A Croatian Island Wine Story-Where Sun-Kissed Grapes Meet the Adriatic Sea

croatian island wine Solta

There is a fiery orange color in the sky as the sun dips below the horizon. I feel like I am in Italian movies from my fifties, holding my glass, the deep ruby red wine mirroring the vibrant sunset. Slowly I take the first sip. An explosion of flavor on my tongue – dark fruit, spice, and a hint of that salty sea air. This flavor is Croatian island wine – sunshine, history, and the islands’ fighting spirit all bottled up.

Island Infused: A Family’s Legacy in Šolta Wine

I find myself here all too often, as my husband grew up on Šolta, a sun-drenched island nestled off the Dalmatian coast. Here, but not only here but in the whole of Dalmatia, wine wasn’t just a celebratory drink; it was woven into the fabric of our lives. Memories of childhood summers are filled with the scent of ripening grapes and the jovial chaos of harvest season. My husband’s family owns a small vineyard, nestled on a hillside overlooking the azure sea. He always says it was his playground, a place he spent a lot of time with his family and friends as a boy. His grandfather, Vojko, taught him about the island’s grape varieties – Dobričić, the king of Dalmatian reds besides Plavac Mali, and Pošip, a white grape known for its crisp minerality.

Djeda Vojko would recount tales passed down through generations, stories of how winemaking arrived on Šolta with the ancient Greeks over 2,500 years ago. Knowledge of these stories was something island people like to brag about. Now and then, you can come across old islanders fighting between themselves who know their history better, or whose family has a longer heritage. Šolta’s unique terroir – the mixture of sun-drenched slopes, rocky soil, and the cooling influence of the Adriatic Sea – creates an ideal environment for grape cultivation, resulting in wines with distinct character and depth.

Šolta’s Wine Renaissance: A New Generation Takes Root

It would be wrong to say that Šolta has gone a long way today on the winemaking scene, but it is going through a slow renaissance. Small, hard-working producers like the Marinac winery are leading the charge and are transforming Croatian island wines. I recently visited their charming stone cellar, where I met young winemaker Ante Marinac. His enthusiasm for Dobričić, an authentic sort from Šolta, is infectious, and his dedication to sustainable procurement is evident in every sip of his rose. Another Šolta gem is the Burić winery, known for its elegant Pošip whites that boast a refreshing salinity and a touch of floral aromatics.

Small Producers, Big Flavors: The Rise of Croatia’s Island Wineries

Šolta is just one of the islands that has a rich wine history. Just a  short boat ride away lies the majestic island of Hvar, renowned for its ‘large number of sunshine hours per year’, lavender fields, and, of course, its exceptional wines. Hvar’s winemaking history goes back even further than Šolta’s, with evidence of grape cultivation dating back to the 4th century BC. Here, I discovered the renowned wines of the Plenković winery, Zlatan Otok, a family-run operation producing some of Croatia’s most acclaimed Plavac Mali. A sip of their “Golden Plavac” revealed layers of complexity – dark fruit, tobacco, and a touch of earth, a true testament to Hvar’s unique terroir.

Beyond the big names, countless smaller producers are pushing the boundaries of Croatian island wine. On the island of Korčula, Lovric, and Popic winery are producing some truly exceptional wines, their Pošip “Black Sheep” a personal favorite. This skin-contact white, with its golden hue and notes of honey and apricot, is a perfect example of the innovative spirit that’s taking Croatian island wines to new heights.

A Taste of the Islands: Croatian Wines That Transport You

It is wrong to think of Croatian island wine as just a beverage; it’s a medium that brings people together. For centuries, it has been a point of gathering, a source of livelihood for islanders, and a way of life passed down through generations. Wine has fueled celebrations, soothed sorrows, and brought people together. Every bottle tells a story – of the sun-baked earth, the resilient vines, and the passionate people who care for them.

When you test Croatian Island wine, you are not just savoring a wine; you are celebrating the rich history and enduring spirit of the Croatian islands. My husband says that the taste transports him back to sun-drenched vineyards, lively village festivals, and conversations shared next to the fireplace or under starlit skies. For him, it’s a taste of home, a taste of the Adriatic, and a taste of something truly special.

So, the next time you uncork a bottle of Croatian island wine, close your eyes and take a moment to appreciate the journey it’s taken. You might just taste the sunshine, feel the salty breeze, and hear the laughter echoing through the island vineyards.