Glass of white wine on a wooden table overlooking a seaside town in Croatia

Croatian Wines 101: A Beginners Guide to Croatian Wines and Grape Varieties

Croatia – the land of stunning beaches, Game of Thrones sets, and wines you've probably been mispronouncing your entire life. But fret not, intrepid sipper! I'm here to embark on a wine-soaked journey through the Adriatic gem. Ready your glasses and your best fake Croatian accent, and let's go!

Classification of Croatian Wines

While there is plenty of room to get lost amidst the pronunciation and myriad terms, Croatian wines have specific labels:

  • Vrhunsko Vino: Premium Wine
  • Kvalitetno Vino: Quality Wine
  • Stolno Vino: Table Wine

Geographical stamps signify region-specific grapes. Premium wines adhere to strict criteria regarding grape type and region.

Female cyclist smiling as she rides past a vine growing up a wall in Croatia

A varietal stamp means at least 85% of that grape is present. "Arhiv" labeled wines are cellared for over 5 years, with 3 in a bottle.

Useful terms:

  • Suho: Dry
  • Polusuho: Semi-dry
  • Slatko: Sweet
  • Bijelo: White
  • Crno: Red (Black)
  • Rosa: Rosé
  • Prošek: Dalmatian dessert wine

Unlike Spain or France, Croatia lacks a DO or AOC system, making its classifications unique but occasionally puzzling.

Croatian Wine Regions to Know

Today, Croatia boasts more than 300 distinct wine territories, flaunting 66 recognized appellations and a vine rainbow of over 100 native grape varieties.

Vines winding round an old stone arch with Latin inscriptions in Croatia

And here's a fun tidbit: Zinfandel? Yes, it originally hailed from Croatia! But to cut a very long story short, here are my top wine regions in Croatia:

1. Dalmatia - No, not the breed of spotted dogs. Though a glass might have you seeing spots with delight. Known for its rich reds and historic vineyards, it’s the coastal wine haven you’ve been dreaming of.

2. Istria - A truffle-rich region where Italy gives a friendly neighborly wave. The wines? As enchanting as the scenic vistas.

3. Slavonia - Famous for its oak barrels which give Croatian wines their distinct charm, and no, it's not a country in Eastern Europe.

Popular Croatian Grape Varieties (with Pronunciation Guide!)

Dive into Croatia's vinous treasure with popular grape varieties like Plavac Mali, Grk, Pošip, and Malvazija Istarska, each offering a unique sip of this wine-rich nation.

Red wine grapes on the vine in Croatia

1. Plavac Mali (*PLAH-vatz MAH-lee*) - Sounds like a spell, right? It's Dalmatia's star, giving bold reds with notes of blackberries, spices, and occasionally, the spirit of a dancing Dalmatian.

2. Grk (*Gerk*) - No, I didn’t forget to buy a vowel. This rare white grape is indigenous to the island of Korčula. Crisp and aromatic, it’s an introvert in the grape world, with less than 20 hectares globally!

3. Pošip (*POH-ship*) - No, it's not a service offered by the post office. A white grape from Central Dalmatia, it offers refreshing citrusy notes, perfect for those sun-soaked Croatian afternoons.

4. Malvazija Istarska (*mal-VAH-zee-ya is-TAR-ska*) - Istria's pride! An aromatic white, and not the name of a mystic Croatian sorceress, though we wish she was!

Pairing Croatian Wines

Pairing Croatian wines is an art, harmonizing the bold flavors of Plavac Mali with hearty stews, or the crisp notes of Pošip with fresh Adriatic seafood.

  • Seafood - When in Croatia, the fresh seafood is as abundant as the mispronunciations of “Plavac Mali”. Whites like Grk or Pošip are your seafood's best buddies.
  • Lamb & Meat Stews - Plavac Mali with its bold flavor profile is like a bear hug for these dishes.
  • Cheeses & Truffles - The aromatic charm of Malvazija Istarska complements the creamy, earthy flavors of Croatian cheeses and truffles.

Mildly Amusing Fun Fact: The ancient Greeks and Romans, clearly ahead of the curve, were already sipping on Croatian wines. They probably mispronounced the grapes too.

Živjeli: Raise Your Glass to Croatian Wines

Croatian wines are like the hidden coves of the Adriatic: Once discovered, they offer a world of wonder and delight. If you've read this far and you're still interested, you can read a more in depth article on Croatian wines right here.


So, the next time someone offers you a glass of “PLAH-vatz MAH-lee”, give them a knowing wink and toast to the hidden treasures of Croatia

As they say in Croatia: Živjeli (ji-vee-lee) - “Cheers!” or “Long live!”

Back to blog