When you think of wine, you picture vineyards of Spain, rolling hills of Italy, and charming villages of France. But the fact is that Croatia has been making wine for about 4,000 years! And adding this country to the list of famous European wine producers is unusual. It may come as a surprise, but Croatia is the country with the oldest continuously planted vineyard in the world!
Forget about Game of Thrones filming locations. Let’s look beyond the classic Croatian tourist destinations. Today, we’re taking you on a short wine trip and help you experience the pearl of the Adriatic with your taste buds!
Most people forget that the combination of climate and soil in Croatia make perfect growing conditions for different grape varieties; from indigenous to international, placing it right next to Italy when it comes to quality and variety.
Is Croatia famous for wine?
Croatia isn’t as famous for wine as it should be. Did you know there are more than 130 indigenous grape varieties in Croatia? Apart from these, Croatia also grows many international varieties, producing high-quality wines from them all over the country.
You can easily enjoy a glass of good wine everywhere in Croatia, but for a more unique experience, be sure to visit at least one of its numerous wineries, dotted across the country.
Best Croatian wines not to miss during your stay
Let’s have a look at the top wines you have to try at least once!
It only makes sense to begin the tour in the most popular region in Croatia: the Dalmatian coast that stretches all the way from Zadar to Dubrovnik and the island of Mljet (a luscious national park with crystal waters).
Plavac mali (bold red with blackberry notes) is the primary Croatian wine and it’s grown mostly in this area. It’s the third most planted variety in Croatia (after Malvazija and Graševina) and it’s a close relation of Zinfandel and only suitable for cultivation in sunny coastal climate as it needs all the sun it can get!
Pošip (full-bodied white with crisp flavors and almond undertones) used to be grown only on Korčula, but today you can find it all around Dalmatia.
Grk (white dry with peppery note) is exclusively grown on near Lumbarda, on Korčula. It’s a unique wine that’s not produced yearly, so be sure to get your hands on it if you get the chance since it’s a combination of Chardonnay and a Riesling: fresh yet acidic, warm yet aromatic, fruity with hints of pine.
Istria & Kvarner
The Istrian region is a must for foodies, romantics, and wine lovers who want to experience something you can’t find elsewhere in Croatia.
Malvazija Istarska (refreshing white, slightly spicy) is the most famous wine from the Istrian region. This is not the same grape as Malvasia from Italy though. It gives a fresh yet dry wine with aromas of apricots, fennel and spice. This wine can also be oak-aged where it transforms into a full-bodied white or orange wine.
Teran (red, full-bodied) is a slightly robust but bold red wine that absorbs the mineral-rich soil of Istria is high in tannins. Expect berries with game-like notes, smokiness and violets.
Rolling hills, dotted with vineyards, old castles nestled on hilltops, valley with idyllic little villages, and cosmopolitan Zagreb sleeping peacefully in the warm summer sun; welcome to Croatian uplands and their delicious wine selection. The area is undergoing innovative wine-making changes and is slowly putting itself on a world wine map.
Škrlet (crisp young white) is an indigenous Croatian white grape with yellow and green hues, floral and fruity notes (green apples, yellow plums), and it’s a perfect companion for fish dinners, fresh pasta, and poultry delicacies.
Pušipel (dry, mineral white with herbal notes) is a light and lively dry wine with yellow-green hue, citrusy aroma and mild acidity. It’s also known as Moslavac, Šipon, or Furmint. It’s not indigenous (also grown in Slovenia, Austria, etc.)
Slavonia & Danube
With cold winters and hot summers, this is an area of Croatia that’s mostly untouched by the mass tourism you can find especially in the Dalmatian coast. Slavonia is rich in wineries, delicious food, and dreamy landscape; you can explore it all from Osijek, the region’s capital, while sipping on Slavonia’s most famous export, Graševina wine.
Graševina (white, medium-body) is one of the most popular wines in Croatia, also considered to be indigenous. Expect a dry yet fresh and aromatic wine with hints of apple. It accounts for about 22% of all Croatia’s wine production, al you’ll find it just about everywhere in Croatia; it’s just that popular!
Frankovka (dry red, dark ruby with peppery scent) is a highly-praised wine in the continental parts of Croatia with flavors of cherries, plums, and berries, along with hints of pepper. It’s a lovely wine to accompany Slavonian delicacies, such as smoked meats, chunky stews, all topped with paprika and accompanied by picked veg.
What is the best wine in Croatia? A short summary
As you can see, Croatia’s not only rich in its history, landscape, and things to do. Croatian wines are up-and-coming in the world; while some have already international recognition – even that of LCBO (Plavac Mali, Malvazia from Istria), others are on a good way to get it as well.
The country is divided into four major wine-growing regions and within each region there are numerous wine varieties to choose from. There are small and larger wineries dotted all over these regions; all you have to do is pick a few to visit.
Don’t forget to buy a bottle of your favorite wine to bring home with you. That way you’ll be able to travel back to the unforgettable Croatian 2021 vacation even when you’re already at home.