When booking a sailing holiday in Croatia, everyone pictures the sun and sea, while few have expectations about the food and wine. Yet, Croatia has incredible food and wine scene, when Anthony Bourdain visited Croatia in 2012, he had this to say – “This is world-class food, world-class cheese, and world-class wine.”
Croatia has more than 130 indigenous grape varieties, many of which have won prestigious international awards. At Otium Yachts, we are passionate about the guest experience; for us, a large part of this is the food and wine – trying traditional meals and local wines. So, let us familiarise you with some of the indigenous red wines you should try when sailing in Croatia.
Let us first introduce you to a few Croatian letters to help with pronunciation. Croatian is a phonetical language so, once you understand the letters, you can pronounce the words.
C – sounds like ‘TS’
Č or Ć – sound like 'ch' (č is hard, ć is soft) in English, as in “cheers”.
J – is the equivalent of a 'Y' in English, as in “young wine”
Š – is like 'SH' for “Shiraz”
Ž – is a soft sound, like the 'S' in “pleasure” or the 'J' in “Beaujolais”
And here is a Croatian word to learn for your trip – ŽIVJELI (cheers)!
Plavac Mali is one of the most dominant varieties grown in Dalmatia and is known as the King of Dalmatian Reds. Plavac Mali grows in abundance on the Croatian islands, and in some of the most stunning locations – we highly recommend doing at least one wine tour while sailing in Croatia. Plavac Mali is a rich, full-bodied wine with high alcohol; each region and winemaker have a distinctive style. Dingač and Postup on the Pelješac Peninsula were Croatia’s first appellations, and are known for their bold Plavac Mali wines. Many winemakers are also making fresh Rosé wines from Plavac Mali – perfect for a hot summer day.
Wineries: We highly recommend visiting the Korta Katarina winery or Matuško on Pelješac, the gorgeous Zlatan Otok on island Hvar or for an intimate experience – Senjković on island Brač.
Crljenak Kaštelanski (also known as Primitivo in Italy) is probably one of the most famous indigenous grape varieties in Croatia – though, few people know about it and production is small... So, how is it famous? Maybe you will know it better by another name – Zinfandel? Genetic profiling proved that Crljenak Kaštelanski is the origin of the famed Zinfandel. Crljenak Kaštelanski grows in the area surrounding Split and now is grown on several central Dalmatian islands. This grape is a full-bodied red with fewer tannins than Plavac Mali, and pairs well with meat or game dishes. Don’t miss the opportunity to try the original Zinfandel and impress your friends with this piece of wine trivia.
Wineries: visit Putalj winery in Kaštela or Bedalov winery.
Babić is indigenous to central Dalmatia and is mostly grown in and around Primošten (near Šibenik). The vineyards in Primošten have been recognized by UNESCO (tentative list) due to their unique nature. The Primošten vineyards are a symbol of traditional methods; deep rocks in the soil were removed by hand and now form part of the drystone walls which surround the vineyards. The red soil is rich and lends these qualities to the wine. Babić is often oak-aged, has earthy notes, strong tannins, and dark berries. Enjoy this wine with meat dishes or with some of Croatia’s world-class cheeses.
Winery: visit Bibich winery with their 500-year-old vineyards, family tradition, and gorgeous tasting room. When sailing this region, we recommend a wine and food pairing at Bibich winery.
Teran is another indigenous grape variety that is mostly grown in western Istria. Teran has been planted for centuries and is the most common red grape in Istria. It is a deep red, almost purple wine, with berries, high acidity, and good tannins. Teran goes well with a plate of pršut (prosciutto) and local cheeses or meat dishes.
Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah…
Well-known grape varieties like Cabernet, Merlot, and Syrah (Shiraz) are also being successfully grown in Croatia, particularly in the North, with some incredible blends made from these grapes (try the Roxanich Superistrian, and Korlat wines)… But we wanted to focus on the indigenous grapes of Croatia this time.
Sailing and Wine Sampling
Maybe it’s just us but we feel like sailing and wine tasting go hand-in-hand, especially once you combine this with the amazing gastronomy scene in Croatia (which we will talk about another day). We are always excited for our guests to learn the wine story of Croatia and maybe even discover a new favorite wine. The crew on our yachts will be happy to source the wines you prefer but we invite you to be open to trying local wines. If the food and wine scene here could wow Anthony Bourdain when he visited Croatia, we are sure it will do the same for you.
Contact us to book your Croatian sailing holiday or learn more.