Croatian Wine – Tips for Beginners!
Croatian Wine – Tips for Beginners!
We’ve all been there…wanting to taste some new wines from a previously unknown region or country not knowing where to start and what to look for. Croatia might be a small country, but it has a long history of winemaking that goes back to the ancient Romans or even Greeks several centuries BC.
Fast forward to the 21st century: literally, thousands of wines are produced in Croatia every year. Here are some useful tips we would like to share with a newbie interested in tasting Croatian wine, in order to keep away the paralysis of choice and ensure that your Croatian wine experience is love at first sip. You know what they say; there is only one chance to make a good first impression. So here is our guide to help you have the best first impression of Croatian wines.
1. Recognise your favorite Croatian wine
Although the chance to come across some suspicious homemade kind of wine at numerous restaurants or cafes is slim these days, it’s still recommended to see the label, even if you are ordering wine by the glass. That way you can actually memorize and connect the experience with a specific wine you enjoyed. Having said that, there are exceptions and some attractive traditional “konobas” or restaurants could have an arrangement with well-known wineries to sell their wine on tap. Generally, quality has increased significantly over the past 10 years or so.
Looking into wine labels, there is a simple hierarchy inherited from past times – every wine label in Croatia has to state the “wine quality level”, and there are three levels: Table Wine (stolno vino), Quality Wine (kvalitetno vino) and Premium Quality Wine (vrhunsko vino). This, however, has become insufficient and limiting!
Table wine should mean it’s the wine of the lowest quality. The term usually stands for wine that is supposed to be diluted with mineral or still water and can be served as an everyday refreshment with a meal. Today, most of the wines on tap are better than that. Some table wines, usually from small family-owned wineries, can be of superior quality and/or from a specific winemaking area. Not surprisingly, their price can be very high due to limited quantities of unique wine and consequently a much higher demand than availability.
Quality wine is wine made from one or more grape varieties and from a certain wine region. The label will state if it is from a specific, controlled sub-region. The majority of wines fall under this category and this is where some real values could be found.
Premium Quality Wine is wine made from one or more grape varieties of a controlled geographical origin, usually an appellation or a specific part of a sub-region. Such wines also receive the highest grade from the tasting committee and are often subject to argument and debate in public regarding desired wine expression etc.
2. Know the main Croatian Regions
Croatia can be roughly divided into two main geographical and, thus, wine subregions: Continental Croatia (Kontinentalna Hrvatska) and Coastal Croatia (Primorska Hrvatska). As a rule of thumb, the former is known for its white wines and the latter is known for its reds.
Of course, it pays off to bear in mind that this is a rough simplification. Each Croatian wine in our store just beneath the Country of origin will state the name of one of the four main wine regions: Istria&Kvarner, Dalmatia, Croatian Uplands, Slavonia&Danube and Central Croatia covering the rest. That way, you can filter them out by this or many other criteria.
Needless to say, despite generally connecting Coastal Croatia with red variety Plavac Mali and Continental Croatia with white variety Graševina, every region has outstanding both white and red wines and rose and amber/orange, dry and sweet, still and sparkling…
3. Start with the best representatives
Seeing as Croatia is the homeland of Zinfandel and that the best-known Croatian red wine – Plavac Mali – has Zinfandel as an ancestor, you should look no further if you are interested in tasting some of the best red wine Croatia has to offer. Many of the finest Dalmatian winemakers started regrowing this variety and the results are impressive. Check out our “Croatian Zinfandel wine box”!
As for white wines, the most seek out white variety in Croatia is Istrian Malvasia. Istria cherishes some great Malvasia wines, whereas continental Croatia is known for great Welschriesling (Graševina).
Istria is also known as home for Teran, the unique and vigorous red variety. But, probably not as strong and full-bodied as pride from the South – Plavac Mali, responsible for some of the greatest Croatian wines.
It will be unfair not to mention today’s most planted white variety in Dalmatia. Pošip provides fruit for a structured white with age potential for cellaring and it can also be a very useful fruit-forward refreshment.
After these, there is a wide variety of indigenous sorts to start tasting. And (re)discovering.
Cheers — or as we say in Croatia – Živjeli!