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Best Croatian Wine: 5 Grapes That Wine Lovers Must Try In Croatia
Co-written by Matthew From Exotic Wine Travel & SJ Begonja
Many people have never heard of Croatian wine before stepping foot in the country. A question we often get is, “How long has Croatia been making wine?”
The answer is about 4,000 years.
Cultivation and winemaking in Croatia began with the Illyrians, followed by the Greeks. In fact, Croatia has the oldest continuously planted vineyard in the world. The Stari Grad Plain on the Hvar island has been planted with wine grapes for 24 centuries and was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008.
Croatia was part of Yugoslavia until 1991. During Yugoslavia’s socialist era, farmers were forced to sell their grapes to large, state-owned cooperative wineries where quantity was placed above quality.
The government also discouraged people from setting up their own wineries. Soon after Croatia gained independence, many growers started making and bottling wine under private labels and continue to do so today.
Croatia is home to at least 130 native grape varieties.
Around 40 of those are currently being made into wine and sold commercially. Many of these grapes have unique qualities that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Wine in Croatia is easily found, but here are five wine grapes that are we recommend every wine lover to seek out!
Graševina is the most widely planted wine grape in Croatia. No list of wines about Croatia would be complete without it.
The spiritual home of Graševina is the town of Kutjevo in Slavonia, one of Croatia’s greatest wine regions. It is known as Welschriesling or Italian riesling in other parts of the world.
In the past, this grape was used to produce cheap, inexpensive quaffing wine. Many locals use cheap Graševina to make gemišt, a spritzer of sparkling water and white wine.
Today, producers have realized that Graševina can produce outstanding wines in different styles–from dry to sweet and sparkling.
The most common examples are the dry Graševina wines that offer melon, white pear, and grassy flavors.
This Croatian white wine goes perfectly with shellfish.
Recommended Wineries in Croatia: Adžič, Enjingi, Iločki Podrumi, Krauthaker, Vina Belje
A Croatian white wine grape native to Korčula in Dalmatia, Pošip is grown throughout the coast of Dalmatia.
However, many winemakers claim that Korčula produces the best grapes. The island of Korčula is rumored to be the famous Venetian merchant and explorer Marco Polo’s birthplace.
In the past, wines made from this grape were oxidized and of poor quality. These old examples would be unrecognizable to today’s Pošip lovers. But thanks to a quality revolution, those oxidized Pošip wines are a thing of the past, and there are many outstanding Pošip wines to be enjoyed.
Pošip wines are relatively big in body and have tropical fruit flavors and mineral undertones that make them a perfect Dalmatian seafood partner.
Recommended Wineries in Croatia: Grgić, Korta Katarina, Krajančić, PZ Pošip Čara, Zlatan Otok
Malvazija Istarska is an indigenous white wine grape. As the name suggests, it is at home in Istria.
Over 20 types of Malvasia grapes are found around the Mediterranean, but Malvazija from Istria tastes distinctly different. It has become the flagship grape of Istria, and nearly every producer in the region makes Malvazija wine.
Malvazija can be made in various styles, including fresh and fruity, barrel-aged and sophisticated, and macerated white/orange wine.
The fresh and fruity examples are the easiest to find. They are summery white wines with floral and peach flavors. These wines are absolute crowd-pleasers, and there’s hardly ever a bad Malvazija wine on the market.
If you are eating out at a local Konoba or restaurant and don’t know which wine to choose, Malvazija makes a sensible default choice.
Recommended Wineries in Croatia: Coronica, Clai, Kozlović, Matošević, Vina Laguna
A cousin of Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, Teran is a Croatian red wine grape widely planted in the northwest corner of Istria–an area that boasts mineral-rich, red clay soils known as Terra Rosa.
Teran is also found in Slovenia and Italy, where it is called Terrano.
In the past, many producers thought that this grape was a hassle to work with because of its high, enamel-ripping acidity. Today, many Croatian wineries make good examples of Teran, using it to make monovarietal wine and blend it with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Teran tends to produce dark-colored wines with wild berry and iron flavors. Fans of acidic Italian red wines will feel right at home when drinking this wine. Wines made from Teran pair well with rich-flavored food such as pasta with truffle, a famous dish in Istria.
Recommended Wineries in Croatia: Benvenuti, Dobravac, Kabola, Legovina, Roxanich
Plavac Mali (Plah–vahts Mahl-ee)
Plavac Mali is another Croatian red wine grape that many Croats are most proud of. It is the offspring of Crljenak Kaštelanski/Tribidrag, also known as the original Zinfandel.
Wine made from this grape is ubiquitous throughout Dalmatia and will be pushed to you in nearly every konoba and restaurant on the coast.
Because of the high alcohol levels and bitter tannins, some people may find Plavac Mali wine off-putting. Indeed, there are many average examples around, but with some diligence, you’ll be rewarded handsomely.
Tasting an excellent example of Plavac Mali will leave you with flavors and nuances that can be out of this world. Plavac Mali wines have the characteristics of red fruit, rose petals, earth, and an alluring perfumey overtone when done right.
These are big red wines that match well with red meat.
Note: Dingač and Postup were Croatia’s first appellations; they are wines made from Plavac Mali.
Recommended Wineries in Croatia: Bura-Mokalo, Kiridžija, Saints Hills, Skaramuča, Tomić
Want To Learn More About The Best Croatian Wine?
There are many more wine grapes and world-class producers to be discovered!
Most visitors come to Croatia to relax and soak up the sun and may not have the time to research and hunt down these excellent Croatian wines.
You worked hard for your Croatia holiday; it shouldn’t be spent drinking bad Croatian wine. We’ve spent seven months traveling through Croatia and tasted thousands of Croatian wines. We’ve even taken a combo food & wine tour + cooking class you might love.
Croatia is producing some of the most exciting wines in Europe. Let us help you find them all in one place – an eBook.
The most common problem wine lovers encounter when visiting a wine region that they’re unfamiliar with is spending their limited amount of time sifting through all the wines and producers on the shelves.
This book will provide pertinent information to maximize a visitor’s time and pleasure in Croatia.
You Will Learn:
- An Introduction to Croatia – An overview of Croatian wine history, wine regions, general climatic and geographical features, Croatian cuisine, and wine styles available to complete the gastronomic experience.
- Wine Grapes in Croatia – A rundown of the native and international wine grapes planted in Croatia, along with a pronunciation guide to help you order wine like a local!
- Wine Label Interpretation – Croatian wine labels can have a lot of information on them. This book offers a guide to understanding every line on the label, what to look out for, and what to ignore.
- Wine Recommendations – Recommendations on wine producers and over 120 wines to try from all four wine regions in Croatia. Wine recommendations are complete with tasting notes.
- Featured Wine Personalities – These people will offer anecdotal insights and information about the existing wine culture and Croatia’s prospect as a wine destination.
Croatian Wine: These Wineries In Croatia Are Waiting For You
Voted in at number five of the Best Wine Region to Visit by the USA Today readers, we suggest these 20 wineries in Croatia are waiting to serve you Croatian wine.
Written by Mr. Chasing the Donkey (huge wine lover)
1. Stina Winery
The Stina winery is located in Bol on Brač Island and dates back to 1903. The white Vugava and Pošip, the red Plavac Mali, and the rosé, Stina Opol, are produced with great success in the renovated winery. The most renowned Stina wine is a red wine made from the Plavac Mali grape. The winery’s name (‘ Stina’) refers in Dalmatian dialect to the region’s main characteristics, the Brač stone.
What is most peculiar about this Croatian wine is its award-winning label, which was also inspired by Brač stone, and consists of only the winery’s name embossed on a white background. Read more about this fascinating winery here from our visit.
Open each evening
facebook | Riva 16, Bol Town | +385 (0) 21 306 220
2. BIBICh Winery
The BIBICh winery is located very close to Skradin, on the coast of North Dalmatia. This region is known for its famous Babić grape. The Bibić family started making wine more than a hundred years ago, with the winery founded in 1906.
Under Alen Bibić, the winery owner, two-thirds of their wines are sold in the USA. The BIBICh winery achieved international success with its wines, especially with the white Debit, the white blend R5 Riserva, and the red blend R6 Riserva. They make a wide variety of Croatian wines, mainly from Debit, babic, plavina, and lasin grapes native to the region.
We shouldn’t forget the traditional dessert wine of Dalmatia, the Prošek either; according to rumors, one of Eva Longoria’s favorite wines is Bibić’s dessert wine, called Ambra.
Visit by appointment only.
Plastovo, Skradin | Facebook
3. Miloš Winery
The Miloš winery on the Peljesac peninsula in Dalmatia focuses on the autochthonous grape variety, Plavac Mali. The winery has 15 hectares of vineyards on the slopes of the Prapratno, on Peljesac, just next to Ponikve village.
The owner, Frano Miloš, and his children make a wide variety of wines, from dry or semi-dry, to semi-sweet to dessert wines. The most noteworthy of them is the Plavac 2009 or the Stagnum 2006, which has achieved 92 points at the International Wine Challenge Library Collection. The Miloš winery also makes rosé and even a sweet red wine, the Stagnum dessert 2007.
Open daily 8 am to 8 pm.
Ponikve 15, 20230 Ston |385 (0) 20 753 098
4. Kozlović in Istria
The Kozlović winery, situated in Istria, northwest of Croatia, is run by one of the oldest Croatian wine families. They use local grape varieties for their award-winning wines, like Malvasia, Teran, and Momjan Muskat. They do it so successfully that they can be proud of awards like the Decanter and the Royal Wine Challenge, to name a few.
The Kozlović winery’s success lies mainly in how they combine traditional wine production with modern techniques. Their most important wine, the Malvasia, contributes 65% to their entire wine production. The Kozlović wines such as Valle 2012, Malvazija 2012, Teran 2012, Muškat Momjanski 2012 can’t be found in bigger supermarkets Kozlović winery prefers quality over quantity.
Visit from 10 am to 7 pm, except Sunday and holiday.
Facebook | Vale 78, Momjan, 52460 Buje +385 (0) 992 779 177
5. Saint Hills Winery On Peljesac
Saint Hills winery, established by Ernest Tolj in 2006, has three vineyards in Croatia. The newest of which is found in Dingač on the coast on the Peljesac peninsula, southern Dalmatia. This Croatian winery uses indigenous varieties with the help of the French oenologist Michel Rolland.
The most important wines they produce are a Malvasia Istriana and Chardonnay blend, a red from Plavac Mali and Saints Hills 2008 Dingač, and finally, the white “Nevina.” The Saints Hills Dingač is aged in barrel for almost two years. In addition to Croatia and Serbia, their products are distributed in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Visit from 11am to 5pm, by appointment
facebook | ph: +385 (0) 15 508 050
6. Korta Katarina Winery
The Korta Katarina winery is found in Orebic, near Peljesac in Southern Croatia, with its villa called “Rivijera Orebic.” They use the Plavac Mali grape to produce one of their premium quality and award-winning wines, the KK Plavac Mali 2007. The winery’s golden-greenish white wine, the KK Posip 2008, has won a vast amount of national and international awards, as well. The Reuben’s Reserve Plavac Mali 2006, Korta Katarina’s third Premium Quality Wine, is produced by aging Plavac Mali in French oak barrel and then the bottle for an equal amount of time. The winery, which introduced its first vintage in 2006, offers visitors various tours, cultural programs, and culinary events.
Visit by appointment only.
7. Krauthaker Winery
Krauthaker winery is found at the southern slopes of Krndija Mountain. Although it is a white winemaking territory within the Slavonian region, 38 different grape varieties are growing. The local specialty, the Graševina (Welschriesling), is what most of their wines are made from. However, they also produce wines from other varieties, such as Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Zelenac, Merlot, or Pinot Noir.
Many of Krauthaker’s wines have won awards, such as the gold medals awarded to them in Bordeaux or London. The winery has an exceptional tasting room.
Visit by appointment only Facebook |Ivana Jambrovica 6, 34340 Kutjevo |e-mail |+385 (0) 24 315 000
8. Boškinac Winery
The Boškinac hotel, restaurant, and winery are located on the Island of Pag, which is one of the biggest islands in Dalmatia. Although the winery was built only a few years ago, they have already received awards for the Boškinac 2006, Boškinac 2007, and Boškinac 2009.
The winery also has a great wine tasting room. The winery’s most famous wine is the Gegić, a dry white wine made of the grape variety of the same name, which is native only to the island of Pag and its surroundings. Besides this, Boškinac produces cuvees, both red (Boškinac Cuvee) and white (Boškinac Grande Cuvée) and another white wine, called OCU, blended only from local varieties.
Visit by appointment only
facebook | Novaljsko Poljebb, 53291 Novalja |e-mail | +385 (0) 53 663 500
9. Matošević Winery
The Matošević winery is located in the small village of Krunčići, Istria. The winery’s most famous wines are the Malvasia and the Chardonnay, but the Grimalda Red, a blend made from Merlot and Teran, is also worth mentioning.
One version of Malvasia, the Malvasia Istarska, which is native to Istria, is used for their wines, like the Alba, Alba Barique, Alba Antiqua. One of their peculiarities is that they age their white wines in acacia wood instead of the more common oak barrel. The owner, Ivica Matošević, is also the president of the Vinistra, the Association of Istrian winegrowers and winemakers.
Visit between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m
10. Galić Winery
The Galić winery makes its famous wines in the Kutjevo valley, which is often regarded as the wine capital of continental Croatia. It produces wine from different grape varieties, but the graševina, a superior quality dry white wine, must try. It shows the pure characteristics of Graševina and, as it is said, the essence of the Kutjevo region. They also make semi-sweet white wine, called graševina kasna berba and chardonnay, as well as red sauvignon and even rosé.
You may want to become a member of their wine club to receive excellent discounts and enjoy other valuable benefits.
Visit by appointment only.
Facebook | Lukač bb, 34335 Vetovo | +385 (0) 934 440 850
11. Bodren Winery
The Bodren winery is located on the hills of Hrvatsko Zagorje, in a region north of Zagreb. The winery is most famous for its ice-harvested wines. They’ve been awarded six Gold, eight Silver, and six Bronze medals during the last five years at London’s Decanter World Wine Awards.
More recently, in the International Wine Challenge 2014, regarded by many as the world’s most influential wine competition, Bodren Icewine 2011 won a Gold Medal, along with other prestigious prizes. Besides this widely appreciated wine, the Bodren winery’s famous wines include Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Gris.
Visit by appointment only.
Facebook | Rusnica 64, 49231 Hum na Sutli |+ 385 (0) 49 340 466
12. Tomić Winery
The Tomić winery produces wine from Plavac Mali and Plavac Veliki for the red varieties, and Pošip, Bogdanuša, Maraština, and Prč for their white wines. You can also find Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Yellow Muscat, or Drnekušica in their repertoire. They also produce Prošek, which is a local, sweet dessert wine made from dried grapes. If you visit the winery, it’s very likely that the owner himself, Sebastijan Tomić, or his father, Andro Tomić, the famous oenologist, will be your guide.
Visit by appointment only
Facebook |Jelsa, Island Hvar | + 385 (0) 49 340 466
13. Katunar Winery
The Katunar is a family winery situated on the island of Krk. The small winery produces Kurykta Nigra, Žlahtina Katunar and Katunar Barrique, Chardonnay Katunar, and even sparkling wine Porin and Biser Mora. Their wines are primarily produced from Debit and sparkling wine made of a debit blend.
Žlahtina is a local grape variety, which is indigenous to Vrbnik. Despite being a family-run business owned by the brothers Anton and Ivan Katunar, the Katunar winery has also earned a name beyond Croatia’s borders.
Visit by appointment only.
Facebook | Sv. Nedilja bb, 51 516 Vrbnik | + 385 (0) 51 857 393
14. Grgić Hills Winery
The Grgić Hills winery is located close to Trstenik, on the Peljesac peninsula, in Southern Dalmatia. It was established in 1996 by Miljenko “Mike” Grgich and his daughter, Violet Grgich.
They make Croatia’s most famous varietals, Plavac Mali and Pošip. Mike Grgich uses the same methods and techniques as in his American winery in California. Grgić’s Plavac Mali and Pošip are a little more expensive than others, but most of the most well-known and famous restaurants put these Croatia wines on their wine list. The winery is attentive to ecological sustainability, uses no artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides, and harnesses solar power.
Open from 10 am to 5 pm
facebook | Trstenik, Poluotok Peljesac |+385 (0) 20 748 090
15. Tomac Winery
Tomac winery, owned by Tomislav Tomac, is located close to Jastrebarsko. The family has a 200-year history of winemaking. The most famous wines they produce are riesling and chardonnay.
The winery is well-known for its still wines fermented and aged in clay amphorae. This method oxidizes the wine very uniquely. Their most famous wine, the Riesling ’09, is fermented and aged in a clay amphora for six months, before 18 months in oak barrels and an additional year of bottle aging. No surprise that this wine was awarded the “Best White Wine of Croatia” in 2012. Tomac’s sparkling wines are also considered to be of very high quality.
Visit by appointment only.
Donja Reka 5, 10450 Jastrebarsko, Croatia | +385 (0) 1 6282 617
16. Roxanich Winery
The Roxanich winery is located in a small village, Kosinožići, close to Porec, western Istria. Two of their most important wines are the Ines u bijelom and SuperIstrian. The former is a white blend of Verduzzo, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and a few others; the latter is a red made from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Gamay.
After skin maceration (lasting up to 174 days), three years of barrel-aging takes place. This method results in the orange character of this Croatian wines. Roxanich has achieved many national and international awards; for example, their Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon won gold medals at Bergamo Palamonti in 2009.
Visit by appointment only.
Twitter |Kosinožići 26, Nova Vas, Croatia | +385 (0) 91 6170 700
17. Coronica Winery
Coronica winery was founded in 1992 by Moreno Coronica and uses the indigenous Malvazija and red Teran for its classical-style wines. The winery is located in the village of Koreniki, not far from Umag, a coastal city in Istria. The winery has 75 acres of vineyards in the rust-colored ‘Terra Rossa’ (meaning red earth in Italian).
Three-quarters of the wine made by them are Malvazija, with one-quarter red Merlot and Teran, which is often called Terrano (in Italian). In addition to the native wines, Coronica produces a Grabar blend, made of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Visit by appointment only.
Koreniki 86, 52470 Umag-Umago | +385 (0) 52 730 357
18. Trapan Winery
The Trapan winery is situated in the small village of Šišan on the Istrian peninsula, close to Pula. Since its start in 2005, the Trapan winery has been producing many different wines, like Malvasia, and internationally renowned red wines, such as Teran, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Syrah. The Trapan is incredibly proud of its red blend, called Nigra Virgo.
Revolution, made of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, and Teran. Their other famous wine, named Che, is a rosé sparkling wine, which is considered to be revolutionary in the Trapan winery. At Bruno Trapan’s Wine Station, you can have a taste of these wines in a remarkable atmosphere.
Open 9 am to 4 pm, by appointment only.
Giordano Dobran 63, Sisan, 52100 Pula |+385 (0) 98 244 457
19. Kabola Winery
The Kabola Winery is in Momjan, in the north-western part of Istria, not far from Buje, in a territory so much resembling Tuscany. Probably the most peculiar wine of the winery, the Malvasia Amphora is aged in terracotta amphora buried in the ground. Its Momjan Muscat is similarly unique, which is produced from an indigenous grape variety of the area. You can taste the winery’s white Malvasija, Pisak, red Teran, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or its rosé in its wood-beamed tasting room. English-speaking staff, a small wine museum, and a wine shop are at the visitors’ disposal. In addition to wines, Kabola also makes olive oil.
Open 10:00 – 18:00 Mon to Sat
facebook | Kanedolo 90, 52462 Momjan, Istria | +385 (0) 52 779 208
20. Bolfan Winery
The Bolfan winery, located in the village of Hrascina, in the region of Zagorje-Međimurje, makes its wines with a completely natural method of vine nurturing. The most well-known and award-winning wines of Bolfan are the dry or semi-dry riesling, the dry Sauvignon, and the dry, red Pinot Gris, but they produce Yellow Muscat and Pinot Noir, as well. Along with many silver and bronze awards, the Bolfan winery won a Gold medal with its Rajnski Rizling 2008 in the Muvina International Wine Contest, held in Slovakia in 2010. The winery welcomes its guests with a wine tasting room, a seminar hall, a restaurant, and a souvenir shop.
Varied working hours – call to check before you plan a trip.
Facebook | Gornjaki 56, 49283 Hraščina, Croatia |+385 (0)49 458 287
21. Vuglec Breg Winery
We decided to dine in the hotel restaurant on our first evening in Marija Bistrica at Bluesun Hotel Kaj. The waiter kindly asked us if we would like an Aperitif, and he recommended a glass of local sparkling wine called Baronial. Being supporters of all things local, we gave it a try and discovered it was fantastic. I have to admit that I haven’t tried many Croatian Sparkling wines, but this was impressive! The waiter advised us that this sparkling was from a local producer called Vuglec Breg. We loved that sparking so much; it inspired us to go and track down Vuglec Breg and visit the winery firsthand.
Perched on top of a hill in a town called Skarecivo, in Krapina sits Vuglec Breg. The winery overlooks its 4-hectare vineyard, which is absolutely stunning. We decide to take a seat on the balcony and stay for lunch. We start our meal with a glass of the Baronial, which again is outstanding. It’s produced using the traditional champagne method, fermented and matured in the bottle. The wine is a blend of chardonnay with a little Grasevina and is refreshing with a fruity aroma.
In between sipping on my sparkling and waiting for lunch, I take the baby donkey, and we go and play with the miniature horses they have on the property. I’ve never seen a miniature horse up close and personal, I found them very cute and friendly, but the Baby Donkey was suspicious and wouldn’t get too close.
Our lunch arrives, and we start with some famous Zagorje soup and frog legs, followed by a roast goose. Mrs. CtD has a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc, and I go for the Pasion Cuvee, which is a blend of Frankovka, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. This red blend was paired delightfully with the roast goose.
During lunch, we get talking with the waiter, and we tell him about trying the sparkling in a restaurant and making our way to buy some of the sparkling, and he kindly invites us to go and visit their wine cellar so he can show us around and let us sample the wines we have not yet tried. He was so happy that we showed an interest in his product. These are the things I love about Croatia.
Needless to say, I bought a dozen bottles of wine to share with the family back in Dalmatia.
Want Even More Croatian Wine?
Then check out these other top wineries.
Is there a winery you know of that we should consider adding to the list?Share