Wild vines (trees) have been growing since the earliest time in many parts of present day Croatia. The culture of growing vines has most probably been brought by the old Greeks on present day Croatian shores, but the Illyrians, Celts and Romans have also taken part in its spreading to other parts of Croatia. Actually, many historical material proofs found on the Croatian ground are a testimony of more than two millennia old tradition of wine making. Amphorae, wine glasses, silver and bronze coins of the old town of Pharos (Stari Grad on the island of Hvar) as well as very old written praises (compliments) directed/focused at the wines of the island of Vis are some of them. Upon their arrival to the area of present day Croatia, Croatian tribes have learned from their predecessors everything they knew about wine growing, and have expanded the knowledge base over the centuries. Of course, vine production has seen ups and downs due to wars that have been fought over this territory, but also due to vine diseases. In Middle Ages wine making had enormous importance as it was a main source of income for many people. Vineyards were owned by rich lords, but also by the Catholic Church as it was the case in the famous center of wine production in Kutjevo. Nowadays wine making is increasing in importance in Croatia as it is more and more part of touristic offer.
Among the most famous and widely grown vine sorts in Croatia one usually distinguishes graševina, traminac, malvazija, plavac mali, merlot crni, rajnski rizling, kujunđuša, babić crni. While graševina is widely grown white sort in Continental Croatia, red sorts dominate in south Dalmatia. The most important of these sorts is plavac mali which is the basis of the production of top quality Croatian wines such as dingač, postup, zlatan plavac and pharos. An interesting fact to mention is that plavac mali has been created a long time ago by mixing autochthonic Dalmatian sort of crljenak kaštelanski (widely world famous as zinfandel). On the other hand, the most famous white vines are pošip, grk, vugava and malvazija.
On the Dalmatian coast nowadays meat and beer is more consumed than fish and wine, which is a sad fact. Given that the traditions of fishing and wine production were one of the main sources of income in the coastal areas, you would never see a peasant or fisherman with the beer. It was too expensive.
Croatians do not export a lot of wine. Also, Croatians (for now) did not manage to create world famous “image” of Croatian wine. Wine experts do say that Croatia has great potential, as the land is perfect for wine cultivation. What is missing is technology and technical capabilities, but we do see more and more improvements and investments every year.
However, in Croatia you will find more than 100 autochthon grape varieties. In Slavonia (north eastern part of Croatia) you will find world famous oak, which is used for making wine barrels. Anthony Bourdain,’s comment after his visit to Croatia: “this is world class food; this is world class wine.…. If you haven’t been here yet, you are a fu…ng id..t”.
Each region, each island has at least 1 great wine producer. More about them and their wines in the following blog posts.