Croatia has a long history of winemaking dating back to the 5th century BC when Greeks inhabited the island of Hvar! Today, the country is leaning on its heritage and is home to many wine sorts and thanks to modernised winemaking techniques and equipment, is becoming known as a world-class producer.
There are an incredible 300 defined wine districts within the country, which come under four main wine regions. This article will serve as a brief introduction to Croatian wines with a breakdown of the main wine regions as well as grapes and wines you should try while here!
Slavonia and Podunavlje cover the area from the towns of Virovitica and Daruvar in the west to the Baranja in the east. This region is very different from all others in Croatia – it is characterized by large areas of vineyards that produce the most quantities of wine in the entire country.
The best ones are produced in the Kutjevo wine country, as well as in smaller areas like Erdut, Belje, Srijem, Daruvar, Baranja, and Ilok. The region of Slavonia has been dominated by white wine, and that is the case even now.
The white vine sorts produced in this area are ones well known around the world – Pinot gris and blanc, Rhein Riesling, Chardonnay, Traminac, Sauvignon and - Graševina (Welschriesling) that can easily be called the kind of the Slavonian wine!
The production of Graševina in this wine region has reached such a standard that many identify it with Slavonia and consider it to be a native in this area. Moreover, Graševina is certainly the most widespread and popular of all the grape varieties grown on Croatian soil.
Although Slavonia was once a place where you could find red varieties such as the Blue Frankish, Kadarka, and Portugieser, these sorts have only recently seen a rise in popularity in the region, along with Pinot noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zweigelt.
The Croatian Upland (bregovita hrvatska) is one of four Croatian wine-growing regions, spanning through the entire central and northwestern part of Croatia and the areas of Međimurje, Zagorje, Prigorje, Plešivica and Moslavina.
In this region white grapes are mostly produced and there are no big names in the industry – all of the wines are produced in family-owned wineries.
From white grape varieties here you can find Rhein Riesling, Sauvignon blanc, Pinot gris and blanc, Chardonnay, Sylvaner, Welschriesling, and Yellow Muscat, as well as some old, indigenous varieties like the Škrlet from Moslavina, Pušipel from Međimurje and Kraljevina.
Although dominated by the white varieties, the area also supports some red ones, such as Pinot noir or the Blue Frankish. Some of the best wines of this area can be found on amazing hills in the wine cellars right next to the vineyards.
Dalmatia is the home of some of the most stunning vineyards, with breathing sea views, that produce superior grapes and consequently wines. Dalmatia region covers the area from the city of Zadar and its hinterland to Dubrovnik and the entire Konavle municipality.
Plavac mali as red wine and Pošip as white wine are the main figures when talking about wine in Dalmatia. Plavac mali grows best on the steep slopes of the Pelješac Peninsula and the islands of Hvar and Brač, while Pošip is an authentic white variety that grows on the island of Korčula.
But unlike in other wine regions in Croatia, the most common wine here is the red one – which thrives in the rough, dry terrains of the Dalmatian coast and islands.
When visiting Dalmatia and trying the wines you should pay special attention to a large number of authentic sorts, such as the Kujundžuša, Plavina, Maraština, Bogdanuša, Debit, Zinfandel, Tribidrag, etc, whose value is being increasingly recognized by Dalmatian winemakers and wine lovers!
In addition to that, the island of Korčula also has an important role in this wine-growing region as the place of origin of Grk and Pošip, authentic white varieties that produce renowned, high-quality wines.
When talking about Šibenik and Primošten - Babić and Debit wine sorts are also not to be missed!
Another interesting sort is grown in the far south of Croatia – Dubrovnik Malvasia (not to be confused with Istrian Malvasia), which produces dry and sweet wines.
The Istria and Kvarner region stretch over the Istrian peninsula, the city of the Rijeka region, and the islands of Kvarner - Krk, Cres, Rab, Lošinj, and Pag. In this region, winemaking goes back to ancient times, and today, the wines produced here are praised for their superior quality.
Istrian peninsula is well known for its fine white wines produced from local authentic sorts such as the famous Istrian Malvasia, grown mostly in the west of the peninsula, while central Istria has a different, more mild climate, which suits the red authentic sort called Teran.
The most well-known wine from the Kvarner region is the white wine called Žlahtina, grown on the island of Krk, with the one from the village of Vrbnik being praised as the best.
Other varieties grown in Istria and Kvarner are Merlot, White Muscat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot blanc, gris, and noir, as well as some lesser-known varieties, such as Refošk, Sansigot, and Trojišćina.
What distinguishes this region from other ones and the competition is the focus on the local sorts of wines bringing them, with modern production, to the highest level of winemaking. That results in attracting more and more wine enthusiasts from all over the world! Here are 7 wineries in Istria you don't want to miss!