Attention!! Warning!! I’m an Italo-Croat citizen, a qualified sommelier who relishes the fineness of a good cuisine and enjoys good company. I wanted to have a constructive experience with regard to enology and gastronomy since the two are on the whole tightly linked. Therefore I decided to take a wine tour offered by Mario Sehic AIWS,WSET Diploma Holder,Wine Educator and certified sommelier.
But before going into the details, I wish to stress that I am not some uninformed english-speaking tourist from some faraway countries like the U.S. or Japan and therefore, being closely related to Croatia, I know what “cheese from the island of Pag” is, and I already have a fairly good knowledge of Croatian wines of Istria and Dalmatia, etc. so I’m not a customer prone to be sold snake oil…
In light of Mr. Mario's knowledge and qualifications I considered him the right choice to render the services in line with the price that he was charging… Alas, nothing doing! On the contrary he takes advantage of the naïveté of tourists by charging overinflated prices for wine and food of deficient quality.
Due to a lack of sufficient time at my disposal, in spite of the rather high price for the offered wine tour of Dubrovnik, we nevertheless decided to take it (hoping that within the context of Dubrovnik being a high-ranking location of consumerism without restraint, we would nevertheless at least find some small space that is offering fair consumption and quality). Since on previous occasions that I experienced elsewhere proved to be positive and favorable wine tours, I decided to try this one, based on Mister Mario’s presentation on his site. Therefore, I repeat, in order not to lose time to independently explore, I chose Mario to be my guide.
Our guide turned out to be some other person of Mario’s choice. The group was comprised of myself and my girlfriend and an English couple. The Tour began with a stroll through the Old Town of Dubrovnik. Within the stroll five stopping places were programmed. In the course of the stroll we were roughly informed and some elementary descriptions of the various buildings were conveyed to us, along with certain sporadic historical facts and events connected to the various locations.
Our first stopover point was for oysters or mussels served with wine, allegedly sparkling wine served at a table without opening any bottles at the table in front of us; furthermore it was unnecessary to open a new bottle of wine since the wine being served was warm and with no bubbles (perlage). There is no need to try to describe the taste since I do not wish to worsen an already bad situation.
At our second stopover point: it was cheese and prosciutto. Two kinds of cheese were served and a crude prosciutto, 2 olives and a few anchovies. The main protagonist in this serving was a “Pag cheese” that has nothing to do with the alleged cheese, hence when I commented this (in the Croatian language) to the guide, simply not to embarrass him in front of the British tourists since they don’t know what’s what anyway, the abashed guide replied that maybe the restaurant has run out of the authentic cheese and might be serving us with a similar substitute!? The crude prosciutto was certainly purchased in a supermarket and the olives came from a tin can. …
Mainly, delusion after delusion. The wine that we were served at the table this time was white Pošip and red Plavac Mali, both wines poured into glasses and the bottles immediately taken away (in the course of this entire tour there was no mention about the wines themselves, the wineries, the winegrowers nor anything about viticulture). I kindly asked to be shown the bottles and they immediately came up with an unopened bottle that was being exhibited and in no way resembled the bottle that we were being served from.
The third stopover place was a coffee bar serving various wines and drinks (cocktails) and after listening to a brief introduction in reference to Dingač (Matuško) wine, the wine was served in small half-filled glasses and indeed the wine was very pleasant. We were told that this wine was undertaking an advertising (50% discount) at a buy-and- takeaway price of 20 euros. Afterwards I corroborated the price at a Konzum supermarket and there the price was 16 euros). Near the end of our visit to this stopover, when the guide and I were momentarily alone, he told me that we were visiting this bar on his own initiative and the stopover was not programmed and he took us there because he personally wanted us to have at least one good example of a wine tasting tour of real wine.
The fourth stopover was a dainty restaurant with a lovely atmosphere, cozy lights and good music. Here we were served an octopus salad (of average merit) and a good squid "Black" risotto that was the only delicious meal of the whole evening. This was accompanied with the good but not remarkable wine (white Graševina- krauthaker ) and the less smooth and discreet red Plavac (which bottle you can buy in any bigger supermarket for the price of 35/37 kuna (5 euros).
The fifth and last stage of stopover points: a combined coffee bar and patisserie. We were served four pieces of cake and the fourth piece differed from the other three pieces, but no one of us was either asked or requested! They were brought to us to be eaten along with the recommendation to accompany this with a glass of "meditsa" - Medica - Medenica.. (a honey liqueur from Rakija ). Unfortunately they came back with the bad news that there was no more medica (just like they did not have the fourth piece of cake) and so they brought us a liqueur of Teran which is by the way a wine produced in the region in which I live so that I know what good and pleasant teran liqueur is. This drink was beyond doubt pure chemistry!
Finally the naive English tourists immediately paid their bill and scuttled while I handed the 200 euros to cover the payment for this shameful tour for two persons, but after having a chat with the guide and complaining about the situation of whole tour as described above – in other words saying that they were in every respect incorrect and thieves, the guide wanted to refund me for the whole amount saying that he agreed that such execution is shameful and that the difference between the prices charged and the actual value of the super-cheap services offered is great but is sold to the naïve customers at the highest possible price .
So in conclusion I told the guide that I will leave Mario the amount of 50 euros for my lost time and for deceiving me and I left an additional amount for the guide, demanding that he does not hand it over to Mario. In my opinion the guide ultimately proved to be a sincere and reasonable person …
At one point I even thought of reporting all this to the police and let them know how innocent tourists are bluffed and mislead when they actually have no knowledge of the real situation and believe that what Mario is advertising and offering are original items and products. The most important point in all this is that Mario does not give any receipts for the payments of his services! Hence, his earnings are beyond any control.
Mister Mario the Sommelier mercilessly fills his pockets with money and does not know of fair play while he thickly uses the ignorance of his foreign guests.
His only taste of wine and of the courageous cultural history of Dubrovnik and surroundings is a taste of dirty money that he swallows up with greed but he remains insatiable.
Unfortunately this experience is sad and shameful. I made several attempts to talk with Mister Mario. The only connection was my first call that lasted a couple of minutes and in which all he said was that I have to pay him the remainder of what I owe him and to which he added that the other British couple was very satisfied with the tour, and after that he ended the call and all further communication.