add his offer into the whole “getting back to nature” offer that tourists are looking for now.
Not only do tourists want to stay on islands or in the countryside, but they are also looking for a more authentic experience, something local and real that they can’t find anywhere else. “Most of my guests are from the US and UK and they really love to be able to see a vineyard so close to the hustle and bustle of the city but at the same time so tranquil and relaxing,” smiled my host. These are the projects that we need in the future, real people with real stories in real situations.
And it seems that this story isn’t the only one, there are others under the surface waiting to be discovered, and I have a feeling that they will be successful, with or without help or financial support from any state organisation. In Vino Veritas, or in wine, there is truth, and there is also truth in hard work and innovation.