Croatia is a significant wine producing country on the Adriatic Sea at the western edge of Europe's Balkan Peninsula. Formerly part of Yugoslavia, it borders Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro.
The export trade, though small, has developed over the last couple of decades. The key Croatian styles are dry white wines made from Grasevina (Welschriesling) and Malvasia, and rustic full bodied reds. These are typically based on the Plavac Mali grape variety.
White wine accounts for around two of every three bottles made in the country. In inland regions, only 10 percent of the total annual production is red. The multitude of indigenous varieties that were once common here has dwindled alarmingly over the past few decades.
Grasevina (Welschriesling) has long been the preferred white-wine grape in Croatian vineyards. It is backed up by regional specialties Bogdanusa, Grk, Posip, and Vugava. The former is so reliable and prolific that it is named "godsend". The latter is powerful and aromatic and was once thought to be the Rhône Valley's Viognier.
Unsurprisingly, a number of "international" white grape varieties have risen to popularity as the country seeks to develop wine exports. The portfolio now includes a number of international varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling.
The favored red wine grapes are a mix of long established local varieties and French imports. The former group includes Terlan (a member of the wider Refosco family) and Plavac Mali. The latter centers around the inevitable Bordeaux wine grapes Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Croatia's wine regions are split west from east by the Dinaric Alps, into two very different halves. The western half is Primorska Hrvatska (literally "Coastal Croatia"). This covers the complex Croatian coastline for 530 kilometers (330 miles) between Istria and Dubrovnik.
The Dalmatian Coast is dotted with numerous peninsulas, islands and inlets. The most famous of these (in wine terms at least) are the Island of Hvar and the Peljesac Peninsula. The majority of quality Croatian wine comes from these coastal areas.
This has been a winemaking region for more than two thousand years. Viticulture was most likely introduced here either by Phoenician traders (see Lebanon) or by the Ancient Greeks.
Although Croatia's total vineyard area has dropped by roughly one third since the early 20th Century, signs of reinvestment are unmistakable. Although once a western part of Yugoslavia, Croatia has been a democratic republic since 1991. Since independence, the nation's economy has expanded, most noticeably in the tourism sector. This accounts for roughly 20 percent of its GDP.
Wine production is improving steadily in terms of quality. Newly developing export markets are now being added to a well established domestic market.
The revelation that Zinfandel is Croatia's Crljenak Kaštelanski is another factor which has helped to increase interest. The same is true of the return of noted winemaker (Miljenko) Mike Grgich to his Dalmatian homeland from the Napa Valley.
However, climatic changes have meant that recent annual national output has fluctuated greatly. Between 2003 and 2013 the total production stayed solidly between 120 and 143 million liters (31.7 to 37.8 million US gallons). From 2014 to 2018 the figure has ranged between 57.6 and 99.2 million liters.