Wines of Croatia – the Birthplace of Zinfandel, and Croatian Viticulture and Oenology

With 1,118 miles of breathtaking coastline, and more than 1,000 islands, Croatia is an increasingly well-known travel destination for people with a love of history, culture and pristine scenery. Now, it’s safe to say Croatia is also known for its high-quality wines.

Wine has always been a popular drink in Croatia, and locals traditionally like to drink wine with meals. Quite often, the wine is diluted with either still or sparkling water – producing a drink known as gemišt (a combination of white wine and carbonated water) in the north, and bevanda (a combination of red wine and still water) in the south.

Croatian wine has a history dating back to Ancient Greece, and their wine production on the southern Dalmatian Islands of Vis, Hvar and Korčula some 2,500 years ago. Today, many traditional grape varieties still survive in Croatia, perfectly suited to their local wine hills. Modern wine-production methods have taken over in the larger wineries, and various EU wine regulations have been adopted, guaranteeing the quality of the wine you will find there.
Although there are hundreds of grape varieties in Croatia, experts agree that the red Plavac Mali grape produces the best red wine. Plavac Mali is genetically identical to Zinfandel grapes. Contrary to popular belief, Zinfandel’s roots actually originate from Croatia. First known as tribidrag, it traveled to the US in the early 19th century and flourished in California later in the 1800s where it was planted extensively.

There are currently over 300 geographically defined wine regions, and a strict classification system to ensure its quality and origin. In 2010, Croatia was ranked 29th in wine producing countries, and interest in the country’s wine continues to grow. The city of Zagreb, the nation’s captial, is of increasing interest as niches exist there for some high-quality wines. According to the Croatian Central Bureau of Statistics, Croatian farmers cultivated 29,000 hectares of vineyards, produced 187,550 MT of grapes and 1.3 million hectoliters of wine in 2012 (2014 wine and grape production levels were estimated to be similar). Croatia now produces up to 700 wines, some are truly excellent.

If you’re a meeting and event planner, consider this – there are numerous wine tours available in Croatia. For me, this is the perfect offsite activity and a great way to experience the country and the rich history it has to offer. For example, you must checkout this website that offers guided activities specific to Croatian wine travel. Your group can experience the country’s best wines through a collection of cruises and tours specifically designed for the wine lover. Highlighted destinations include Dubrovnik, Istria and Zadar to name a few.

So, the next time you’re sipping on Grgich Hills 2000 Miljenko’s Old Vines Zinfandel, or V. Sattui’s 2009 Gilsson Vineyard Zinfandel from the Russian River Valley, raise a glass to Croatia. We’ll toast to that!

Samantha Meloni

1 Comment
  1. Dr. Ronald G. Shapiro 6 months ago

    Thank you for sharing. I did not know about wine in Croatia!!! Ron

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