The Ultimate Guide to Croatian Wine | Quality Villas

the ultimate guide to croatian wine

Croatia may not be the first country you think of when it comes to the production of fine wines, but you might be surprised to learn that lots of the age-old, household names are identical to wines created in Croatia. For example, grape geneticist – yes, we’re questioning a few career choices too – Dr Carol Meredith found that Zinfandel is identical to Croatia’s very own Tribidrag, the parent grape of the most popuhlar red wine in Croatia, Plavac Mali. The country itself is a haven for sun-seekers, beach-goers, history-lovers and now fine wine connoisseurs, making a holiday in one of our luxury holiday villas in Croatia even more tempting. With this in mind, we thought we’d take a closer look at Croatian wines, what you can expect to sample while you’re there and what you might want to bring home with you to keep those post-holiday blues at bay.

vineyard in Croatia

The Names

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing Croatian wine is their long, complicated names. Wines are difficult to pronounce at the best of times, but the long string of consonants and special-symbolled letters doesn’t make it any easier for non-natives to understand and order what they want. See below for a sounding chart that may make pronunciation a little easier if you’re ordering in restaurants:

Č – sounds like the “ch” in “catch.”

Ž – sounds like the “s” in “pleasure.”

Dž – is pronounced like the “j” in “jump.”

Š – is pronounced like the “sh” in “shout.”

Croatian Grapes

Background Information

Croatia has been producing wine for over 2500 years, with recent findings proving that Illyrians who were living in Dalmatia produced wine as far back as the Bronze Age. According to the Oxford Companion to wine, Croatia has 29,000 hectares of vineyards, ranking it as 34th on a list of countries by total vineyard area. In 2012, it was said to be producing 1,293,000hl of wine per year, which put it 21st in a list of countries by wine production. Its most significant victory, however, was reaching 7th when per capita consumption by country was considered and Croatians were calculated to consume 38.9 litres of wine each year – impressive, even by our standards! Over 130 autochthon grape varieties are said to exist in Croatia, meaning they have the supply to create lots of different varieties of wine, some of which will now be explored below.

Red Wines

glass of red wine

Plavac Mali

The main red grapes of Croatia grow along the Dalmatian coast to produce bold red wines with subtle yet effective notes of blackberry. The rich wine is higher in alcohol and tannin and is full-bodied with flavours of pepper, dark cherry, figs, spice and carob also evident in the taste. The literal meaning of this grape translates to “small blue”, but this little grape plays a big role in the wine-making industry of Croatia as the first to have its own appellations. This wine is the perfect accompaniment to hearty dishes, so you don’t let the strength get the better of you. 


A full-bodied red grape that grows in abundance in Istria, the mineral, iron-like quality of the soils seems to absorb into the wine to create a robust flavour like no other. In Italy, this variation is better known as Terrano, but you can expect the same bold flavours including smoky meat and game-like notes, violets and forest berries. This wine gets better with age thanks to its high level of tannins and, in an ideal world, will sit for a few years before consuming. Teran has recently been at risk of being replaced by other red Bordeaux varieties that stretch across Istria’s many vineyards, but today it makes a valiant comeback and has cemented its place on wine lists across the country.

White Wines

Glass of white wine

Malvazija Istarska

One of the most important white wines of Istria and the entirety of the northern Dalmatian coast, this grape is sometimes known as Malvasia Istriana, although it is different to the Italian variation of the same name. Refreshing, crisp and dry, these wines benefit from a lower alcohol content and the unusual notes of quince, honey, apricot and fennel. This elegant summer wine goes well with shrimp or lighter truffle dishes that the people of Istria do so well.


Despite the somewhat alarming name, this dry white wine is a sensation for the taste buds, producing notes of melon, herbs, pear and white pepper. Grk is indigenous to Croatia, found only in the sandy soils of an island close to Korčula. These grapes are said to be feminine, because it only has female flowers, meaning it must be planted close to other varieties in order to pollinate.


A true Dalmatian White with a high level of alchohol, Pošip guarantees nice acidity, fruity aromas and a full-bodied end product that pairs perfectly with grilled fish. This white is a sensation for the taste buds and will satisfy even the fussiest of wine connoisseurs but be careful not to drink this to excess; it’s stronger than it tastes.

That concludes our guide to Croatian wines. We hope it has provided you wit sound background knowledge to the wines available in Croatia and that you can order with confidence when you’re at a restaurant during your holiday. Those wishing to make the most of the nights during their time away should check out our recent blog post, The Best Places to Stay for Night Life in Croatia.

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