When we think wine, countries like France, Spain and Italy come to mind. But what if I told you there were beautiful wines just a little further east?
Croatian wine country has two major wine regions, Primorska Hrvatska (coastal) and Kontinentalna Hrvatska (continental). These are broken into 12 sub-regions, Istria being one of the most popular. This region is located on the northwestern part of the country with a Mediterranean climate perfect for Malvasia (whites) and Teran (reds). It’s here local winemakers showed us what the region had to offer. These are my tips to see it all:
Classic Wine Tasting
Nothing beats an afternoon with wine in hand and vineyards in the distance! Online resources are limited in the region, so finding addresses, hours and tastings can be quite the challenge. Because of this, I recommend arranging your tasting in-person. Or, befriending a local guide or winemaker who can give you a tour themselves. Also consider transportation since most wineries are spread out, making a car and designated driver essential.
Our tour was done by an Istrian winemaker who brought us to the following (fantastic) wineries:
Recommended bottle: Cuvee or Monteran
Also try: Donkey milk and olive oil
Recommended bottle: Ghira Podrum Bibali 2011
Also try: Olive oil and scallops
Recommended bottle: Sr. Jakor Malvasia 2013
Also try: Wine brandy
Our single most valuable experience in Istria was harvesting. There’s no better way to increase your appreciation for something than getting your hands dirty and doing it. We harvested for two days for Stancija Collis. I’m talking backbreaking, hot, muddy work in the fields! But none of that mattered considering the knowledge we gained in the process. We learned the different soils, climate and grape varieties. We saw different harvesting techniques used for each vineyard. We watched the full production process and quality control. And most importantly, we met the families and shared stories with winemakers and workers alike. That’s something you’ll never get from a formal tasting.
This opportunity was happened upon by chance. I met a Couchsurfer who knew a guy, who knew a guy, who knew a guy, who I emailed suggesting a wine tour in exchange for harvest labor. He was IN! They welcomed us into their family with good food, good wine and great company.
If you’re looking for something more long-term, leverage sites like Workaway or WWOOF (see my related article: 5 Questions to Ask Before Work Exchange). Research harvest season for your desired region and message in advance.
Events and Festivals
Local wines and spirits are plentiful at events. And as a bonus, you’ll get to try other foods and goods from the area. We attended Livade’s annual Truffle Festival and enjoyed a full day of tasting for a mere €5. An additional €5 bought us an excursion truffle hunting in the neighboring forests.
Cheeses, prosciutto and olive oils decorated the tent, as well as wines from neighboring regions we wouldn’t have otherwise tried. These were my favorites:
Recommended bottle: R5 Riserva and R6 Reserva
Recommended bottle: Sagittarius 2009
Recommended bottle: Anything with bubbles!
Sir Hlam, Punat Otok Krk
Recommended product: Lavender cheese
For more information on Food & Wine festivals in Istria, visit istra.hr/en.