The Latin phrase in vino veritas, or "in wine, there is truth", is known throughout the world. And Croatia is not a bad place to start, if you'd like to see whether it's true. Wherever you travel this country, no matter if it's an island, the mainland, on the coast or inland, in a small or large town, you'll come across some excellent wines. After all, Croatian wines are among the best in the world, winning several awards and with a regular place at world wine exhibitions .
From north to south, Croatian wines change with the climate and culture.
Many locals produce their own homemade wine, which are often surprisingly good. We actually found one ourselves — a homemade wine in Komiza, which we bought from a local gentleman for "a few" Kun. If you would like to sample the official production of Croatian wineries, we can recommend a few tried-and-tested ones.
There are two wine regions in Croatia — coastal and continental. Subsequently, these two areas are divided into sub-regions with their own specific conditions — climatic, geological, topographical and economic.
Croatian wine-growing areas: continental and coastal
- Prigorje – Bilogora
- Zagorje – Međimurje
- Hrvatsko primorje
- Sjeverna Dalmatia
- Dalmatian Zagora
- Central and Southern Dalmatia
In each of the sub-regions you will find several varieties of wine. In some places the focus is on white wine, especially in the continental areas. such as the sub-region Pleševica, and in others more so on reds. This is especially true for central and southern Dalmatia. Generally, you'll find both red and white varieties in all areas. Then, only specific conditions, human approach and care will create a quality wine that can make your already beautiful evening in Croatia even more enjoyable.
International varieties and local Croatian wines are both produced here. These are the ones that are increasingly in demand — Graševina, Plavac mali, Malvasia istrijska, Babić, Pošip and Žalhatina. In addition, varieties such as Frankovka, Tramín, Riesling and Chardonnay are very popular. These are not native to Croatia, but have a long tradition of cultivation.
YACHTING.COM TIP: Brimming with colour and flavour, the Croatian cuisine ensures that even foodies among you will find something to delight their taste buds. Individual dishes only vary slightly from region to region, but along the way there are plenty of local specialties waiting to be discovered during your sailing trip, especially on the islands. For example, the celebrated travarica (herbal brandy) that’s infused with myrtle on the island of Hvar. Find out more in our article — Croatian cuisine: dishes and drinks you have to try.
3 best wineries on the Peljesac peninsula – south Dalmatia
There are many wineries in Croatia, so we'll introduce you to a few of the best. There are several on the Peljesac peninsula, where the annual Wine Cellar Open Days are held at the beginning of December.
The peninsula is best known for its original red wine variety Plavac mali
1. Matuško Winery
The Matuško Winery was founded by the very amiable Boris Matuško. He and his wife Marina have completely fallen in love with their craft and as a result produce one of the best Croatian wines. From Matuško, you should definitely try Dingač — a strong, dry, sweeter, excellent red wine known worldwide. The work on the Pelješac hills is hard graft, partly made easier by the tunnel dug through the mountain tops, making it easier for winemakers and their donkeys by shortening the journey to the vineyards. Donkeys are recognised for the help they provide and are often found as a symbol on wine labels. But these hills have one advantage. When it rains, the water flows down the vineyard to the sea, so the grapes and vines don't attract mould. Plus, the grapes are hit by the sun twice — directly and then from its reflection in the sea.
2. Nikolica Winery
A family winery that has been producing great wine for hundreds of years. Nikolica wines are of top quality, a proud legacy of the Radović family, and the vineyards can also be found on the steep slopes of the Pelješac peninsula. Packed full of the fruity aromas of cherries, prunes and figs, this wine is ruby red. The founder of the winery is Antun Radović, who lovingly tended his grapes to create quality wines. Today, these wines are checked by Vinolab, which has a modern laboratory to analyse the quality of the wine.
3. Radovic Winery
The surname Radović in Peljesac is as widespread as something like Smith but with one small difference — here they are mostly related by blood and are almost like one big family on Pejlešaci. Even the Matuško winery mentioned before is related to the Radović family. The current owner, Ivica Radović, who is looking after the vineyards, has a real passion for and understanding of wine and is also greatly inspired by his grandfather Nikola. In 1935, he started working with the Julius Mein merchants (today they are known mainly for coffee but previously were selling wine). They were so taken with him at the time, he says, that they didn't even need to taste the wine. They absolutely believed that the wine would be excellent. He also tried a departure from the very popular Dingač wine and grew grapes from the Pošipe variety. He also put Prosecco on the market. So, if you come across one of his wines, you definitely won't go wrong. You'll recognise him by the name on the label, but also by the symbolic sailboat with three sails, which symbolises his grandfather who was a sailing ship captain.
YACHTING.COM TIP: Get to know Croatia from the deck of a boat. We can recommend the best sailing trips in Croatia according to your level of experience and interests as well as top spots worth visiting — take a look at our articles Sailing in Croatia: the 14 best islands to drop anchor or The 33 most beautiful towns in Croatia not only for sailors.
The Croatian word 'konoba' means pub, cellar and wine cellar. Visit them during the wine festivals in early December.
Quality wineries of Northern and Central Dalmatia
The northern sub-region covers approximately 3600 hectares of vineyards, the largest of which are located in Zadar, Šibenik and Benkovac. The central sub-region includes Split, Trogir, Hvar, Brac and Solta. The first references date back to 385 BC.
The family winery Rak, located in Dubrava near Sibenik. Marastina and Babić wines are produced here. They also produce Opolo, a rosé wine, from Babić grapes. The winery started its production in 1960 and has kept the tradition until today. The excellent taste of the wine is due to the location of the vineyard and the climate. Šibenik-Knin County is renowned as an ideal location for the production of fine wines, as are all the designated wine-growing regions in Croatia. Wines produced at this winery have two 'R's mirrored on the label emblem.
This winery can be found just outside Split. The first product they released in 2010 was Putalj Zinfandel then later it was a mix of Zinfandel and Plavac Mali. You can go directly to the winery for a tour where you can visit the vineyard, production area and wine cellar. You'll not only enjoy tasting the wine, but also the olive oil that is produced here. This winery also offers a warm service; you can pick up their products directly in Split.
Hvar – Central Dalmatia
All the other wineries in this section are located on the island of Hvar — the fourth largest island in Croatia. The sun shines here more hours than anywhere else in Croatia, and the winters are very mild. It is also located further away from industrial centres, so it is said to be an eco-friendly environment.
Zlatan Otok Winery
This family-run winery on Hvar, stretches along its southern side where the village of Sveta Nedjelja is located. It was founded by Zlatan Plenković, who was one of the most famous and, more importantly, one of the most successful winemakers in Croatia. He focused on the Plavac Mali variety, from which he produced the red Zlatan Plavac wines. When Zlatan Plenković died in 2016, his sons took over. While they are trying to match their father's skill, it still takes time, so still one of the best wines you can taste is the Zlatan Plavac Grand Cru up to the 2015 vintage. But the classic Zlatan Plavac is excellent as well, with its blue and white label and the typical golden pine tree — a symbol of Zlatan and the village where the wine is grown. The family also owns the local marina with a restaurant where you can stop off for a fish specialty and sample their wine. Wherever you are in Croatia and just mention the name Zlatan Plenković or Zlatan wine and everyone knows it immediately. They will also warn you that unfortunately he doesn't make wine anymore. It's just like one big Croatian family winery.
Some excellent Croatian wine varieties are not known worldwide, probably because of the complicated pronunciation of their names (mainly because of the letters č and ž).
Andro Tomić is the man who makes his wines famous and, above all, superb. He worked for twenty years in France and other countries as a wine expert and when he returned to Croatia many years ago with all this experience, he decided that Plavac Mali was capable of reaching the world level of quality as an internationally renowned variety. His winery can be found in Jelsa, Hvar. He has set up premises with a wine cellar and a winery in Mina bay. There you can come for guided tastings and enjoy a thoroughly pleasant evening. Just be careful of the Tomić family motto — "drink by the hour, not by the litre". That's why you should keep an eye on your watch, because time really does pass a little differently here.
Korčula is one of the southern most islands and also one of the most beautiful areas of the country. When you visit, you can visit one of the wine regions, namely Smokovce, Cary or Blato. The conditions for growing wine here are very good. There's a high number of sunny days and temperatures in the coldest months never approach zero. However, in the summer season they rise to the thirties.
Winery Blato 1902 d.d.
This farm cooperative was founded in 1902. However, it also produces extra virgin olive oil, brandy and more. The main varieties grown here are native Croatian varieties, such as Plavac Mali, Pošip, Maraština, Zlatarica blatska or Cetinka. Among the international ones are, for example, Malbec or Merlot. If you go here, you can take advantage of the a wine cellar tour and wine tasting.
YACHTING.COM TIP: Fancy something with a little more kick ? Find out what drinks are traditionally drunk on board a boat and what customs to follow won't anger the gods.
Where is the best wine in Istria? What wineries to visit
People have been growing wine in Istria for more than two thousand years. It was brought here by the Romans during the reign of Marcus Aurelius. The wine from this area is characterised above all by its excellent taste and its specific aroma.
Motovun is a village in the Istrian hinterland - a dominant feature of the surrounding area and a popular excursion destination. It is a typical example of a medieval fortress town.
The story of this family winery began in 1904 in the Valle Valley. They focus mainly on Malvasia Istrian, two types of Muscat and the Teran variety. Among the international ones are, for example, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. This family makes no secret of the fact that family heritage is very important to them. And so, in their wine-making processes, they combine the family's past, present and future. In doing so, they are also keen to emphasise that they only harvest grapes by hand. In 2012 they set up a modern winery with a terrace where you can enjoy the views of their vineyards.
This family-run winery, located near Pula, boasts a centuries-old tradition. It is currently a three-generation winery, and since they take pride in their craft, and the family sticks together, it is very likely that in time there will be another generation. The vineyard stretches along the eastern side of Istria above the Raša river valley. From this winery you can taste varieties such as Istrian Malvasia, Teran, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Yellow Muscat. The vineyards are spread over seven hectares and are specific for the temperature differences between day and night, which, together with the sun and the sea air, give the grapes high sugars and a very pleasant aroma.
Inland Croatia and local tips for great wine
Croatia's coastline is arguably more appealing than the interior, but wine lovers will be richly rewarded by regions such as Slavonia and Barania.
Vina Erdut Winery
The winery is located in the east, inland almost at the border with Serbia. It certainly doesn't suffer from the fact that the vineyards here are not by the sea, as evidenced by the slogan — where the sun and sky meet the soil. The most common variety in this winery is Graševina. The Graševina grapes occupy about 290 hectares of the vineyard's 460 hectares. You will also find classic Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Reds include Pinot Noir and Merlot. Graševina is mainly used among Croatians for gemišt (spritzer). Basically, it's a very common drink. However, true gemišt is consumed only with Jamnica mineral water. Its special slightly salty taste creates a very tasty and refreshing combination with Graševina wine, especially suitable for hot summer days and evenings.
Iločki Podrumi Winery
This winery can be found in Croatia's easternmost town of Ilocos, on the right bank of the Danube. It is a shareholder company with more than 200 employees. Annual wine production is approximately 4 million litres and they manage 990 hectares of vineyards. Here they continue a tradition of grape-growing that goes back two thousand years.
Other Croatian vineyards worthy of attention
We have just introduced you to a few wineries in Croatia that are special. However, as already mentioned, there are many more. Below are a few more tips:
- Meneghetti Winery, Bale
- Kutjevo Winery
- Grgic Vina Winery, Trstenik, Pelješac
- Degarra Winery (Zadar)
- Grabovac Winery (Donji Prolozac, near Imotski – inland from Makarska)
- Botaro Winery (Dubrovnik)
Are you already seeing yourself with a glass of wine on a yacht off the Croatian coast?
If you are a wine lover, we definitely recommend combining your holiday with a visit to a vineyard, or at the very least tasting some of the wines mentioned above at dinner. And if you want to feel experience wine fever, go to Croatia between September and October, when everything about wine and the traditions associated with its production are at their peak.
You can also explore the most famous wine routes which attract the attention of locals and tourists alike. They are tailored to show you the vineyards and all the sights around them.
Wine routes in Croatia:
- Pelješac - Kingdom of Wine
In conclusion, let's raise a glass to all your sailing adventures and don't forget, as Galileo said, “Wine is sunlight, held together by water.”