Don’t go looking for your passion. Listen to your heart and your passion will find you. For Aleksandar Draganić it came at the age of 19 in a wine glass filled with Chianti Classico, a fruity red wine from Tuscany.
“My father opened a wine shop in 2009 when I was 19. Until then, I didn’t have any desire to drink, taste or smell wine; I only drank inexpensive rubbish.”
Some wine connoisseurs have their first taste of the nectar of the vine when they’re children. It was different for Aleksandar, but his conversion from low to high quality wine was meaningful, and he has since devoted his life to wine.
“Until 19 I drank cheap supermarket wine, which was for parties, to mix with cola or something like that. And then my dad told me, ‘Ok, now I have a wine shop. I’ve been drinking wine since I was 25, and it would be nice for you to try it out, or at least stop drinking bad wine. Start with me.’”
Aleksandar’s father, Stanimir Draganić, initiated the conversion himself. Stanimir began a wine importation business in 2001 upon returning to Sarajevo from Canada. There, he had worked his way up in the restaurant business from a busboy to a manager of fine dining in an Italian restaurant. In 2009, he opened DiVina, a wine shop in Grbavica, and three years later moved the shop to a more spacious venue at number 10 Josipa Štadlera, partly to gain space for wine tastings.
After university classes in Sarajevo, Aleksandar would go to the shop and read books and magazines in the shop, teaching himself about wine. Eventually, he decided to invest in his growing passion and in 2012 enrolled in the leading wine academy in Zagreb, which offers Wine Spirits Education Trust (WSET). He is now studying the fourth and final level of WSET in Austria.
DiVina’s mission is not only to distribute the best wines of the region, but also to educate people about wine, and wine tastings are a key part of this. Aleksandar believes that the reason the wine scene isn’t thriving in Sarajevo is because restaurants and bars don’t invest much in the wine aspect of dining. “They think that wine is just a drink, and that it doesn’t attract people to their establishments.” The other problem is that most people don’t know enough about wine. “The thing we’ve been trying to change for eight years now is the education of customers.” He pointed out that when a customer is savvy, it creates ‘a domino effect’ whereby restaurants and bars improve their selection to meet the standards of their clients. When a customer knows little, owners can serve whatever they want. “We are trying to break out of that vicious cycle.” Aleksandar said.
Aleksandar is also into analyzing beer, tea and gin, though he saves the term “liquid poetry” for wine alone.
Aleksandar has devoted his young adult life to tasting, understanding, and teaching people about wine. He explained that to be a true wine professional, “You have to know a lot about the wine that you’re selling, about the region, about the climate in that region, about the grape varieties, about food matching, about what the customer wants.” Most importantly, however, “You have to have a relaxed approach, because when you’re relaxed, you can really enjoy wine and gain a deeper understanding of it… It’s really a fun thing to do in life.”