Atlantis' Gordana Josovic: Dubai needs education and wine bars

Gordana Josovic. Photo by Lee-Roy Boucher.
Krister Bengtsson
Published 31-January-2024
Interview / United Arab Emirates

Restaurants from the Atlantis hotel in Dubai brought home a number of the Gold Stars in Star Wine List's first UAE wine list awards on Jan 29th. Behind the wine scene and sommelier teams stands Gordana Josovic, the Head of Wine at Atlantis Dubai.

Dinner by Heston, Ossiano and Nobu Dubai all picked up Gold Stars at the first Star Wine List of the Year events in Dubai - read all about the winners here.

Congratulations on your teams picking up many awards!

"Thank you so much, it was really a surprise. I am very, very happy that our team got what I believe they deserved. The work started already in 2021 so to be awarded a few years later is even sweeter."

Born and raised in Serbia, Gordana Josovic moved to San Francisco and worked in the wine industry for 20 years before moving to New York. There she was working for the Thomas Keller restaurant group when the offer came from Dubai during the pandemic.

"I thought I would give it a try and now this is home."

What is the focus and ambition that you brought to Atlantis?

"The ambition was to expose Dubai to wines from all around the world that were not here. One of the examples was the grower Champagne category. Also small producers and more organic and biodynamic wines. Wines with a story and wine with a substance. We have come a long way."

Coming from New York to Dubai, what have been the biggest differences?

"Definitely the number of suppliers. It's the competition that I think is definitely needed here. The suppliers here are doing a fantastic job, but I think it's maybe time that we get more sources. If we are looking for something that is outside their portfolios, we do something which is called special imports, but it's connected to higher margins and so forth."

"The other challenge is education. I think that the wine community needs to be exposed to more organisations. WSET is currently the only one available, the Wine Scholar Guild is currently here too. I think education is the key. Our sommeliers are educating the guests and the public but the wine professionals are really hungry and excited. People come from all around the world to work here because they have heard how exciting and vibrant the wine scene is. But at the same time, I think we need to highlight the Dubai wine scene and bring more opportunities for education."

Nobu Dubai

Touching on the supplier side, there are two main suppliers to work with in Dubai, how do you navigate that?

"We actually have a great relationship and I think it's also a two-way street. It's not only us asking for things, but also listening. Lots of those wines that we do special imports for, let's say Spanish or Greek wines that nobody else has, they end up being part of their portfolio because they see how much interest is there and those wines contribute to the diversity. Our relationships are getting better and better because I think they have become much more open to what we have to say."

What are the guests asking for on the Dubai dining scene?

"Most of the guests are still a bit hesitant when it comes to new things here. The key is hand-selling and working one on one. In some of the places we don't even offer the wine list. The sommelier will approach the table, start having a conversation and the guest gains confidence and they leave very excited having ordered wine that they would not necessarily have had in any other place in Dubai. So, for me that is very exciting, versus going to a restaurant and ordering the wine that you are familiar with. That is happening more and more."


There are many amazing restaurants in the Dubai and many more are opening soon - what are your plans going forward this year?

"The big plan we are working for is Frantzén with two new restaurants that are going to open later this year. It will be exciting to talk to you next year and see what the results are going to be!"

And how about wine bars?

"That is my number one passion project, hopefully there will be one, one day. If anybody is interested, please contact me! I think it's a big key in how the wine scene is going to evolve much more in Dubai. Because even in New York, Paris, London, that is where the most exciting things are being created. We need to get together before work, after work, have wine flights, tastings and so on. "

"So far, dining is still an event for people in Dubai. People don't have the opportunity to just sit at a bar and have a few glasses of wine without further obligations. We do have one place at the moment, but I hope that in the next few years it will become part of the culture. Especially with the amazing new chefs and the quality of the wine that has risen drastically."

And since several of your restaurants are qualified for the International final in June, we'll see you bring a whole bunch of people to Stockholm, maybe charter a plane?

"Haha, I am hoping for that, I will ask Atlantis!"

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