The 9 Best Croatian Wines

Croatia not only offers magnificent centuries-old cities, postcard-perfect beaches, and island gems, but it’s an ideal destination for wine enthusiasts. The spectacular setting provides a perfect backdrop for tasting and touring the country’s many wineries and vineyards. You’ll find unique opportunities for sampling too, from chatting with a winemaker who will tell you the story of the wines while pouring to home-hosted visits where you can help prepare a multicourse meal that’s paired with the local wine.

 

While many outside of this beautiful region aren’t familiar with Croatian wines, partly because of their difficult-to-pronounce names, once you try them, you’re likely to want more. Getting to know Croatia’s wine regions and wines that are produced before you embark on your trip can help you make the most of your time here.

Croatia’s Wine Regions

Winery in Istria
Wine, Croatia

There are three main wine regions in Croatia which are further divided into subregions and even further into smaller vinogorje, or wine hills. The top for travelers to explore includes Istria, which is a center for orange and white wines; the Dalmatian coast, particularly known for spicy, velvety reds; and the Continental Hinterland in the northeast, a stronghold for white wines.

 

Istria
One of the ancient wine regions, Istria is the northernmost wine region in Croatia, occupying most of the Istrian Peninsula, including part of southwestern Slovenia. The landscapes here are often compared to Tuscany, with vineyard-covered hills and medieval hilltop villages. Fruity, dry white wines, including orange wines, that have been successful domestically and internationally are what this region is known for. They’re typically made from various light-skinned types of Malvasia grapes in New World styles that are aromatic, refreshing, crisp, and fruit-forward.

Dalmatian Coast
Located in the country’s far south, the Dalmatian Coast region includes wines that are produced in the Peljesac Peninsula and Vis Island, both of which have been engaged in viticulture for centuries. It also includes Hvar where wine has been produced for over 2,500 years. In fact, the oldest continuously cultivated vineyards are located at the UNESCO-listed Stari Grad Plain. Native grape varietals, both reds, and whites are almost exclusively grown in this region, producing high-quality and highly acclaimed wines.

Continental Hinterland
In northeastern Croatia, grapes have been grown and wine has been made since before Roman times on the gently sloping hills. The region stretches from Sibenik to Split and leans toward Bosnia and Herzegovina in the east. Here, white wine rules, with growing areas surrounding the towns of Vrgorac, Sinj, Drnis, Knin, Imotski, and Vrlika, where shepherds have had a long history. While modernization makes it difficult to pass on the profession to future generations, you’ll still see old stone homes, small stone huts, and dry-stone walls bearing witness to their presence.

Top Croatian Wines to Try

Wine, Croatia
Red Grapes, Croatia

More than five dozen distinct grape varieties are grown in Croatia, with 800+ wineries and some 20,000 registered winemakers producing many delicious wines, but these are the wines you’ll want to put on the top of your list to try.

 

Babić
Babić is grown around Sibenik at the north end of the Dalmatian Coast region from the native Croatian grape. It produces a dark, full-bodied red wine with a strong density and intense fruit flavor with aromatic spices and soft, rounded tannins, very tasty with cheeses, meats, or fish.

Bogdanuša
Bogdanuša is an ancient grape variety that originates in Stari Grad but today it’s mostly grown around Ager, producing light white wines with a refreshing taste and floral aroma. The name translates to “gift from God,” with Bogdanuša wines playing a significant part in religious festivals. Try it with a risotto, fished-based main course, or seafood stew.

Borgonja
Borgonja comes from Istria, a soft and fruity dry medium-bodied wine with a ruby red color made from the gamay grape. It goes well with soft cheeses like Brie, goat cheese, cured hams, smoked salmon, and roast lamb.

Debit
Debit is made from yellow grapes in the Dalmatia Coast region. It’s one of the predominant grape varieties, also referred to as Pagadebit and Puljižanac, and has a citric herbal taste. Enjoy it with chicken-based dishes, cooked white fish, or grilled prawns.

Dingač
A robust red wine made from the Plavac Mali grape in the Pelješac Peninsula, part of the Dalmatian Coast region, Dingač is a high-quality wine often chosen for special occasions. One of the most famous Croatian wines, it ranges from dark red to purple and has a fruit flavor, with cherries, plums, and herbs, pairing well with red meat and aged cheese.

White Grapes, Croatia
White Wine, Croatia

Malvazija
Malvazija is another one of the most popular Croatian wines, grown mostly in Istria. It’s one of the oldest grape varieties here, grown since the times of the ancient Greeks, recorded in a written document in 1385. It produced wines with an intense flavor and enticing citrus aroma that pairs well with almost anything.

Plavac
Plavac Mali is the primary red wine grape grown in the Dalmatian Coast region. It produces wine with a rich flavor of ripe cherries and spice notes and has a high percentage of alcohol and tannins. You’ll find it on nearly every menu in Croatia and it pairs well with favorite dishes here, like grilled seafood, lamb, or beef as well as prosciutto and matured cheeses.

Pošip
Produced on both Hvar and Korcula islands, Pošip is a fresh and fruity white wine with an intense aroma and flavor similar to dried figs and apricots. Try it with the local fish and seafood or cheeses.

Teran
A native grape from Istria, Teran is a powerful red wine with fruity scents that are usually aged in wood. Try a glass with homemade prosciutto and pasta with a sauce that includes the meat of boskarin, indigenous Istrian cattle.

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