Iće i piće

NO 25, June 2011

wine and... Portrait of a Winemaker

Alen Bibić

Albert Donsky

Photos: Damir Fabijanić

Wine cellar’s ID

Family tradition

The almost 500 year-old family tradition started in what was then called Nečven grad (40 km upstream along the Krka River in Promina), Alen Bibic says at the start of his monologue about wine. To this day, we have a house and vineyards in the same place. In all the history of wars, conquerors and new governments, wine has been produced in the family, and after World War II, my grandfather Petar was only into wine. His successful work as family breadwinner was violently broken off by the 1991 war in Croatia, in which granddad died, while it was left to me to carry on the family job and tradition. And so in 1995, after the war, my wife and I came back home to our ruined estates and vineyards. For the first four to five years, we literally had no electricity, water or house. But in 1996 already we had our first harvest from the old vineyards, planting new vines as we went along. Our first wines of the 1997 vintage got recognitions at home competitions like Sabatina and Vinovita, and at that difficult moment we got encouraged to go on and persist with our production and our vision. We set up a real private co-op in 2000, with production from our own and mostly subcontracting vineyards related to the family and relatives.

Vineyards and varieties

Our main and basic variety for which we are best known in Croatia and connected with through history is Debit. We think it an indigenous variety of the Šibenik region, although we know that it came in circuitous Mediterranean routes from Smyrna from Turkey via Apulia in the south of Italy to Šibenik. It is not found anywhere today except here and so, as the basis of our whites, it has given us an excellent spur to produce six different wines from it. Along with Debit, have three local reds: Plavina, Babić and Lasin, from which we make our basic red wine – Bibich Riserva, the wine we are best known for. In the last ten years or so we have planted plenty of international varieties, mainly Shiraz, but also Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet France, Sauvignon Blanc. Some of them didn’t turn out very well, and we have given them up, like Pinot Gris. Currently we produce 13 different wines from all these varieties, or in various cuvees and blends. We produce from a bit more than 20 ha, half of which are ours, the rest owned by the wider family. It’s all controlled.

Cellar, technology, wines

Our cellar has a capacity of 200,000 litres, 40,000 of which is in wooden barriques, through which all of our reds pass. The remainder are stainless steel and stone vats, some hundreds of years old, coming down through the family. We produce a wine called Bas de Bas in the tradition method of maceration in stone vats without any additions at all. We are more or less exclusively based on natural yeasts, which give maximally personal wines, different from all those in the region. We exported in a serious way our first consignments to America at the end of 2005, and today almost 80% of our production goes there. Our Debit first of all, and then a cuvee of Babić and Plavina, today on the wine lists of the best restaurants in New York and San Francisco that is, some fifty of the wine lists of the top American restaurants, which is very pleasant for us, and, what is more, they really do sell. I think that for all of us Croatian winemakers, the indigenous varieties can produce a push forward and show us different from the fare on the world’s wine maps. Just a few years back, we didn’t exist on the wine maps of the world – usually our wines of 2006 and 2007 were other wines, while now, even if at the end, there is – Croatia.
We sent samples to Decanter for the first time three years ago, and since then we have had two silvers and one bronze: for a dessert wine of Debit called Ambra, and Lučica, which got a bronze. Then we sent Riserva R6, which got a recommendation. Lučica and Bibich Riserva R6 got a Gran Menzione at Vinitaly in the last two years.

Food and drink

Wine and eats are constantly connected, and cooking, always a hobby of ours, has naturally complemented our tastings with the little bites we make. For this reason, in the context of our estate, we receive little organised groups for tasting food and wine in 7-10 courses, depending on how many wines are involved, and how much time they have. And of course, to the accompaniment of our olive oil, home made products, our maraschino…


Notwithstanding all the current features in the development of wine-making, notwithstanding the technology to hand, we are turning to the origins. We are more inclined to the original, to things that are typical of our region, which motivates me as a winemaker to put my own wine seal upon. Our wines maybe won’t always please – but they’ll be hard to forget.


We are in the phase of planning 10 new hectares on the new estate we have close to Skradin, in a single piece. Then we’ll have 20 all our own, and I think that for me as winemaker and vineyard owner it’s even too much. And the varieties story thus closes in the way I have always wanted: a few international varieties, some Debit, some Sauvignon Blanc, which impresses me. I am not against planting international varieties that are good in certain regions I think that for our area around Skradin Shiraz, as far as reds is concerned, is really an ideal variety, very adaptable. Perhaps we can learn from the smarter, which means some combinations of Shiraz and Plavina or Shiraz and Babić. We can learn from winemakers in Tuscany and Sicily.
And there’ll be a new winery for real wine tourism, for here, in the family house, we are restricted. In a few years. So far, we have always been in a hurry. Not any more.

Vina Bibich PTO

Zapadna 63

22222 Skradin

(023) 329 260, 091 1236 501


Read more articles from issue 25, June 2011

Other issues