Croatia has the most stunning views of the Adriatic Sea, the stretch of water between Eastern Europe and Italy. Sure, Croatia is not as famous as France, Italy or Spain, but the wine here is up there with the best in authenticity and quality.
Croatia, although small, has a privileged terroir. Growing grapes here feels natural. It comes without saying, this is white wine territory with ninety per cent of the vineyards planted with white varieties. Still, the few red wines that reach the market are superb. Here’s our quick guide to the Grapes of the Mediterranean, Croatia.
History of Croatian Wine
Viticulture in Mediterranean Europe has hundreds of years of history. In fact, grapes have grown here since the beginning of time. Evidence suggests the Ancient Greeks brought viticulture at a large scale to what we now know as Croatia in the 5th century BC, and the Romans capitalised on the extraordinary grape growing conditions.
In the 20th-century, Croatia was part of communist Yugoslavia, which prevented fine wine from surfacing. Still, since the country’s independence in the 90s, winemakers have taken the country’s wine industry to unforeseen heights. Croatian wine is better than ever.
Croatian winemakers have embraced international varieties that have proven to be the source of premium wine, including Viognier, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling. Still, there are several local varieties in the coastal country, and they’re the most exciting.
Plavac Mali. This is the most prominent red grape in Croatia. Interestingly, this is the offspring of the Italian Primitivo, known in the USA as Zinfandel. Wines made with this grape are dense, robust and peppery, with black cherry flavours and immense depth.
Malvasia Bianca. This is one of the oldest grapes in Europe, and it produces wines with medium acidity and fruity scents over clean and crisp palates. Ripe fruit flavours dominate this varietal, which is also honeyed and rich.
Grasevina. Known elsewhere as Welschrielsing, this unique varietal grows in Croatia, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and other European countries. It produces neutral, thirst-quenching wines with citrus hints and floral notes.
Wine + Food
To celebrate Croatia’s cuisine and its fabulous wines, we invite you to try the comforting Patricada dish, beef braised with wine vinegar and served with chewy gnocchi.
Beef stews, especially if cooked with brown sauces and wine, are extraordinary with Croatia’s leading red wine made with Plavac Mali. Hearty stews are essential in Mediterranean cooking, and they contrast the lighter side of such vibrant cuisine.
Plavac Mali is also superb with Croatia’s roasted meat and sausages, often enjoyed with a side of potatoes. If you’ve never tried Croatian food, its richness and vibrancy will amaze you. Even the simplest dishes are special.
Croatia might be a young country, but its vinous traditions are as old as time. Wineries in the area, many of them which passed from generation to generation, are always happy to receive visitors. One of the highlights of any tour is Winery Jagunić.
Jagunić is a family effort devoted to high-quality wine production in the Plešivica region. The estate’s Müller Thurgau, Riesling and Traminer are amongst the most prized in the country, and their Pinot Gris has gained global recognition.
It goes without saying, no trip to Croatia’s wine country is complete until you try the regional cuisine. Croatia is the best-kept secret in the wine world.