Wines of Croatia
There are many wine regions in the world that are undiscovered in the U.S. market. As the years have passed, I’ve noticed that many people come to the store and always select the same bottle from the same commercial names. On one hand I can certainly understand that there are so many options and it becomes a bit intimidating to select a good bottle of wine. But on the other I say, why!? Explore, try new wines, live on the edge and expand your palate. A casual wine drinker is mostly familiar with wines from the five largest wine producers in the world; the U.S (California), France, Italy, Spain and Argentina. There are plenty of other countries and regions with different grapes that are absolutely extraordinary and indulging to drink. Sampling wines should be a fun experience with an appreciation for wine making as an art form. There are many regions and small family owned vineyards that create some of the most interesting and outstanding wines available. Countries that are neighbors to the largest wine producers are often overlooked, but that’s where the hidden gems are.
What was once a part of Yugoslavia, Croatia is a small country located East of Italy, across the Adriatic. The most unique geographical feature of the country is the long coast of Dalmatia that angles down the Adriatic. Dotted with gorgeous islands, this coastline experiences a Mediterranean climate with hot and dry summers and mild winters. All along the Dalmatian Coast, the best vineyards are located on steep hills facing the south. Abundant sunshine and constant breezes from the sea create ideal conditions for organic production of healthy grapes with high extract and sugar content.
Croatia's long history of wine production has left it with a rich tradition of indigenous varietals, such as Plavac Mali, Crljenak, Posip and Zlahtina. While extremely popular within Croatia, these varietals remain relatively unknown outside the country.
There are three major wine-producing regions in Croatia. The continental region in the north-east of the country produces rich fruity white wines similar to those in Slovenia, Austria and Hungary. Continental Croatia supplies the winemaking world with Slavonian oak. Slovonia is located south of both Austria and Hungary and just like its neighbors, produces excellent cool climate reds and whites. Zweigelt, Pinot Noir and Blaufrankisch as well as Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio thrive here. Grasevina (also known as Welschriesling) is traditional, and pairs well with the foods of the region, such as Croatian fish brodet or chicken paprikash.
On the north coast, Istrian wines are somewhat similar to those produced in Friuli region of Italy, while further south production is more towards big reds and luscious whites. Istria and the Northern Coast is where crisp and aromatic white wines are made. Istrian Malvasia deserves special attention as it is possibly the best dry Malvasia you will find anywhere. Istrian Peninsula provides the ideal terrier for Malvasia grape and Yellow Muskat (Muscat Blanc a Petit Grains). The main local red is Teran (similar to Refosko), the “wild” and acidic variety, which shows best when blended with Merlot or Cabernet.
Southern Dalmatia is centered on the Peljesac Peninsula and its protected appellation called Dingac, just an hour drive north of the City of Dubrovnik. The Plavac Mali (offspring of zinfandel) grape is king here! Plavac Mali also thrives on the neighboring Island of Hvar, and Makarska Riviera (near Split) is becoming famous for producing Croatian Zinfandel (locally known as Crljenak Kastelanski). The best white wine of Southern Dalmatia is made from Posip – a local grape variety producing full body, sunny and mouthwatering wine to accompany the just-caught seafood of the Adriatic. The Island of Korcula, the birth place of Marko Polo, is known for producing the best Posip wines.
This is where we began to think about a fun way to bring these new and exciting wines to our customers. After years and years of carrying the same commercial wines as everyone else down the street and across town, we finally decided that we need to try something new. We decided to shake things up a bit and make wine drinking more fun, educational and allow our customers to try something they’ve never tried before.
After extensive research and consulting with many experts in the industry we began to shift in a new direction. Commercial wines that are mass produced you can find anywhere…just like everything else. That’s not to say that there aren’t any good commercial wines. There are certainly plenty. Big name wines are usually produced in bulk and may contain high amounts of sulfite in order to preserve the wine over a longer period of time. It’s just not possible to put that much care into wine that is so massively produced.
We have begun selecting boutique wines that you’ll mostly find in fine restaurants. Somewhat rare and exotic, these wines come from small family owned estates where the wines are not made in quantity but instead the winemaker focuses on the quality. There, the wines are organically grown, handpicked, carefully inspected and made with passion to produce excellent wine with great character. Naturally, one may still not like it, but you’re trying something that’s affordable and unique.
Moving forward we are taking the initiative to invite our customers to taste these new wines at our store.