Croatia is a wonderful sailing destination for wine lovers. Regardless of sailing route, anyone who enjoys a glass of good wine will find plenty of opportunities for wine tasting adventures in almost every corner of the country's long, sunbathed coast. With a winemaking tradition that goes back several millennia, Croatia offers an astonishing diversity of excellent wines. Most places on the Istrian and Dalmatian coast and islands host at least one tavern, wine bar or restaurant with an impressive wine list.
The varied geography, rocky soil and plenty of sunshine provide extremely favourable conditions for growing a great number of grape varieties – both indigenous and international – that, combined with a long winemaking tradition, yield many distinct high quality wines. Some of these wines are recognized worldwide, while others are produced in smaller quantities and cannot be sampled outside Croatia.
Oenophiles looking to explore the country’s rich selection of wines and unique gastronomic offering typically opt for a yacht charter holiday either in the northern part of the Croatia or in the far southern.
The bucolic landscapes of Istria, Croatia’s northernmost coastal region, produce an enormous variety of excellent wines, among which the white Istrian Malvasia is the most popular variety. Local winemakers also produce white and grey Pinot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon, as well as the red Teran, Merlot, Bourgogne, Refosco and Cabernet.
Most Istrian wine estates are situated in the peninsula’s interior, where vineyards mingle with olive and citrus groves, and large truffle forests. However, the top sailing destinations in the region – Umag, Poreč, Rovinj and Pula – have numerous taverns and restaurants that are supplied by the local wineries and offer wines as they should be tasted, with other well-known Istrian specialties: sheep-milk cheese, seafood with truffles and chicken cooked under a baking lid, among many others.
A sailing route from Split to Dubrovnik takes wine enthusiasts through Croatia’s winemaking El Dorado, with itineraries that include short hops from Split to the islands of Brač, Hvar, Vis and Korčula and then to Dubrovnik with stops at the Pelješac peninsula, home to some of the country’s best known wineries, and the lush island of Mljet.
The historic city of Split harbours numerous wine bars that offer a rich variety of Croatia’s finest wines. Putalj Winery makes a wonderful destination for onshore wine tasting excursions. The family-owned boutique winery is known for its excellent Zinfandel and offers a special blend that is available only to visitors.
The island of Brač produces a number of famous wines thanks to its unique geography and long winemaking tradition. Stina in Bol is one of Croatia’s best known wineries. It produces a number of acclaimed and award-winning wines, including Stina Plavac mali barrique, Stina Pošip, Stina Vugava and Stina Opol.
Hvar is one of Croatia’s most popular islands to visit and a top destination for wine lovers, as it hosts the annual Jelsa Wine Festival in peak sailing season, on the last weekend in August. Visitors can sample some of the best locally produced wines and gastronomic delicacies during the festival. The town of Jelsa is also home to one of the region’s top winemakers. Tomić Winery is known for its excellent Bogdanuša, produced from the indigenous white grape variety of the same name. Situated on the southern part of the island, Zlatan Otok is an award-winning winery known for a number of outstanding wines, including Bogdanuša, Zlatan Hvar, Zlatan Plavac and many others. The wines can be sampled in an underwater cellar and at a seafront restaurant situated right next to a marina.
The island of Vis makes an excellent stop for tasting one of the best Croatian white wines, Vugava, while Korčula harbours some of the best varieties of Pošip, Grk and Plavac Mali. Korčula wineries Krajančić and Bire offer tastings of these and other varieties.
Pelješac peninsula is a top destination for lovers of fine red wine because it is home to Croatia’s very best indigenous red grape variety, Plavac Mali. The local winemakers – Grgić, Dingač, Saints Hills, Korta Katarina, Miloš, Matuško and many others – grow this and other varieties to produce the two best known Croatian red wines, Dingač and Postup. The region also produces large quantities of Pošip, one of the country’s top white wines.
Mljet winemakers produce a number of excellent wines, mostly from Plavac Mali and Maraština. Because a large part of the island is protected as a national park, the island’s output is limited to relatively small quantities of high quality wine. The vineyards are mostly located in karst fields and complement the island’s landscapes beautifully.
The city of Dubrovnik is the place to go to taste some of the best vintages from both the coastal and continental regions of Croatia. The old city has numerous wine bars that offer a wide selection of the country’s finest wines, but also makes an excellent base for various onshore wine tasting tours of the Konavle and Pelješac regions, available from local operators. The tours take visitors to some of Croatia’s best wine cellars and historic family homes surrounded by scenic vineyards, charming olive groves and quaint traditional villages, where they can get acquainted both with a wide selection of excellent wines and with the rich local winemaking culture.