Croatia, like all other wine-producing countries, has designated wine regions. However unlike many countries, Croatia's staggering geographical diversity means that each of her four main wine regions can, and do, produce an incredible array of wines. Let's break down the regions:
Slavonia & Danube: This far-eastern part of Croatia is also it's least explored. While tourists focus on the coast, Slavonia continues to quietly build a reputation as a wine-making powerhouse. Look for Grasevina, the crisp white the region is most famous for. Producers are also starting to explore reds and red-blends, with grapes like Blaufrankisch and Cabernet Franc that will be familiar to fans of Continental European wines.
Croatian Uplands: Much like Slavonia, this region often plays second-fiddle to Dalmatia and Istria. Luckily that means there are a number of quality producers that have managed to fly under the radar while building a great wine tradition. Look for wines from Međimurje and Plesevica, and pay special attention to the sparkling wines from Plesevica. These regions tend to grow more familiar varietals like merlot, chardonnay, and cabernet sauvignon.
Istria: Croatia's most famous peninsula is an exciting mix of hills and beaches with an Italian tinge. In fact, Istria belonged to Italy until just after World War II. Keep and eye out for the two varietals the region excels at producing - Malvazija (white) and Teran (white). Virtually the entire region is ideal for wine growing.
Dalmatia: Croatia's vacation playland also produces some amazing wines. These are big wines, full-bodied and high in alcohol thanks to the intense Adriatic sun and dry conditions. Croatia's first two officially-designated wine-growing regions, Dingac and Posip, can be found just north of Dubrovnik on the Peljesac peninsula. Plavac mali is the most famous grape, and has been scientifically shown to be the predecessor to the zinfandel grape. Also look for Grk from the island of Korcula.
Once you've learned the four main wine regions of Croatia you can begin to drill down into the vingorje, literally translated as "wine hills". There are more than 100 vingorje in the country, with nearly as many quality family wineries. We'll explore some of these vingorje in future blog posts.