Croatia's Wine Industry.

wine industryCroatia’s Wine Industry.

This Mediterranean country’s winemaking history harks back to ancient Greek settlers in Istria, Vis, Hvar, and Korcula and stretches inland.

According to historians, grapes were grown in this region in both Bronze and Iron eras. Winemaking came with Greek settlers.

When the Roman Empire started to expand and occupied what is today Croatia, production increased to supply and satisfy growing demand.

In the early 15th century, the Ottoman Empire rulers allowed vineyards to survive so as to produce and supply markets with table grapes. Locals, as always, diverted some fruit and made their own wine.

When the Hapsburg Empire rules Croatia, production increased, but phylloxera vastatrix struck in 1874 devastating most of the vineyards.

Today, the industry is starting anew, although some old-fashioned small wineries still continue producing highly extracted, tannic red wines that are poorly aged in huge, old, and exhausted barrels.

Modern wineries make much better wine due to better quality fruit, better-educated winemakers and modern equipment.

Croatia, located on the Dalmatian coast of Adriatic Sea, from latitude north 44 south to 42, enjoys a Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and mildly cold winters. Inland on high altitudes winters are bitterly cold, but summers are warm enough to ripen grapes.

The most popular grape varieties planted are: Grasevina aka Welschriesling, Malvasia Istriana, and PlavacMali.

For white grapes growers like Grasevina, Malvasia Istriana followed by Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Skerlet, Grk, Vigova, Zlathina, Debit, Prosip and Semillon.

For red wines Babic, Teran, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Plavac mali, Vugava, Marselan (a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Cinsault), and several experimental western European grape varieties.

Prosec (used for amarone style wines) is a dessert wine and generally blended dried grapes (Marastina, Grk aka Malvasija of Dubrovnik, Prosip, and Debit).

Plavac mali is considered to be the forerunner of Primitivo planted in Puglia in southern Italy, which ultimately “immigrated` to California and became the well-known Zinfandel. Some researchers claim Crylnyak Kastelanski to be the original Primitivo. Ultimately, advanced DNA technology showed that Crylnyac Kastelanski crossbred with dobrici resultic in the variety called Plavac Mali.

In Croatia, wines are marketed by the name of the grape variety only a few are labelled by region i.e Dingac and Postup.

Modern, small (actually boutique wineries) are located on the coast that enjoys a healthy tourist traffic, and sells much of the production to “thirsty” tourists from Austria, Germany, Italy, and France.

Bire in Korcula, Korta Katarina, Matosevic, Saints Hills, Trapan,  are some of the boutique wineries that  produce sound and appealing white and red wines, mostly grown on their vineyards with low yields, and use modern equipment including French oak barrels.

During a recent tasting, the following brands stood out.

Malvasia Ponente, 2010, Trapan

Greenish yellow, brilliant colour, the aromas of this dry wine are of green apples and ripe stone fruits. It is completely dry, with balanced refreshing acidity in the mouth.

Grimalda, 2009, Matosevic

Composed of Chardonnay/Malvasia Istriana/Sauvignon blanc, it exudes aromas of apples and pears. Full bodied, and multi-layered flavours in teh mouth.

Nevina, 2009, Saints Hills

A blend of Chardonnay/Malvasia Istriana the wine is appealing, exuding aromas of ripe stone fruits. Full bodied and assertive with good balance. This powerful wine would require pan-fried Dover sole, poached salmon, baked herring, or roast pork loin stuffed with apples.

Dingac, 2009, Saints Hills

This fine powerful red wine made entirely of Palavac mali, said to be the forerunner of Primitivo and Zinfandel, is fruity, assertive, balanced, well-extracted with a long aftertaste.
An excellent food wine with beef stews, roasted root vegetables, and hard cheeses.

Plavac Mali, 2007, Korta Katarina

An American who attempts to make fine wine using indigenous red grape varieties founded this small, modern, well-equipped winery. It is medium-bodied, balanced and very appealing. Can be cellared for two to three years.

For more information and orders contact Amethyst Wine Agency or call 1-416-919-9994

(Post updated on 2012.01.12)

Hrayr Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
Professor B offers seminars to companies and interested parties on any category of wine, chocolates, chocolates and wine, olive oils, vinegars and dressings, at a reasonable cost.


  1. Dear Mr. Berberoglu,

    Thank you for the interesting article about Croatian wines. If you don’t find, I would like to offer just a couple of small clarifications.

    First, some of the grape varieties you mentioned as grown in Croatia are minor players, while you excluded some more important native varieties like Babic (red), Posip (white), Debit (white), Zlahtina (white), and Teran (red). Also, Vugava is a white variety (listed here as red).

    It should be noted for your readers that the three most widely planted grapes in Croatia are 1) Grasevina; 2) Malvasia Istriana; 3) Plavac Mali.

    “Prosec” is not a grape variety but rather the name of a traditional dessert wine made from sun-dried grapes. Sometimes it’s a blend of several white coastal varieties such as Marastina, Prc, Posip, Debit, Malvasija of Dubrovnik, or Grk. It can also be made from the red Plavac Mali variety.

    Plavac Mali is actually the offspring of what we now know to be Zinfandel (aka Primitivo). Zinfandel (we now know) originated on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, where it was known as Crljenak Kastelanski. Crljenak at some point cross-bred with another local grape, Dobricic. The result of the cross was Plavac Mali. Researchers from UC Davis (led by Dr. Carole Meredith) have confirmed through DNA profiling that Zinfandel is indeed Crljenak from Croatia. The study has been widely published and recognized.

    Finally, most wines in Croatia are actually labeled by the variety, not geographical location. There are only a few exceptions, two of which you mentioned: Dingac and Postup, which are both specific appellations that are geographically protected, and wines from here are always made from Plavac Mali.

    I hope this is helpful!

    All the best,
    Cliff Rames
    Founder, Wines of Croatia

  2. Dear Mr. Berberoglu,
    it was plesaure meeting you.
    Thank you very much for nice review.
    We wish you all the best in New Year.
    Ernest & Ivana Tolj

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