Where in the world can you find 4,000 years of winemaking history, a booming modern wine scene and coastal views so beautiful you’ll want to cry? Croatia. Situated across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, Croatia has a winemaking history that is older than the Roman Empire, but recent economic and political turmoil has kept its wines in the shadows. That is, until two events at the turn of the century put Croatian wine back on the map.
In 1996, renowned vintner Mike Grgich (girr GITCH)--of Judgment of Paris fame--returned to his homeland and opened a winery in the prestigious wine region of Pelješac. The winery, named Grgić Vina, makes wine from native plavac mali and pošip grapes. In addition to making him a hero in Croatia, Grgich’s winery brought international attention to the little country’s wines.
In 2002 Croatia got a second boost when University of California at Davis professor Dr. Carole Meredith and two Croatian professors, Dr. Edi Maletic and Dr. Ivan Pejic of the University of Zagreb, discovered that zinfandel, California’s beloved peppery red grape, is identical to the Croatian grape crljenak kastelanski (tsurl-ye-nak kas-tel-yanskee) and Croatia was dubbed the homeland of zinfandel.
With all of this global attention, international grape varieties have inevitably crept into the vineyards of Croatia, but the Croatians have clung fiercely to their native varieties, of which there are over 60. The most important are the white grasevina (welschriesling) the red plavac mali (a descendent of crljenak kasteljanski). There are a few small importers in the U.S. who import Croatian wine, so it’s worth asking at your local wine shop if they carry any.
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Photo Credit: Grgic Vina