We often get asked, so we’ll clear this one up first: “Dida” is Croatian for “Grandfather”. Dida’s Wine Lounge is a tribute to the vision of my pioneering grandfather who started Glengarry Wines in 1940. But that brief historical fact doesn’t really explain the whole story.
The Balkans region has a long and battle-scarred history; mention the places Sarajevo, Bosnia or Kosovo to the YouTube generation and even they’ll know what you’re talking about. It’s a melting pot, and a trouble-spot, still, unfortunately. After WWI, when a young Josef Jakicevich, Dida, was considering the quality of his future in such a hazardous and unpredictable time and place, he decided to start a new life somewhere else, something plenty of young men did in such unsettled times. Being driven and tenacious, he chose to, literally, carve out a future somewhere virtually unknown to him and he came to New Zealand to work as a stonemason. When he stepped off the gangway in Auckland he literally had only a handful of change in his pocket – nothing else. His English was rudimentary and he only really had a passing knowledge of the country that was to shape the rest of his life. He was 20.
By working with fierce determination in Northland and Auckland Dida managed to save enough money to buy 10 acres in Glengarry Road, Oratia, West Auckland, (there’s the other name explained, in case you didn’t know!) and there he planted a vineyard, setting the foundation for a thriving and enduring family business. In 1948 the Government created wine-resellers’ licenses in an effort to assist local winemakers. Josef was quick to see the potential and seized the opportunity, applying for and being granted one of the first two licenses issued in Auckland, for the greengrocery that he had opened the previous year at the corner of Jervois Road and Blake Street.
That address might ring a bell: it’s where our flagship Glengarry wine store resides, and where the Dida’s Wine Lounge and our first Dida’s Food Store were opened. From the opening of the greengrocery doors to the establishment of the first Dida’s in June 2005 is a long 65 years, much of that devoted to the establishment and progression of the Glengarry wine business. My brothers Martin and Joe and I got heavily involved in the family business in the 80s when government regulations allowed wine retailers to sell imported wine; the changes we’ve seen in the way New Zealanders view, buy and consume wine has changed dramatically in that time, and we’ve adhered to Dida’s principles and pioneering spirit, anticipating change where we can to make sure we can bring the latest in worldwide wine developments and the best of the traditional wines directly to our ever-growing band of loyal enthusiasts.
The Dida’s Wine Lounge concept has grown out of that. Seeing how the demand for exciting global culinary products has grown on the back of more and more Kiwis experiencing international cuisine, we saw an opportunity where we could use the skills we learned in wine retail combined with the relationships we’ve established in the best food and wine regions in the world. We use the fantastic ingredients we are able to source and turn them into tempting tapa style dishes, which we conjure up to complement our broad and far-reaching winelists. And it is in Dida’s Wine Lounge that you can see the family photos, the most important of all, of course, being the ones of a hard-working, quiet, industrious trailblazer called Josef, Dida, my grandfather without whom not a brick would have been laid, and not a glass of wine or a wedge of Grana Padano would have ever been sold.