A mere jump across the Adriatic Sea from wine-soaked Italy, Croatia is known best for its beautiful, rocky coastlines, gorgeous architecture, and ample sailing opportunities rather than its wine. But with more than 300 wine-growing areas, the country is rich with picturesque wineries producing wines that are making a splash on the international stage. What’s more, wine production in Croatia dates back to ancient times and still remains a road less traveled when it comes to wine tasting in Europe.
Croatia is a varied country, allowing visitors to hop from city life in Dubrovnik to the idyllic "gourmet peninsula" of Istria. And, that English is spoken ubiquitously should only encourage American travelers to explore this varied wine region more. The best place to start is in Istria, which is home to many of the country’s acclaimed chefs and local products like cheese, olive oil, truffles, and, of course, wine, most of which is white. Many of the wines from Croatia are similar to crisp Italian and Californian whites. (The region produces roughly 70 percent white wines and 30 percent reds, give or take the small percentage of rosés.)
The notable winery Kabola sits on the northwest part of Istria, with a romantic stone house complete with robin’s egg blue shutters and rolling green vineyards just to the side. Visitors can tour the grounds and join the winemakers for a tasting of their light, fruity whites. Then, stop into the award-winning Meneghetti wine and olive oil producer, also on the Istrian Peninsula. Here, they produce deep and distinct red wines, as well as bright whites. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/JonasPhoto)
On the Dalmatian island of Korčula, Čara Winery has a rich history and produces a storied and long-loved range of white wines. Then, stop by the Katunar Winery, on Krk Island, which produces žlahtina, a regional and accessible white wine with fresh, fruity notes. Another notable winery in Croatia is the small, family-run Toreta (no web site) also in Korčula, whose wines regularly compete in international competitions.
Where to stay? The entire country is worth visiting for fantastic food, wine, and design. In Istria, try the modern Kempinski Hotel. Across the country in seaside Opatija, book into the mid-century modern (and affordable) Design Hotel Astoria. In Split, you can't do better than the chic Marmont Hotel. Or sneak away to the coastal cool Art Hotel Bračka Perla in the naturally lush Supetar cove.