Written by Missy Johnston
Croatia is a gorgeous, unforgettable cruising ground, a favorite of luxury yacht owners, and an island-hopping paradise. It’s also home to some of the world’s best boutique wineries, each with their own unique character and delights. Your private chef and staff could serve up a new wine tasting every evening – just ask! The amazing complex red wines from the Pelsejac peninsula, where there are two geographically-protected appellations for wine production; the variety of rich, fragrant wines from the island of Hvar; the crisp white wines from Korcula Island; and the white wines grown among the limestones on Brac Island (Stonecutter’s Island).
Many of these wines never make their way out of the local area, so your experience will be one enjoyed by a precious few. You can either stay on your yacht and your 5-star crew will bring the wines to you, or you can visit the wineries and taste them in their native environment. On board, your chef might serve up a dinner featuring white or black truffles from the oak forests of Istria, award-winning oysters from the Adriatic Sea, or fresh sea urchin roe just plucked from the waters of your anchorage. Or you might enjoy a lovely dinner at the winery, with wine pairings with every course.
The soil, sun, and climate produce spectacular wine grapes. The boutique batches are so small and the locals so knowledgeable about great wines, that the vintages seldom last long enough to be exported. Wine-making methods are different from methods used in France and California; touring the wineries will increase your knowledge of wine.
Let’s take a look at some of Croatia’s best wineries and the best Croatian wines.
Brac Island is referred to as the Stonecutter’s Island because of its massive quarries of white limestone and marble. This island is close to Split, a more laid-back island populated largely by local craftspeople who offer their wares amongst the impressive palaces and ruins from the Roman era.
The oldest settlement on Brac Island is Skrip, which contains a lovely museum in the 16th century Radojkovic Tower and is also home to the Olive Oil Museum and Tasting Room. On Brac Island, it is possible to also see students at work in the only stonemasonry school in Croatia. And the hiking trails on Brac are out of this world. If you’re into hiking, make sure you hike up to the highest point on the Adriatic Islands: Vidova Gora. On a clear day you can see all the way to Italy.
Obviously, there is much to do in Brac, even without tasting the amazing white wines for which the area is famous. But you won’t want to miss these incredible wines. White wines (Posip) and red wines (Plavic Mali) are available in numerous varieties.
Be sure to sample the Prosek dessert wine made by the Franciscan Monastery in Bol. These wines are made using a process called “passito,” starting with grapes that have been dried to concentrate their juice. Selected grapes are laid out in mats in full sun for a week or a bit longer. These wines are typically sweet to very sweet, and tend to be a little more expensive due to the amount of hand labor (roughly seven times the number of grapes required per bottle) and the aging time involved. Tradition has it that some of these wines were first drunk at the birth of a child, with the vintage tucked away after the birth toast, aging the bottles further, until that child’s wedding day.
Known as the Roman Province of Dalmatia, this scenic peninsula, almost completely surrounded by the Adriatic Sea, has everything you could want in a visual and tasting smorgasbord: dramatic, rugged mountains, majestic valleys, quaint seaside villages, sheltered coves, tasty oysters and mussels, and, of course, delightful wines. Located across from Korcula Island, the soil on this peninsula—especially on the south coast, where arid conditions and salty breezes cause the indigenous Plavic Mali vines to produce grapes for red wine that has deep color and is full-bodied, rich, and velvety, with a high alcohol level of 13 – 15 percent.
These vineyards are particularly dramatic, as they often span the sides of steep mountains and flow right down to the sea. Some of the vineyards are so steep that workers harvesting the grapes must be lowered by rope harnesses to gather the grapes. The vintners use every inch of land in these prized locations. The wine is exposed to “three suns”: the direct rays of the sun; the sun’s reflection from the sea, as it grows on the steep ridges; and the reflection from the white rock surface on top of the soil.
Several locations on the Peljasac Peninsula, where Plavic Mali grapevines are grown, have their own appellations (protected geographic origin): Dingac and Postup. Only wines grown in Dingac can bear that name, and only wines grown in Postup can bear the name Postup. These are prestigious wines that are valued for their excellence.
Wineries include the Korta Katarina winery and the Grgic Winery, both of which can be visited with advance reservations. Both of these wineries are located right on the coast.
To visit the Korta Katarina winery, you can anchor in front of the winery, take your ship’s tender to shore, and then take a short walk up the hill to the winery. This impressive winery uses Plavac and Zinfandel grapes grown in areas around the villages of Dingac and Postup to create its red and rose wines. Their white wines and sparkling wines are produced from Posip grapes grown around the village of Cara on nearby Korcula Island. There are three tours provided, all requiring reservations: one, two, or three hours in length and including the choice of a 5 or 7 course meal with wine pairings.
The Grgic Vina is located in Trstrenik Bay; once again, your ship’s tender will take you to shore and then you will be able to sit in the warm sun with your yacht anchored in front of you in the sparkling water. The winery was founded by native Croatian Miljenko “Mike” Grgic with his nephew Ivo Jeramaz and his daughter Violet Grgic, after founding the successful Grgich Hills Estate Winery in Napa Valley, California.
This winery produces two wines from two different grapes. There is a red wine produced from the Plavac Mali grape grown in Dingač, bearing the prestigious Dingac Appellation. The other is a white wine made from Posip grapes grown on nearby Korcula Island. When in Napa Valley, Mike Grgic noticed a remarkable resemblance between the Zinfandel grape and Plavac Mali grape native to Croatia. Working with scientists at the University of California, Mike believes there is now proof that the Zinfandel grape is Crljenak Kaštelanski, a grape native to Croatia and parent of the Plavac Mali grape.
No reservations are necessary. If the staff has time, they will take you on a vintner’s tour. You can enjoy the wines on the terrace with an amazing view. The building is on Trstenik Beach on Trstenik Bay at the top of the Peljesac Peninsula. You will be surrounded by the picturesque bay, olive trees, wild herbs and vineyards with a view of your charter yacht anchored in the bay in front.
Close by this refreshing winery are the villages of Ston and Mali Ston, known for its abundant shellfish farms. You can sample the freshest, tastiest oysters and mussels, just plucked from the sea. The oysters are the famed European flat oysters, called Kamenice, and the farmed mussels are called Dagnji.
Saint Hills Winery offers a Vintner Tour to see the wine-making process. Tastings include food tidbits for each wine or a multi-course lunch or dinner, with each course of food chosen to showcase a wine. One of their wines, called Dignac, is produced from their SV Lucia Vineyard in Dignac. After your yacht anchors, you can take the ship’s tender to shore, then take a van to the SV Lucia Vineyard in Dingac. The Dingac wine produced there is a Croatian premium quality red wine made from the plavac mali grape. It is dark red to purple, with blue reflections. It is full, pleasantly bitter and astringent. There are dry berries in this wine. Both dry and semi-dry wines are available.
You’ll definitely want to cruise to the island of Hvar, which is just off the coast of Croatia and 20 nautical miles from the city of Split. It boasts the most sunny days in the area, and wine-making has been part of the island culture for the last 2400 years. Here are some of the wine-centric highlights of this special area.
The Zlatan Otok Winery, owned by the Plenkovic family, has won many awards. It produces about 900,000 bottles per year, from 135 acres from three different Dalmatian regions. “Zlatan otok” means “Golden Island.” Their most famous wines are the red wines made from the Plavac Mali grapes, grown on the steep southern slopes of the island of Hvar. This award-winning winery has a wine tasting room in a cellar 70 meters under the sea, where the temperature is perfectly cool year round, and visitors can see the sea bottom through a glass window. Make sure you check out the winery’s restaurant, Bilo Idro, where fresh fish are cooked over an open wood fire. Their 16-plus wines are made with grapes grown on Hvar Island.
The Tomic Winery, was founded by Andro Tomic who, after spending 20 years professionally training in France and other countries, came back to his native island of Hvar to open his own winery. HIs family has been making wines for 150 years.
His winery produces Beleca, a dry white wine that is a blend of two indigenous Croatian varieties: 50 percent Posip and 50 percent Bogdanusa. Bogdanusa is native to Hvar island, and is a delicate wine with a floral aroma. Posip, originally from Korcula, is one of the most-praised Croatian grapes. Their Posip dry white wine has undercurrents of stone fruit, fresh citrus, and Mediterranean herbs.
Tomic’s Opolo Noble wine is a dry pink wine made from Plavac Mali grapes. Their red wine is Illyricum, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Plavac Mali. Their Plavac dry red wine is their best-selling wine, made from Plavac Mali grapes from the southern side of Hvar, and grapes from the northern side, to add a lighter fruit aroma.
Their Plavac Mali Barrique is another dry red wine, produced in very small quantities, using grapes from the best positions on the southern side of Hvac, where the soil is dry, rocky limestone. Other wines include Caplar, Veliki Plavac Mali, and Sv. Klement. Their dessert wines are Prosek Hektorovic, and Prosek Moro. They also produce two Euforjia liquors: Carob Sage and Cherry.
The Dubokovic Winery, located on Jesla on Hvar Island, is a boutique winery that makes red, white, rose, and dessert wines. Yet another family-owned winery overseen by Ivo Dubokovic. Wine tastings are available, accompanied by foods that complement the wine and the family’s enthusiasm for their unique wines. There are also olive oil tastings.
The Ultimate Croatia Yachting Experience
There is nothing more refreshing and renewing as the combination of the total luxury of a chartered yacht, where every need is met and all there is to do is relax, reflect, and delight in the company of family and close friends.
Combining that memorable experience with sumptuous local food, on-board wine tastings, and winery tours in this spectacular wine-rich area offers up a once-in-a-lifetime odyssey that will fill your senses while immersing you in history, tradition, and beauty. The unique tastes offered and the peacefulness of the area, with its sun-kissed islands and rich history make for a yacht charter getaway that is not to be missed.
We can help you create the perfect yacht charter itinerary, with every detail taken care of.