The Art of Wine: Interview with our Sommelier

In Malin, we know a thing or two about wines. They are carefully selected to perfectly complete the dishes from the menu. And we owe that to Toni, one of the owners and a sommelier at Malin.

Before he decided to open his own restaurant, Toni used to work in a Micheline-recommended restaurant. There he mastered the art of wine and became an expert in wine-tasting and wine-pairing. The process of mastery included a lot of hard work combined with true passion and love for the gastronomy world.

Here he shared his valuable perspectives on Croatia as a wine country, his best wine experiences and some valuable tips and tricks for wine-pairing.

What inspired you to become a sommelier?

Let me be honest – it wasn’t some noble natural affection, but a pretty basic need. I got a job as a waiter at a renowned restaurant in Zagreb, where I discovered that expertise about wines is a must if I wanted to excel. This encouraged me and I began to really deepen my knowledge. As time passed by, I became more and more intrigued by the world of wine. Now I see it as a living organism – there are nature, science, geography, history, tradition, culture and a bit of mystery in every wine bottle.

Can you describe the greatest wine and wine experiences that you have ever had?

There are so many good ones that is almost impossible to single out just one. Also, my taste is changing as I get more and more experienced. At first, I preferred strong wines with lots of tannins, a now I prefer white macerated wines, like Boškinac Ocu from island Pag and Clai Sveti Jakov from Istria.

As for the experience, I would like to single out a trip to Goriška Brda in Slovenia. I was really impressed with their high work ethic, effort and precision. Just by the look at the vineyard, you could notice that every single piece of land was used with a purpose to create a top-quality product.

What is the role of a sommelier in your opinion?

Sommelier is a link between a winemaker and a customer. His role is to provide wines of high-quality so that the guest can always get the best possible product on the table. Also, his role is to spread knowledge about the processes, values and traditions of the wine world.

What can you tell us about Croatian wines, and especially about the Istrian region?

Croatia is blessed with very different geographical and climatic conditions and also very different cultures and traditions. This means that we produce wines of great diversity and absolute quality.

Istria is special because it is a land of crystal blue sea on the outside, but also of the green rolling hills on the inside. That gives Istria perfect conditions for winemaking. Also, in approach to wine, it is one step ahead from the rest of Croatia, making her a real paradise for good wines.

Which are the most important characteristics that go to make a good sommelier?

In addition to knowing about wines, you need to also know the people. It is important to understand their wishes and then advise them with top-quality products.

How do you work with the chef and kitchen to marry wines and their creations?

You need to have a chef that also appreciate a good wine. Usually, the best results come out of teamwork. First, the chef creates a dish, and then the art of trying outcomes to the light. We carefully explore and search for the wine that makes the dining experience perfectly complete and balanced. Sometimes it is even the case that the dish is perfected according to a good wine.

In the end, would you share with us a few useful tips for menu pairing?

Tricks for menu pairing are a bit tricky. Sometimes a sweet wine fits perfectly with a sweet dish, and light wine with high acids makes a perfect match with a sour dish. However, sometimes contradiction achieves the perfect balance. Bitter wine can make a perfect balance to a sweet dish.

That’s why the best tips that I can provide are: explore and play. Let your imagination run wild and try out all the possibilities. That’s how you’ll get the best results.