Nestled on jagged slopes, taking in the sun’s reflection from the Adriatic, a salty breeze rattles through the leaves… this is Dalmatian wine country, promising expressive wines paired with memorable experiences. Boutique winery wines from Croatia is increasingly entering the international market, recognized for their powerful reds and complex whites from Dalmatia. To swirl the very best glass and meet the most interesting vintners, miniature garage family wineries boasting a generation-long tradition should not be underestimated over the swanky state-of-the-art wineries in between. Let’s explore Dalmatia, one swirl at a time.
1. Bibich Winery, Plastovo
Located in the Dalmatian hinterland above the charming town of Skradin near Krka National Park, winemaker Alen Bibić is a true experimentalist who has made a name for himself on the global foodie scene. Completely destroyed in the War of Independence in the early 1990s, Alen started to rebuild and replant in 1995 and today, over two thirds of his production is being served in upscale eateries in the U.S. Bibich has proven to the world that Croatian wines are a force to be reckoned with by fabricating superior blends of otherwise underrated indigenous varieties and noble grapes alike. Even famed chef Anthony Bourdain can’t stop raving about Bibich wines!
Other than having an impressive selection of wines, Bibich Winery also provides one of the most spectacular experiences for the seasoned foodie where a 13-course tasting menu brings flavours from the area onto the plate. The winery is strategically located in Plastovo, between the coast and hinterland, near the freshwaters of the Krka River and St. Anthony’s Channel by Šibenik so the diversity of ingredients available are no less than plentiful.
Some must-try wines include the single vineyard Bas de Bas, made from85% Syrah and 15% Merlot and certainly Bibich’s biggest red, aged for 24-30 months in new American oak. Another surprise is the Bas de Fain, probably the only Sauvignon Blanc in Dalmatia, a tropical wine and a perfect companion on your Adriatic vacation.
2. Boškinac Winery, Pag Island
In Northern Dalmatia, there is a fascinating island destination that caters to quite the varied crowd. Welcome to Pag, a beautifully barren landscape known for their 24-hour beach parties in Zrće, UNESCO recognized lace-making traditions, millennia old salt production, world renowned sheep cheese… and Boškinac Winery.
Boškinac Winery & Hotel is nestled in a tranquil valley amongst pinewoods, olive groves, and vineyards and here you will be sipping on the most spectacular Bordeaux blends and indigenous whites paired with innovative interpretations of island cuisine.
Opt for the five-course menu that Anthony Bourdain had on his visit… think lamb tripe, Pag cheese, homemade pasta, and five smashing wines.
3. Duboković Winery, Hvar Island
In a small candlelit cellar on the island of Hvar, classical music plays as garagist Ivo Duboković produces his bold wines of beloved Dalmatian red variety Plavac Mali and island-specific Drnekuša, Parć, Bogdanuša, Kuč and Maraština. Harvested late from his sun kissed vineyards, Ivo expresses the superiority of Hvar’s terroir by merging tradition with alternative winemaking methods. His wine spectrum covers almost all styles; from crispy whites and young reds to macerated oranges and masculine reds. This is the story of how a hobby created one of Croatia’s most treasured wines.
Must-try wines on your visit include 2718 sati sunce u boci (2718 hours of sun in a bottle), Prvi Poljubac (the first kiss), Laganini (easy-going), and the robust Medvid (male bear) for your collection.
4. Rizman Winery, Komarna
Rizman Winery is rather new on the Croatian wine scene but they are the pioneers behind Croatia’s newest wine appellation, Komarna. Komarna peers out into the Adriatic from the mainland near the isthmus of the Pelješac Peninsula. A convenient pitstop on your route to or from Dubrovnik, the newly opened Rizman Winery sits atop a hill surrounded by their olive trees, overlooking their vineyards below.
Rizman knocks out a killer Plavac Mali, Pošip, Rusula Rose, and a very expressive Tribidrag, the oldest name for Zinfandel which originates from Croatia.
5. Grabovac Winery, Imotski
It’s time to take a turn off the coastal highway and head to the heart of Inland Dalmatia in Imotski. Slowly waking up from its sleep, Imotski is becoming more and more recognized as a popular adventure destination with the fascinating Crveno Jezero (Red Lake) and Modro Jezero (Blue Lake), two ginormous sinkholes surrounded by a heap of hiking trails and caves. In the world of wines, Imotski has generations of tradition and the superior terroir results in expressive wines from local and international varieties.
The Grabovac family have been cultivating grapes for over 200 years and the winery produce the most acclaimed wines in the region, particularly the white Kujundžuša Sur Lie (there is a dime for every non Croatian who can pronounce that variety without getting their tongue in a twist!), the Modro Jezero red where the local varieties Trnjak and Vranac are combined with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. They also make a Dalmatia’s first sparkling wine made by traditional method, a brought to the region in the Napoleonic era.
6. Miloš Winery, Pelješac Peninsula
Frano Miloš is a poet; creating written and bottled masterpieces in his humble cellar in Putnikovići on the Pelješac Peninsula, just 5 minutes from the oyster hub of Ston. Miloš was the first to introduce winemaking in this micro region of Pelješac, with high-mineral soils resulting in floral and stone aromas in his wines. His eccentric approach to winemaking focuses on bringing forward the aging potential of the Plavac Mali variety and thus, his wines are released far later than others. Visit the winery and have a chat with Frano or his sons, sip on his wines, dip homemade bread into his oils, and take a walk in the vineyards… A visit to Miloš is so heart-warming and memorable.
Try Miloš’ baseline Plavac Mali and signature Stagnum, produced from his own organic vineyards using only natural yeasts, ageing in 5000L Slavonian oak barrels. Stagnum sometimes waits for six years before being released!
Which winery will you be visiting on your Dalmatian vacation and which wine will you bee bubble-wrapping for your trip back home?