Remember book reports? Yikes, didn’t like those, so I often opted out to cut the whole process short and go play my guitar. Discovering Cliff's Notes and cheat sheets has been one of the most important events in my life. It freed up time I could spend doing things I actually care about, like enjoying fabulous wine.
So, you are in Croatia and want to have a nice bottle of wine. But, you didn't commit every detail about Croatian winemaking, the regions and the grapes to memory prior to your arrival in this Balkan paradise.
Not to worry! Here is a stripped-down guide to Croatian wine, as simple as it can be. Maybe even simpler that it should be. Regions, varietals, producers.
A Simple Guide to Croatia's Wine
Dalmatia is by far the most popular destination as it is home to places like Dubrovnik, Hvar and Split, which are all exploding as world-class destinations.
Wine Grapes of Dalmatia
- Plavac Mali is the predominant red grape in Dalmatia. It’s high in alcohol and tannin. Be sure to pair it with hearty dishes like pašticada or you could be overwhelmed by its strength. Ask your wait to recommend a plavac from known appellations (Dingač, Postup, Ivan Dolac) as you may get suspicious results from outliers. Your best bets are Duboković, Baković, Miloš, Radović (Dingač) and Grgić.
- Zinfandel aka Crljenak aka Pribidrag is the father of Plavac Mali, which is currently reliving its youth. You will be surpised by both its quality and price. Look for Bedalov, Krolo, Mimica, and Grabovac.
- Pošip is a true Dalmatian white with strong alcohol (sensing a theme?), nice acidity, fruity aromas and a nice round body. Producers like Grgić, Krajančić, and Korta Katarina and their labels will be representative of what Pošip is supposed to be. Please, PLEASE stay away from jug Pošip or from drafted ones as it can be a painful experience. Try pošip with heavier seafoods like grilled fish.
If you barely heard for Croatia, chances are, you heard stories about Istria…the northwestern peninsula is a leader in branding and development and has made great strides in their winemaking last 10 years.
Wine Grapes of Istria
- Malvazija is the varietal that epitomizes Istria. Fresh, light, aromatic and beautifully acidic, it’s the perfect summer comfort. Try it with shrimp or the lighter truffle dishes that the people of Istria do so well. Keep an eye out for Kozlović, Benvenuti, Coronica and Trapan.
- Teran is an indigenous Istrian red. No matter what Slovenian winemakers say, Teran is similar to Refosco in a lot of ways. It is a little bit lighter and more acidic than Dalmatian reds, which makes it a bit more food friendly for certain Istrian-styled pastas. Look for Coronica and Benvenuti.
Slavonia, Croatia’s bread basket, is the home of Graševina, the most common white varietal in Croatia. Avoid drafted or “house wine” ones. Instead stick with producers like Galić, Enjingi, and Krauthaker. There are also some nice Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot wines from the likes of Galić and Zdjelarević.
Located around the Croatian capital Zagreb, this region is on the rise as the official fourth winemaking region. Lately, it has been getting recognition for its light indigenous whites like Škrlet and great Croatian sparkling wines from Tomac and Šember. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are also being grown in bunches. Burgundy-lovers take notice!!
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