What Croatia lacks in wine quantity, it makes up for in quality! We may be slightly biased, however we think the wines produced in Croatia are some of the best in Europe! A visit to Croatia is simply not complete without experiencing the award winning wines, so, we’re here to help you discover which wines you must try when visiting this magical country.Table of contents
- History of Croatian Wine
- Croatian Wine Regions
- Award Winning Croatian Red Wine
- Award Winning Croatian White Wine
- Wineries in Croatia
History of Croatian Wine
What you may not realise is that, thanks to the Ancient Greeks, grapes have been growing in Croatia since as early as the 5th Century BC. With such a long history of viticulture, there’s no surprise that Croatia is now taking centre stage in wine production.
Today, more than 130 native grape varieties call Croatia home, producing up to 700 wines annually. Winemakers often use their geographical location, mediterranean climate and sun soaked position to their advantage, producing unique, bold wines.
Croatian Wine Regions
Majority of the wine produced in Croatia is white (67%), with the coastal regions producing predominantly red wine, making up 32% of wine production in the country.
With most wineries producing such small quantities, there’s often not enough wine to justify exporting it! So, the best way to taste, sip and drink quality Croatian wine is to come to Croatia and try it first hand.
There are four main wine regions to pay attention to when searching for the perfect drop.
Croatian Uplands Wine Region
Encircling the capital city of Zagreb is the Croatian Uplands Wine Region. This distinctly hilly region is subject to blasts of cool air from the Alps located in the north, creating the perfect topography and climate for its well known late harvest and dessert wines.
Slavonia & Danube Wine Region
The easternmost Croatian winemaking region is first and foremost characterized by the three rivers that enclose it: the Danube, Drava, and Sava. The closeness of these three rivers creates a special microclimate which is especially favorable for the cultivation of Graševina; the region's number one white variety.
Istria & Kvarner Wine Region
Istria and Kvarner benefit from a mild and hot Mediterranean climate, mixed with cooling winds from the Alps. The region produces distinctly fruity, dry white wines, with a focus on indigenous grapes, Malvazija and Žlahtina. Istria & Kvarner is also well known for its production of bold, earthy reds, namely Teran.
Dalmatia Wine Region
Dalmatia has made a name for itself as the most diverse and stunning wine region in Croatia. It’s varied topography, elevation and climate create perfect conditions for a range of different grapes, producing exceptional red and white wines. You simply must try the Plavac Mali famously grown on the undulating slopes of the Peljesac Peninsula, and the crisp, fruity Grk grown in Korcula.
Award Winning Croatian Red Wine
In 2020, Croatia had its best performance at the Decanter World Wine Awards to date, receiving three Platinum medals (all 97 points), 11 Gold medals, 68 Silver medals and 88 Bronze medals.
Plavac Mali is arguably the most famous grape variety in Croatia. Not only that, but this humble grape is also the most planted variety in Dalmatia. Plavac translates to ‘Blue’ in English, and Mali means ‘Small’, a simplistic, if not accurate description of Plavac Mali grapes! With a close relation to the famous Californian red wine, Zinfandel, lovers of Plavac Mali will boast of the full-bodied, deep coloured wine this grape produces, often with a higher than average alcohol content. If you’re looking for a wine to celebrate a future milestone, Plavac Mali is also an excellent wine to age in the bottle.
Teran is a red grape, typically found in western Istria. This indigenous grape is one of the most common varieties grown in the Istrian wine region, and produces a deep ruby red wine. This particular variety quires a lot of sun and a limited water supply to produce its famous fruity red wine, with Istria producing the perfect growing conditions. Whilst Teran grapes are often blended to produce different types of wines, such as rose and sparkling, you can’t go wrong with a straight Teran!
2020 Decanter World Wine Award Winning Teran
Tomaz, Barbarossa Teran, Istria, Coastal 2017 (Gold)
Fakin, Teran, Hrvatska Istra, Coastal 2019 (Gold)
Award Winning Croatian White Wine
Pošip is a white wine variety that is indigenous to the island of Korcula, located in the wine growing region of Dalmatia. Although the grape does grow on the nearby islands of Brac and Hvar, it is well known as the star of the island of Korcula! This stand-out white wine is golden yellow in colour with a strong fruity aroma and goes well paired with seafood. It is not uncommon to find pošip aged in oak prior to bottles, and this variety also produces delicious dessert wine!
2020 Decanter World Wine Award Winning Pošip
Testament, Pošip, Sjeverna Dalmacija, Coastal 2019 (Gold)
Another indigenous variety on the island of Korcula is Grk. This dry white wine is grown almost exclusively in the southern region of Korcula, most famously in the wine village of Lumbarda. ‘Grk’ translates to ‘bitter’ in English, a result of the high acidity and saltiness that is synonymous with this particular white wine. Grk is best served with seafood, risotto and white meat, and can also be served as an aperitif - just make sure it’s served cold!
Graševina is one of the most widespread varieties in all of Croatia. This variety makes delicious dry white wine, classic sparkling wine and even sweet late harvest wine. Graševina is often aged in wooden barrels, cellars, and even directly in the bottle, although locals will tell you it is best enjoyed as fresh and young as possible. Graševina translates to ‘green peas’ in English, named after the small berries that develop during the ripening process!
2020 Decanter World Wine Award Winning Graševina
Kutjevo, Graševina de Gotho, Slavonija, Continental 2018 (Platinum)
Wineries in Croatia
Croatia offers a variety of unique wine experiences, with everything from traditional wine tastings to winery tours, foodie experiences and history lessons! Croatia’s long history with growing, cultivating and producing wine is something that Croatian people are very proud of, and very willing to share! So, rent a car or join a tour and experience some of Croatia’s best wineries for yourself!
Best Wineries in Croatian Uplands
A trip to the Croatian Uplands will take you on a journey through green rolling hills, quaint Croatian villages and of course, vineyards in abundance! This wine growing region, often referred to as the ‘lungs of Croatia’, features many must-see wineries and cellars, however we’ve narrowed it down to the top 2 that you simply must visit!
Visit this impressive family owned and operated winery to taste their wide variety of wines, enjoy a gastronomic experience tasting their locally grown produce, or enjoy a tour of the winery.
In the very heart of the Croatian Uploads you’ll find this authentic, family owned and operated winery. Head to Vina Kosutic for a traditional wine tasting experience of Graševina, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, and many more varieties.
Best Wineries in Slavonia & Danube
Head to the largest wine region in Croatia and experience some of the region's award winning wines. With this area producing the most amount of wine in all of Croatia, you’ll be spoilt for choice when deciding on which wineries to visit! Our top winery to visit is Podrumi Krešić.
This winery is located along the Danube river, offering not only impressive views, but also rich fertile soil that produces some truly delicious wines! Podrumi Krešić offers 7 white, 2 red and 1 rose for tasting in their state of the art cellar. Enjoy a tasting and let the Krešić family take you on a tour of their vineyard and cellar, explaining the process from growing, to harvesting and producing wine.
Best Wineries in Istria & Kvarner
With it’s unique position along the coast, this wine region produces small quantities of very good wine! If you’re heading to the coast for a summer vacation, make a stop at one of the many wineries in the region and allow them to showcase their wonderful wines! One winery you simply must visit is Damjanić Winery.
Located near the town of Porec, Damjanić Winery has been producing wine since the 18th century. Well known for their production of Malvasia, you simply must stop by and try a glass!
Best Wineries on the Sea
The best wineries on the sea are located in the most famous wine growing region in all of Croatia, Dalmatia. From cellar doors located in military tunnels, to some of the oldest vines in Europe, waterfront wine tastings, cliffside vineyards and everything in between, Dalmatia truly is a wine lover's playground! Our favourite Dalmatian Wineries are Stina Winery and Bire Winery.
Situated right on the waterfront in Bol, Stina Winery offers award winning wine tastings, farm to plate food options, and behind the scenes tours of their modern cellar door. Nothing says Croatian summer like a glass of Pošip right on the Adriatic Sea!
Although not exactly located on the sea, Bire Winery definitely deserves a mention thanks to its high-end wine tasting experience and of course, sea views! Visit this family owned winery for a glass of indigenous variety, Grk, or the famous Plavac Mali.
With a plethora of unique wineries to choose from, the best way to experience them all is to follow a wine trail, experiencing several unique wineries over the course of a week. If this sounds like your idea of a vacation, check out our Premium Croatian Wineries Route, or new for 2024, check out our Wines of Croatia cruise exclusively on Elegance.