Although viticulture has been practiced in Croatia for two and a half thousand years, it is only a little more recently that the buzz about Croatian wine has reached far beyond its borders. You may have sampled a glass or two back home – but that’s nothing compared to the vinous tasting experience you can enjoy on a holiday to the birthplace of the Zinfandel grape.
The team at Prestige Holidays has been sending holidaymakers to Croatia for years. We are delighted to share our knowledge of the country’s rich winemaking heritage with our oenophile guests.
Although it now belongs to Croatia, the Istrian peninsula was part of neighbouring Italy for much of modern history. This Italian influence can be detected in many of the region’s towns – from their Roman ruins to their Mediterranean cuisine, including truffles, seafood and olive oils – and is strongly felt in its viticulture.
If you’re partial to a full-bodied red, you will want to sample some of the local wines made from the Teran grape – also known as ‘Terrano’ when it’s grown next door in Italy. The red clay of the Istrian peninsula is perfect for this variety, which thrives in its mineral-rich soil. If you’re lucky enough to visit a vineyard on your trip you will notice that the grapes grow closely packed in big bunches. The wine they produce is bold with berry notes and has a purplish tinge in the glass.
- Best enjoyed with: wild game, or a traditional Istrian starter of cheese and prosciutto.
The classic white of Istria is Malvazija Istarska – it is sometimes called ‘Malvasia Istriana’, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it is the same grape as the Italian Malvasia. Its taste greatly depends on the terroir, but you can be sure that any variety you try in Istria will be dry and refreshing on a hot summer’s day, with a fruity aroma and relatively low alcohol content.
- Best enjoyed with: grilled fresh fish.
Prestige Recommends: Meneghetti Wine Hotel
I couldn’t write about wine experiences in Croatia and not mention the Meneghetti Wine Hotel. This gated country estate enfolds its guests in the lap of luxury. A stay here is a feast for the senses and the stomach, with an à la carte restaurant serving up authentic Istrian cuisine and a working winery that welcomes visitors for tours and tastings. If you’re an oenophile and you’re planning to explore Istria, we cannot recommend this gem highly enough.
The sprawling coastal region of Dalmatia is perhaps the most famous wine producing area of Croatia. Its excellent wine pedigree – along with the ever-popular cultural attractions of Split and Dubrovnik – makes it a firm favourite with our clients. In the late twentieth century, wine buffs all over the world were fascinated by the area when researched showed that the quintessential American grape, Zinfandel, actually has its provenance in Dalmatia.
The best known Croatian offspring of Zinfandel is the country’s favourite red, Plavac Mali. The name means ‘small blue’, which accurately describes its grapes. This powerful red is high in tannins and alcohol, with spicy and peppery notes along with its aroma of dark fruit. If you’d like to try it at its source, I would recommend a visit to the Pelješac peninsula in southern Dalmatia. This is the home of Dingač and Postup, the first Croatian appellations.
- Best enjoyed with: pašticada, a traditional veal sauce made with red wine, tomatoes and dried plums.
True wine aficionados could not miss an opportunity to visit the idyllic island of Korcula. It is a cradle for indigenous grape varieties that have been growing in its sandy soils for two millennia, which makes a visit to one of its longstanding family-run wineries a must. If you’re feeling fit, we recommend hiring a bicycle or a scooter and exploring the island’s extensive vineyards and coastline on two wheels.
Pošip is a crisp and full-bodied white with a hint of almonds. This grape originated on Korcula but can now be found on a number of the nearby islands such as Brac and Hvar, as well as along the coast of the Dalmatian mainland where the cool winds blowing off the Adriatic Sea ensure the ideal temperature for white grapes.
- Best enjoyed with: Paški sir, a sheep’s cheese made on the island of Pag.
If you’re more partial to a dry white, you can’t go far wrong with Grk. You won’t find this variety growing anywhere other than Korcula. Unlike most grape varieties which self-pollinate, Grk only has female flowers, which means that it needs to be planted next to another variety in order to be pollinated.
- Best enjoyed with: a seafood or white meat risotto.
Prestige Recommends: Tara’s Lodge
Built in to a small cove, Tara’s Lodge is a truly delightful boutique hotel. The wine producing area of Peljesac peninsula is easily accessible by water taxi from the hotel’s beach. Alternatively just sit on the beach or by the pool with a delicious glass of Posip or Grk in hand.