Croatia, a destination for carefree holidays, is crossed by unforgettable landscapes: between woods, jagged coasts, waterfalls and a crystal clear sea. Not everyone knows it but it is also a producer of interesting wine, whose recognition is on the rise among enthusiasts. Let's see everything there is to know about Croatian wine, in seven points.
Although the tradition is ancient, because it dates back to the time of the ancient Greeks, it seems that - among professionals - we have only realized in recent years that Croatia produces quality wines. Here's how to recover, and what you need to know about Croatian wines: seven things you absolutely need to know.
1. How to orient yourself in the production of Croatian wine?
Wine, in Croatia, adopts a simple quality system, which applies the indications of the Croatian Institute of Viticulture and Enology (founded in 1996).
Croatian wines are divided into:
- Vrhunsko wine (similar to the Italian Designations of Origin)
- Kvalitetno vino (similar to the Italian Indications of Origin)
- Stolmo wine (similar to wines without Geographical Indication).
2. What is the climate like in Croatia?
Croatian climatic conditions are essentially divided into two: the coastal area and the continental one.
In the coastal area the climate is Mediterranean , very sunny, while the continental area is characterized by a harsh climate.
A peculiarity of continental Croatia?
Here is the region of Slavonia , famous for the oak forests that provide the wood for the large barrels where wine from all over the world is aged.
3. Where is wine produced in Croatia?
In Croatia, wine is produced in three areas:
- Eastern continental Croatia, itself divided into two sub-regions: Croatian Danube and Slavonia.
- Western continental Croatia, divided into subregions: Moslavina, Prigorje-Bilogora, Zagorje, Medjimurje, Plesivica, Pokuplje.
- Coastal Croatia, divided into various sub-regions: Istria, northern Dalmatia, Dalmatian hinterland, central and southern Dalmatia.
Eastern continental region
In eastern Croatia the vineyards are planted at lower altitude: dominated by graševina (one of the most popular white wines in Croatia, made from the grape variety of the same name, grown in the continental part of Croatia, especially in Slavonia), pinot blanc, pinot grigio , gewürztraminer, muscat ottonel.
Western continental region
In western Croatia the vineyards are located between 150 and 300 meters above sea level, exposed to the south-southwest and protected from cold winds thanks to the mountain relief.
These conditions are perfect for white grape varieties, such as Grasevina (or Italic Riesling), Moslavac, Kraljevina, Plavec Zuti, Lipovina, Vetlinac Crveni. Black grapes are also grown, including Portugiser and Frankovka.
Among the subregions of coastal Croatia, Dalmatia and Istria are the most important.
In Dalmatia, mainly black grape varieties (plavac, babić) are grown. Production is also important on the islands: on the island of Pelješac – Dingač, Dingač is produced (from plavan mali grapes), which was the first wine to receive the Designation of Origin in 1961.
On the island of Hvar the Faros is important, on that of Brac the Bolsi. On the island of Korčula and other parts of central and southern Dalmatia, Pošip is produced, the first Croatian white wine with a protected geographical origin (1967).
On the island of Vis, in Dalmatia, Vigava is produced: a white wine from an indigenous variety, vugava. On the island of Krk you can find Vrbnička Žlahtina, a quality dry white wine, produced from the native žlathina bianca.
Istria is one of the most renowned wine regions in Croatia, with quality production demonstrated for example by the Istrian Malvasia.
In Northern Dalmatia there is Primošten, a small wine jewel where practically only babić is grown, and where the vine expresses itself at its best.
- Read also: how to taste wine
4. On what soil does the Croatian vine grow?
The continental area is characterized by fertile and humid soils: the vineyards are therefore planted on hills well exposed to the sun.
In the coastal area the soils are mainly calcareous and rocky.
- Read also: why the soil influences the vine
5. What wines are produced in Croatia?
Croatian production can be divided into:
drinkable and fragrant white wines , with limited alcohol content, especially from traminer and Italic riesling from the continental area (but also muscat ottonel, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, kraljevina, plavec zuti, lipovina, vetilinac crveni);
warm and structured white wines in the easternmost part of the continental area, from Grasevina, Pinto Bianco and Pinot Grigio, Gewürztraminer and Muscat Ottonel.
white wines from Istrian Malvasia, from the native po š ip and from international vines in the coastal area;
red wines from the native plavac mali (similar to the primitivo of Manduria): quality reds, fruity and structured, generally aged in wood;
very particular red wines from the Babić grape (native black grape, grown mainly in Dalmatia): dense and aromatic, complex and mineral;
simple red wines from portugieser and frankovka in the easternmost part of the continental area.
Prosek , the protagonist of tensions and controversies at the time of Croatia's entry into the European Union due to the proximity of the name to Prosecco, is a fortified red dessert wine. We wrote about the controversies here .
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6. The numbers of Croatian wine
There are many local native vines: around 130 Croatian varieties .
20,000 hectares of vineyards and around 1,600 producers .
A large part of the wine production is reserved for domestic use, while 30% is exported , mainly to Bosnia, Germany and the United States.
Approximately 165,000 hectoliters produced per year.
How much wine is consumed in Croatia?
Data indicates that wine consumption per capita in Croatia is 44.20 liters. However, it is a country with a low population (4,047 million) in relation to tourist presences (in 2021 almost 14 million but peaks of up to 20 million have occurred): wine consumption is entirely attributed to the residents.
- Read also: how to pair food and wine
7. What to pair with Croatian wines?
Our suggestions for pairing Croatian wine are territorial , remembering that the root of the local cuisine is of Austro-Hungarian origin, characterized by important flavors and rich in meat. Added to these are the Greek roots and the Venetian influence, which give great variety to the cuisine.
Red wines from Plavac Mali pair perfectly with Croatian cuisine, which features a lot of stewed and spiced lamb and beef (pastizada).
White wines including Istrian Malvasia go best with raw hams or Slavonian kulen, a typical cold cut from black pig.
For a vegetarian pairing : reds from the Babić grape, intense and fragrant, go well with cheeses including Pag pecorino, a young or mature and spicy sheep's milk cheese, characterized by great salinity and aromas due to the herbs rare and native aromatic herbs that the sheep raised on the island of the same name feed on. The white wines from Istrian Malvasia are also worth trying with fish dishes (squid ink risotto or brodet, other typical dishes) or with delicious Istrian vegetable soups.