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From Chef to Top Somm

Ivan Jug – Best Sommelier of Croatia 2018

Ivan is a sommelier, manager and co-owner at Zagreb restaurant Noel. Even though he was professionally trained as a chef, he has ben working as a sommelier since 2009.  He likes to say that it wasn’t a choice, it just happened – just like falling in love. He started down this path after receiving the third edition of Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine as a present, something that opened up a whole new world and a newfound passion for him. While his friends laughed at his conversion, at first, he continued on to get a Croatian sommelier club diploma, the ASI Diploma, the Court of Master Sommelier certified level diploma, and finally, the Sake Academy’s certified diploma.

Q: How hard has it been to achieve this title of Best Sommelier of Croatia?

This is my first title as Best Sommelier of Croatia, but I came in second once, third twice and fourth three times. I’ve also been a Sommelier champion of Continental Croatia. Of course, I’m very proud of this achievement, as here are many colleagues in Croatia who take the sommelier’s job very seriously, and winning the title against them is a real challenge. I want to congratulate all of them for improving our scene with their hard work.

To achieve this result, I’ve had to put in so much hard work and dedication. It is a true struggle to balance the obligations of a restaurant manager, husband and a father of two with intensive preparations, learning theory, blind tastings, contacting and visiting wineries, etc.

Q: What are your expectations for the upcoming Best Sommelier of the World competition?

To be one of the sixty people in the world competing for this title is a great achievement and honour. I’m looking forward to representing my country and our region. Although I really don’t have any expectations, I’m not going just to show up. I’ve put huge efforts into my professional advancement and I’m going to behave with a true spirit of sportsmanship. To be among the 15 best in the world would be something worth celebrating.

Q: Do you have people helping you prepare for Antwerp?

I have really passionate friends who are part of my team and are helping me achieve my goals. My colleague from Noel restaurant, Goran Petrić, came in third in this year’s national competition, and he is my sparring partner on this journey. We work with other sommeliers in Croatia as well, like Dennis Drazan and Sunjic Grof. And of course, none of this would be possible without the help of the Croatian Sommelier Club.

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