When I first traveled to Croatia in 2004, the wines tended to be innocuous at best. On this most recent visit, they were positively arresting. The quantity-over-quality philosophy of former Yugoslavia has been cast aside in favor of carefully crafted small-production wines, often made from steep terraced vineyards where mechanized farming is impossible. Croatian winemakers now fully exploit the immense potential of the country’s surprisingly diverse terroirs, ranging from cool Slavonia and Plešivica in the north, well-suited to German-style whites and precise sparkling wines, to the Dalmatian Coast in the south, the birthplace of Zinfandel.
Many Croatian wineries make use of international varieties such as Pinot Noir and Syrah, but the country’s real treasure is its trove of more than 30 indigenous grape varieties. I became especially enamored of Pošip, a white Korčula-based grape that can range in style from something like juicy Sauvignon Blanc to sumptuous white Burgundy.
I visited four contrasting wineries on this trip, each of which impressed me greatly. In addition to wines from the producers below, I highly recommend trying the sparkling wines by Tomac and still wines by Bibich, Bire and Grgić.