An Evening with Alen Bibić Part 1

Over a summer, two travelers drink their way through the wines of Mediterranean Europe

The town of Skradin.

The Bibić Family have always been outsiders to some degree. Wine has been in their blood for a long time, but they’ve never really played by the rules. For instance, when everyone else was selling to the collectives during Yugoslavia, they didn’t. When everyone else stopped making wine in Skradin because of war, they didn’t, making them one of the very few producers in the region currently. And when everyone started spelling their names with a ‘ć’ instead of ‘ch’, they named their wines Bibich, instead of Bibić. These may seem like small things to the casual observer, but it was our opinion that they are the points in life and history that defined winemaking for the Bibić family today and specifically for the man at the helm, Alen Bibić.

Alen Bibić

We had the incredibly good fortune to sit down with him for several hours in his lovely new wine bar and restaurant (actually a joint partnership called, ‘Alante’- Alen and his friend Ante) in Skradin for a meal and a taste of his wines.

Skradin is in and of itself a different kind of place. Located near Šibenik, about an hour south of Zadar, although Skradin is near the coast it is a bit inland and has a totally different feel than most coastal towns along Dalmacia. During the times of Yugoslavia it was an ethnically mixed area, comprised of both Croatians and Serbs, so it saw a good deal of strife, conflict, and blood during the war of the 1990’s that made Yugoslavia no more. Out of this, in 1995 at the mere age of 22, Alen Bibić picked up winemaking from his grandfather and set about building up the business properly. It wasn’t easy going. His first had to clear the fields of mines to start re-growing the vines. Then he has to rebuild the old house and cellar that were his family’s. Then, he had to get his wines recognized.

A pršut dish.

It was the last part that was probably the most difficult, since Croatian wines, until the last five years or so, weren’t that highly regarded outside of the country. While many of his compatriots were selling out their stock domestically, Alen wasn’t and with good reason: his wines are very different from normal Croatian wines. Once again, the fact that the Bibich family does things differently came in to play. While this could hurt many a winemaker because their wines never get a market, it seemed to only help Alen for in our opinion, his wines take on much more New World characteristics. They’re deep, complex, smooth, earthy, and well, just delicious in a way that is different from what is standard Croatian fare. This probably explains why the vast majority of his vintages are exported.

But, enough about the history of the Bibich winery (you can’t drink that), let’s move on to the wines in Part 2.