Once under the umbrella of Yugoslavia, this country on the Adriatic Sea has a long and varied vitvinicultural history starting with ancient Greeks who where probably the first to plant grapes in the region.
Croatia is located between 43 – 46 latitudes north bordering Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea.
The majority of wine produced is white, with some rose and little red.
Ranges of hills that follow the contour of the coast split vineyards.
Inland Croatia extends south and east from the eastern tip of Austria along the Drava River, a contributor to the Danube.
The Adriatic coast including the Dalmatian, Istrian Coast, and all the islands down to the idyllic town of Dubrovnik produces both red and white wines.
Istria in this region has vineyards planted to cabernet sauvignon, merlot, refosco, malvasia, gamay, pinot noir, and plavac mali.
Plavac mali is used to produce Dingac and Postup, both of which are high alcohol red wines with some aging potential.
Babic, posip, girk, vugava are minor varieties planted.
Marastino, a white grape, can be vinified to a fresh, light, and herbal wine if grapes are harvested early.
The government promulgated wine laws and defined 300 geographical entities for vineyards along western vitivinicultural philosophy of terroir.
While the laws exist, enforcement seems to be far from effective.
Most of the Croatian wines are low in acidity and “made” sweet for inexpensive export in 2 Litre bottles to Germany where a certain market exists.
Wine making technology was updated in 1950’s and lacks modern equipment, knowledge, and will to produce dry, refined and balanced wines.
The practice of “semi-communism” introduced by Josip Broz Tito has largely contributed to stop technological the evolution of the industry. Before this unfortunate historical event, the Ottoman Empire’s army occupied the region at the beginning of the 15th century and imposed anti-alcohol laws and Islamic culture upon the population, but tolerated Christian and Jewish customs of wine consumption, albeit both minorities were taxed heavily for the privilege of living there.
Since the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Croatia’s wine industry made great strides, but lack of investment represents major impediments to modern winemaking.
For white wines, growers prefer: chardonnay, debit, bratkovina, drne, kucrna, grasevina (welschriesling), grk, kraljevina, malvazija, muscat bijeli (white muscat), muscat zuli (yellow muscat), muscat Ottonel, pinot blanc, pinot gris, posip, rkatsiteli, traminac, and tramisvini (gewürztraminer), trebbiano Toscano, and verduzzo.
For reds the following varieties are planted: babic, barbera, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, carignan, frankovka (blaufrankisch, lemberger, kekfrankos), gamay, grenascrini, St. Laurent, merlot, nebbiolo, pinot noir, syrah, refosco, zweigelt, and crljenak kastelanski.
Two grape varieties of importance in western winemaking originated in the region: krljenak kastelanski is the ancestor of primitivo of Puglia in Italy. It was transplanted to California by Puglisi immigrants and since then acclimatized to the terroir. It is called zinfandel in the U S A.
Gouais blanc is an ancient white, obscure white grape variety claimed to the mother of many now popular grape varieties i.e. chardonnay, aligote, auxerrois, bachet, franc noir, gamay noir, melon, and romorantin. It has many synonyms and has been crossbred with chenin blanc resulting in colombard; others are balzac blanc and meslier.
Recent DNA (deoxybonucleic acid) studies conform the ancestry mentioned above.
According to history researchers, gouvais blanc was given by emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus (born 232 – 282 and emperor from 276 – 282), from Pannonia, to Gauls who planted it close to pinot vineyards where many spontaneous crosses resulted i.e aubin vert, knipperle, and roublot.
Gouais was known as weisser Heunisch in the Middle Ages and planted in many vineyards of what is today France including Jura, but here it was wiped out with the invasion oft eh phylloxera vastatrix in late 18th century and never replanted.
In Geisenheim’s (the most famous school of oenology in Germany) experimental vineyards there are a few rows of gouais.
Montpellier (a reputable French school of vitivinicultural science) has a few rows as well.
According to the law three levels of quality exists,
A part of the population is Muslim and does not drink wine; therefore the 36,000 hectares of vineyards yield too many grapes.
Exports to neighbouring countries is a must, and at prices that are much lower than they should be, if quality satisfy taste requirements in these markets.