It’s no secret that the islands and coastline of Croatia are some of the most popular vacationing spots in Europe. The crystal clear waters, blindingly white beaches and yachting culture that brings the ultra rich and famous from far and wide have put Croatia at the top of people’s bucket list. As if you needed another reason to want to grab a bag and rush off to the Adriatic, Croatia is also home to some very seriously delicious wines. Of course the people of Croatia always have known this, but it took the foresight of a poor but determined fisherman named Zlatan Plenković to help bring these sensational wines to the rest of the world.
Zlatan’s winery, and arguably the modern Croatian wine industry, started simultaneously with the emergence of Croatia as an independent nation in 1991. Like wildflowers after a forest fire, exciting independent businesses flourished across post-Soviet Europe. The small fishing village of Sveta Nedjelja on the Island of Hvar was no exception. By hustling day and night in the hospitality industry and convincing local farmers to sell him grapes on credit, Zlatan began to build his winery. Zlatan’s winery was the second private winery in the nascent country and today is a tentpole of Croatian wine industry.
The approach to the island of Hvar via ferry from the mainland greets the eye with striking alabaster stark against the sapphire sea. The color of the buildings reflect the bright sand of the beach and the snowy chalk of the vineyards. It is no surprise that this island was born from the sea, a quality that’s echoed in the wines. Vineyards of Plavac Mali and Pošip dominate dotted with olive trees and wild herbaceous scrub.
This is a singular place and the wines of Zlatan have always strived to capture that fact perfectly. That’s why yields are always kept small and wines aren’t released until they are deemed mature. The whites are meant to be enjoyed with the fresh seafood that abounds in the waters that surround the island, such as jumbo grilled sardines and Brudet (a fish stew). The reds, most notably Plavac Mali, are robust, but not without balancing acid which makes them extremely versatile. They work equally well with charred tuna steaks as well as wild game stewed with tomatoes, peppers and onions.
Sadly, not everyone of us can be so well heeled as we would like to be. However, we all deserve a little vacation so, even if you can’t make it all the way to the Dalmatian coast, treat yourself to a trip for the mouth with these wines.