Croatia is divided into four major wine producing regions - Dalmatia; Slavonia & Danube; Croatian Uplands; Istria & Kvarner. The first grapes were introduced to what is now Croatia by the Greeks as early as the 6th century BC, making it one of the oldest wine-growing regions in Europe with over 130 indigenous grape varieties. However, a turbulent history has often hindered the development of its wine industry. The fall of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s saw the emergence of quality conscious producers, who modernised the wineries and lowered yields to produce more concentrated and complex wines.
Known as the ‘green oasis of the Adriatic’, Istria’s Mediterranean climate is ideal for growing grapes. Cool alpine air ensures a longer ripening season and good acid retention, while sea breezes keep the vineyards cool, dry and disease free. Close proximity to Italy has conferred a cultural influence on Croatian wine with Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco and Refosco popular among producers. However, Croatia is best known for the zesty, acacia blossom-scented Malvazija Istarska (known as Malvasia Istriana in Italy). Plavac Mali, a variety producing robust reds, and Graševina (also known as Welschriesling, Riesling Italico or Laski Riesling, and unrelated to German Riesling) are also widely planted.