The Wine Effect

Exploring Croatian Wine

Host ~ Renée Sferrazza 
Sommelier and Wine Professional 
Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers Board

 Here we look deep into the world of wine and pull out all the useful information that you can bring into your own wine journey.
Wine is pleasure, wine is beauty, wine is simple yet complex. There are so many sides to the world of wine. Follow me, Renée Sferrazza, as I break down the world of wine into simple sips.

 As a Court of Master Sommeliers Certified Sommelier, CAPS Board member, wine educator, wine writer, importer and contracted peddler of fortified
juice, exploring wine has become more than just a driving force in my life. I’m passionate about bringing a different side of wine to the table. A side that’s romantic, but not pretentious and above all, practical. Essentially, I’ve dedicated my life to grapes - welcome to
The Wine Effect.

 Along the beautiful Adriatic coast across from Italy is Croatia. Croatia has been making wine for more than 2400 years. The country's wine history dates back to the Greek Empire, with the coastal and island vineyards started even earlier by the Illyrians during the Bronze age. The climate, geography and grape varietals of the regions all work together in the glass.

 Wines production centers around native grapes like Plavac Mali, Posip and Teran; these indigenous grapes bring the regions' Adriatic culture of this region into every sip. There is, however, one Croatian grape that has made it around the world – although it has seen a name change. Originally named Tribidrag, this Croatian native varietal goes by on wine lists under Zinfandel.

 In this edition of The Wine Effect, we are exploring everything Croatian wine! Where they grow, winemaking styles and the wines you need to try. Croatian wines are finding their way to LCBO shelves and wine lists; it is time to dive into this region and see what it has in store.

Key Regions of Croatia to Explore                                                         Croatia's wine production is in into three central regions. The peninsula of Istria, the Dalmatian coast and islands, and the inland continental areas that border Eastern European countries.


 Istria is an ancient wine-producing region on the northwesternmost tip of Croatia. The area has passed hands from the Austrians to the Italians and Yugoslavians at various times in the last century, leaving the region with a mix of wine and food culture influences. The peninsula sits in the Adriatic Sea and has a thoroughly Mediterranean climate. That is strongly influenced by the Alps and sea breezes of the Adriatic.

 With the ideal winter and summer temperatures, Istria is perfectly positioned for growing grapes organically. The trademark Terra Rossa soils of the region's vineyards bring a depth of minerality to the wines. Home to many boutique wineries wines from native grapes like Malvazija Istarska, Teran and Refošk. However, many productions from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon can be found from Istria.

Dalmatian Coast and Croatian Islands                                                   Heading south from Istria along the Adriatic coastline is the region of Dalmatia. Dalmatia is a large area that is divided into three main sections marked by a dramatic terrain. Mountains seem to rise out of the sea, and vineyards are moments away from the coast itself, with some vineyards sitting on the slopes of the rocky mountain sides taking in all the sun and breeze coming off the sea. The coast has a similar climate to Istria, but it is the aspect of the vineyards that make this region different. Delivering more sunlight to the vines and creating the perfect seating for growing red wine grapes that show bold in the glass.

 Just off the coastline from the Pelješac peninsula midway down the coast are thousands of islands ranging in size. The islands of Korčula, Brač, Hvar, Pakleni islands and top regions to visit. These islands have a place in world wine history. Hvar's island is home to the world's longest continually cultivated vineyard, the Unesco World Heritage Site of Stari Grad Plain. Grapes have been grown since 400 BC. Korčula is also home to century-old vineyard lands and the birthplace of the native grape Pošip. It is even believed to be the home island of explorer Marco Polo.

 The Dalmatian coast and islands are the epicentres for wine productions in Croatia. There are more native grapes here than in any other wine-producing area in the country, with grapes like Pošip, Grk, Plavac Mali, and Babić, to name a few. 

Continental Croatia 
Croatia's continental region borders Slovenia and Hungary in the north, Bosnia/Herzegovina, in the south, and extends to Serbia's border with Croatia. This portion of the country is larger than the coastline and is divided into two main areas, the Uplands and Slavonia/Danube. Climate and geography change completely in these inland regions. The Uplands in the north have a cool continental climate that is well suited for sparkling wine and cool climate grapes. Native grapes like Škrlet, Pušipel, and Kraljevina are grown and international varietal like Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Furmint and Pinot Noir. 

In the Slavonia and Danube region that borders Serbia, the terrain is flatter. The main grapes of Graševina and Traminac, both white grapes (Traminac is the Croatian counterpart Gewürtztraminer) as well as red wines made from Frankovka are grown here. The region is also known for its production of Slavonia oak, the oak used in Barolo and Barbaresco's great red wines.

Croatian Grapes to Know                                                                           Native grapes grow in every region of Croatia! Don't let the names scare you off because the more wine you try, the easier the names become to pronounce.


Malvazija Istarska
Malvazjia Istarska is native to Istria. The grape grows in large berry bunches but ranges in colour from greenish-yellow to a golden hue. The colour variation is not the only range of difference to note is wines made from this grape. Malvazjia wines can be found in styles from light and fruity to orange or even sweet. Some wines made with oak ageing showing how versatile this grape can be. Flavours and aromas are quite diverse, with notes of fennel, quines, honey, apricot and spice. Wines from Malvazjia Istarska are mainly from Istria. Productions from this grape can also come from the Dalmatian coast and Italy, where the grape goes by Malvasia Istriana. 
Native to the island of Korčula off the coast of the southern Dalmatian Pošip is a white wine grape that creates full-bodied white wines with trademark almond notes. The wines from this grape are refreshing and genuinely show the feelings of the Adriatic in the glass. Drinking a glass of Pošip brings up memories of a hot day in the sun just soaking in life. Classic notes for this wine style include apples, vanilla, citrus fruits and the ever-present note of almond.


 Native to the Šibenik area of the Dalmatian coast, Babić is a highly regional grape, similar to the native grapes of Italy and Spain, Babić in Croatia is intrinsically tied to the place it is from and thriving. The grape is a glutton for punishment. Growing on poor karst limestone soils in this warm sea breeze swept region gives this grape great potential in the glass. Making a red wine with a dark ruby red hue and filled with aromas and flavours of figs, dark berries, herbs and earthy minerality.

Teran                                                                                                                   Also native to Istria's regions, Teran makes earthy, full-bodied red wines that have refinement in the glass. Fans of Italian wines might have tried this grape before under the name Terrano. Croatian productions tend to be bolder in flavour, whereas the Italian style has main similarities to Refosco. Istrian wines from this grape are marked by notes of violets, wild blackberries and smoky game-like notes in the glass. The structure of wines made from Teran also makes for an incredibly ageable wine that can be cellared for many years.

 One this is certain when it comes to Croatian wine, once you start, you can't stop! Wines from this Eastern European wine region have the power to transport you to worlds away in the glass, and maybe even for your next European vacation. 

 If you are interested in exploring the world of Croatian wine more, I invited you to join me for Taste of the Adriatic, a virtual wine tasting event exploring Croatian wines on Sunday, November 22nd at noon!

Head to to get your ticket, with wines included. I will be joined by outstanding winemakers from across the Croatian coastline, so join me on this trip to the Adriatic in the glass.

Cheers till next time, drink good wine!