Discovering the Vineyards of Croatia: Wine Tours on Hvar Island
With leading producers such as Zlatan Plenkovic and Andro Tomic, a wine tour of Hvar is an excellent way to see the island and taste its wines.
With a viticutural tradition dating back more than 2,000 years to the arrival of the Ancient Greeks, wine has long been at the cultural heart of life on Hvar. The devastating phylloxera attack in the early 20th Century had a severe impact on both the wine crop and the local economy, leading to mass emigration. Ivana Krstulovic Caric has written an a detailed account of the History of Wine-making on Hvar.
International Acclaim for Croatian Wines
Croatian wines have undergone a revival in recent years. The discovery of the link between the Zinfandel grape with the staple Croatian variety, Plavac Mali, has raised the profile of Croatian wines, which have begun to perform very well in international competitions, most notably in 2009 when Croatian wines scooped eight golf medals at the prestigious Decanter Magazine Wine Awards.
Hvar is a significant producer of the country's quality wines and many of the vineyards are open for public tasting. While individual visits are welcome, the benefits of an organised tour include expert background knowledge from local guides and, just as important, a sober driver, allowing you to indulge in the tasting with a little more passion. Some of the best wine tours on Hvar are organised by local agencies Hvar Adventure and Secret Hvar.
Quality Wine Producers on Hvar
Below is a brief overview of some of the better producers on the island, visits to all of whom can be arranged:
Zlatan Plenkovic Winery, Sveta Nedelja. Under the brand name Zlatan Otok (Golden Island), the Plenkovic vineyards, located on the southern slopes of the island, close to the winery at Sveta Nedelja, have been leading the way in both quality and awards. The oak-aged barrique is an especially memorable bottle, and Zlatan Otok currently possesses Croatia's only Grand Cru.
Andro Tomic Winery, Jelsa. A colourful character and quality wine-maker, the cellars of Andro Tomic in Jelsa are one of the most popular tasting destinations. In addition to a charming tasting room in the old town, just up from the square, Tomic has recently built a much bigger facility close to Hotel Hvar, where he enthusiastically introduces visitors to his superb range, including an unusual rose and award-winning prosek, a sweeter wine.
Svirce Wine Cooperative, Svirce. The village of Svirce is an important centre for wine production on the island and the cooperative of the same name has been producing wines since 1999. A measure of its quality is reflected in the Gold Medal awarded in Paris in 2006 for its 2003 Basina Barrique. With tasting rooms in Jelsa, Hvar and Stari Grad, the wines can easily be sampled without visiting the cooperative.
Pinjata Winery, Vrboska. Tucked away at the back of the old town of Vrboska is the town's premier producer, Pinjata, a range of red and whites from local vintner, Ivica Gabelic.
Ivo Dubokovic Winery, JelsaAn innovative wine maker, the leading so-called 'garage' wine-maker in Croatia, whose wines are sought after all over Croatia. Among his most popular is 2718 Hours, a warm winter reminder of Hvar's legendary sunshine in restaurants in Zagreb in winter.
Caric Winery, Svirce. Another family winery worth seeking out is the Caric winery in Svirce. The family vines of five hectares are located on the south side, Svirce and near Stari Grad, generating an impressive selection including Plavac Mali, Bogdanjusa, Kuc, Marastina, Darnekusa and Posip.
While the main focus of wine tasting tours is obviously on the wine itself, driving through the hilltop villages gives one a more rounded feel of Hvar. For those who prefer all their wines in one place, the Hvar Wine Festival in September is a greet meeting point, while the Jelsa Wine Festival in late August is one of the great events of the Hvar calendar, and includes a whole range of fun activities for all the family.