Top 10 Must-Try Croatian Red Wines

Uncover the hidden gems and enjoy our handpicked list of the top 10 Croatian red wines! These impressive wines are a must-try for every wine enthusiast!
Source: Volarević winery

Ready to embark on a wine adventure of discovering the top 10 must-try Croatian red wines? Grab your go-to wine glass, because we’re taking a journey to Croatia to discover some seriously amazing wines. These Croatian reds are world-class wines – they’ll leave you buzzing with excitement and satisfaction.

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction 
  • Matuško Dingač Selection
  • Bedalov Dobričić
  • Korta Katarina Zinfandel
  • Gracin Babić
  • Grabovac Trnjak Riserva
  • Coronica Gran Teran
  • Matošević Grimalda
  • Krauthaker Mercs
  • Korak Pinot Crni Križevac & Cimbuščak
  • Kosovec Frankovka Selection
  • FAQs About Croatian Red Wines
  • What is the red wine of Croatia?
  • Is Croatian red wine good?
  • What is the most popular red wine in Croatia?
  • Conclusion

Introduction to Croatian Red Wines

Wine lovers are in for a treat when visiting Croatia, as each wine region boasts its own unique range of highly-regarded wines! From popular international varieties to native grapes that can’t be found anywhere else, Croatian wines have something special to offer for sipping in celebration or savoring over leisurely meals. 

And what’s more – some white Croatian wines often get rave reviews from experts and aficionados alike. So make sure you savor the flavors of Croatia red wines next time your travels take you there – it’ll surely help put an extra sparkle on any occasion! 

Croatian wine regions you should definitely pay a visit to, include some of the most popular country’s red wines:

  • Slavonija (known for its reds made from international varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt),
  • Istria and Kvarner (home of native Teran),
  • Dalmatia (famous for native reds Plavac Mali, Crljenak Kaštelanski (Zinfandel), Trnjak, Dobričić, Plavina, Lasina),
  • Croatian Uplands (best known for their Pinot Noirs).

Key Takeaway: Croatia is home to an incredible variety of exquisite red wines, making it a paradise for wine lovers. Now’s your chance to explore and experience some of the most premium bottles this country has on offer – come take sips at all the unique flavors of popular Croatian red wines we’ve handpicked just for you!

Matuško Dingač 

Source: Matuško

Step into the world of Mato Violić – Matuško and experience something extraordinary! One of Croatia’s pioneering winemakers, Matuško wines are known for their unique style. With a rebellious spirit, Mato Violić created iconic wines that have since become a status symbol. 

Matuško wines produced from the most popular Croatian appellation – Dingač, derive their exceptional qualities thanks to climate conditions and micro-locations of the mentioned appellation as well as the Plavac Mali grape variety (which locals refer to fondly as ‘the blood of the soil’  thanks to its ruby red color and drought resistance). But don’t take our word for it: taste Matuško Dingač and other Matuško Dingač produced selections and reservas to compare and discover this iconic wine micro-region.

TASTING NOTES:

Dingač, a wine region nestled along the stunning Pelješac peninsula on the Dalmatian coast will surely delight your taste buds! Dingač boasts a unique terroir, topography, and soil composition that sets it apart from other wine regions around the world. And the result? A wine that’s truly one of a kind.

Imagine walking through vineyards that are planted on a 45° slope, from sea level up to 300 meters, with up to 2800 hours of sunshine each year. The rugged karst landscape ensures minimal surface erosion, creating the perfect conditions for the red grape variety – Plavac Mali to flourish in this dramatic Mediterranean setting.

But let’s talk about the wine itself. Just picture a deep ruby red with hints of purple, aged to perfection in the peaceful stillness of oak barrels. The full-bodied, well-rounded flavor strikes a perfect balance between astringency and sweetness, with floral aromas that will make your senses burst!

This wine is truly in a league of its own, so be sure to give it at least 2 hours to breathe before taking your first sip. Trust us, it’s worth the wait.

Key Takeaway: Indulge in a sip of excellence with every glass of Matuško Dingač. This award-winning wine embodies the essence of Croatia’s wine-making tradition, balancing bold berry notes with a smooth finish that’ll leave you wanting more!

Korta Katarina Zinfandel

Source: Korta Katarina

The Korta Katarina is a family-owned winery located in the Pelješac peninsula. Owners are Lee and Penny Anderson, Americans who fell in love with the small coastal town of Orebić, renowned for its culture, history, and winemaking traditions that date back to the Roman Empire.  Both winery and villa Korta Katarina are wine lovers’ dreams. The vineyards are perched on the edge of the crystal-clear Adriatic Sea and provide breathtaking views of Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. For centuries, ‘kortas’ were the center of family gatherings for sea captains and sailors embarking on worldly adventures.

TASTING NOTES:

Picture a stunning ruby-colored wine that embodies elegance and beauty. The fruity aroma of this wine is filled with the sweet scent of red fruits, ripe cherries, sweet cherries, and red currants. The first sip will take you on a journey through a lively and rich taste, with young tannins, high concentrations, and pleasantly accentuated acids that bring the wine to life. The full-bodied and firm structure delivers a cherry sweetness that lingers in your mouth, finishing off with a hint of dark chocolate that will leave your taste buds wanting more.

Upon opening, the wine transforms, revealing wonderful forest notes of sour black bitter oak, crumpled blueberry bush leaves, and forest soil. With its long duration and a perfect balance between maturity and freshness, the wine’s intense retro taste of cherry jam is a truly delightful experience. This wine has collector’s value, with the potential for long-term aging that will continue to enhance its quality in the coming years.

In summary, this is not just any ordinary wine, but a stunning masterpiece that has been crafted with expertise and care. Its exquisite taste and collector’s value make it a true gem that you simply cannot afford to miss out on.

Key Takeaway: Get ready to embark on a journey of flavor – we’re taking you through the wine heritage of Dalmatia with Zinfandel (originally Crljenak Kaštelanski)! Cheers to memorable moments you will surely share over this exceptional wine!

Gracin Babić

Leo Gracin and his father Ante founded a family winery in 2000. Leo Gracin is the enologist responsible for producing some of the best wines from the amazing Dalmatian native Babić variety. The grapes come from the Bucavac appellation, near Primošten. This unique appellation is renowned for its traditional vine cultivation, which takes place in small, enclosed fields arranged in rows and surrounded by drystone walls. The resulting stone-laced vineyards pay tribute to the hard work and human labor, while the terroir of Bucavac is best described as capturing the true essence of stone, sun, sea, and wind. The name Suha Punta, on the label, refers to the region’s minimal rainfall during the yearly life cycle.

TASTING NOTES: 

Babić – an indigenous grape that, alongside Plavac Mali, is the most potent for producing extraordinary wines! When this Babić is softened in barrique barrels, it unleashes a symphony of flavors that are sure to tantalize your taste buds. You’ll detect distinct notes of ripe berry fruit and pronounced aromas of cherries, with a light touch of spice adding an extra kick of flavor.

As you take a sip, you’ll be greeted with a pleasant scent that accompanies a strong body, soft ripe tannins, and harmonious acidity. The fruity aromas are soon followed by herbal notes, both on the nose and taste, that call to the specific terroir of Bucavac – a combination of salt, stone, and sun that is truly unique. The overall taste is lively, gentle, and rounded, making for an absolutely delightful drinking experience.

This wine is a true representation of the Primosten vineyards, one of the most characteristic terroirs in the world.

Key Takeaway: Get ready to indulge in a harmonious and seductive wine experience like no other! With Babić, a Croatian native variety, discover why Bucavac terroir is one of the most exquisite in the world. 

Grabovac Trnjak Riserva

Source: Grabovac

Step into the Imotski wine-growing region, where the art of viticulture has been passed down through generations. For over 200 years, the Grabovac family has cultivated grape and winemaking skills, becoming one of the leading wine producers in the Dalmatia wine region.

With 25 hectares of vineyards in the prime locations of the Imotski area, the Grabovac family grows a variety of native grapes, each with its unique flavor and character. The winery and tasting room are nestled in the idyllic and serene Proložac, located in the northwestern part of the Imotski valley, surrounded by beautiful vineyards.

TASTING NOTES: 

Trnjak, a native grape variety from the stunning Imotski wine-growing area and Western Herzegovina. This little gem was on the brink of extinction just 15 years ago but has since made a remarkable comeback.

When you take a sip of Trnjak, get ready for a medium-bodied wine that’s both concentrated and elegant. It’s packed with tantalizing flavors of black cherry, red plum, raw meat, and a delicious blend of Mediterranean herbs and white pepper. The mouthfeel is velvety smooth and fruity, making it a delightful experience to savor.

But don’t let the silky texture fool you, Trnjak is quite intense on the mid-palate, with tannins that are ripe and soft. This classic Mediterranean red has everything you could want in a wine: depth, complexity, and a touch of earthiness that will transport you straight to the vineyards.

Key Takeaway: If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some Trnjak, then prepare yourself for a perfect taste of Mediterranean red in a glass!

Bedalov Dobričić

Source: Bedalov

Have you ever heard the phrase “the wine is made in the vineyard”? Well, when it comes to Bedalov wines, that saying couldn’t be more true. Nestled atop the highest slopes that overlook Kaštela bay, you’ll find the hardworking hands of Jakša Bedalov, who inherited his family’s passion for winemaking. 

But this isn’t just any old winemaking – it’s all about nurturing indigenous varieties and putting in the hard work to create a thriving natural ecosystem. And the result? Some of the most stunning Dalmatian wines are made from native varieties you’ll ever taste – from the Crljenak (also known as Zinfandel) to the Dobričić, Plavac, and Maraština.

At Bedalov, the focus is on letting the natural elements, terroir, vintage, and variety, shine. So if you want to taste a wine that truly embodies the magic of its terroir and the care of its winemaker, you won’t want to miss out on Bedalov wines.

TASTING NOTES:

After you take a sip of wine, your taste buds immediately recognize the depth and spiciness that comes from the native red grape Dobričić, one of the parents of the renowned Plavac Mali grape variety. Now, imagine tasting one of the rare monovarietal Dobričić wines available on the market. As you savor each sip, you can pick out hints of medicinal herbs, and fragrant lavender. You’ll catch the sweet aromas of plums and red fruits that’ll leave you yearning for another sip. The tannins are strong and leathery, but they lovingly embrace the juicy red fruit flavors that burst through your palate. It’s incredibly harmonious and smooth, with soft tannins that make it easy to enjoy.

Key Takeaway: Step into the world of this Croatian native red wine with extraordinary character. Let this unique Dobričić lead your palate through the scent of dried herbs and earthy texture – an adventure awaits!

Coronica Gran Teran

With Moreno Coronica attention is always paid to the vineyard in order to determine the areas where grapes are gradually reaching optimal maturity. Vinification takes place after careful grape sorting. Gran Teran is not produced every year, it is produced only when the grapes are considered suitable. 

Teran is truly a unique Istrian red grape variety and has great potential to succeed in the international wine scene. Istria has a unique red grape variety that represents the potential of this region in producing world-class red wines. Imagine a land where the soil is as vibrant as the wine it produces. Istria, with its rich terracotta-colored soil, provides the perfect terroir for crafting exceptional red Istrian wines. The Crljenica, also known as Terra Rossa, is a type of soil that’s brimming with iron and is found closer to the sea. This special soil gives birth to full-bodied and well-structured red wines such as Gran Teran.

TASTING NOTES: 

Picture yourself enjoying a wine that has achieved cult status and is renowned for its ability to age gracefully for up to 20 years. This distinguished wine boasts a unique minerality and terroir that sets it apart from the rest.

Upon tasting, you’ll be enchanted by its great freshness and ripeness, with delicious aromas of cherry and berries that dance on your palate. The strong body and moderately strong tannins are perfectly balanced by fresh herbal notes, dry plums, and fine peppery spices.

The juicy and fruity flavors are simply irresistible, and the exceptionally long finish leaves a subtle full-bodied sensation in your mouth. It’s no wonder that the Gran Teran, with 13.4% alcohol, is considered one of the best Croatian red wines.

Key Takeaway: Unlock an exciting flavor with this exquisite Croatian red wine! An unforgettable experience awaits while savoring the unique taste that only this Gran Teran can offer!

Matošević Grimalda 

Ivica Matošević – a true force of nature in Croatia’s thriving wine industry! He’s not just any winemaker, but a passionate man who pours his heart and soul into every bottle he creates. His wines are not only exuberant and fresh but also stay true to their roots and embody the spirit of Istria. Today, Matosevic’s winery is a true gem of Istrian production, showcasing the best of the region’s native grape varieties – Malvazija and Teran. With each sip, you can taste the love, passion, and dedication that goes into every bottle of Matošević wine. It’s no wonder why he’s widely regarded as one of the brightest stars in Croatia’s wine industry!

Ivica Matoševiće’s innovative style shines through in every sip of Grimalda red. He’s not one to shy away from experimenting with textures and minerality, which sets his wine apart from the rest. What’s really impressive is that Matoševiće doesn’t rely on brute strength to create his magic. Instead, he’s harnessed the subtle, gentle touch of the soil to craft a unique, signature flavor that can only be found in Grimalda appellation. 

TASTING NOTES: 

Grimalda red is a very special, Bordeaux-style wine, that combines Merlot and Teran varieties in an 85 to 15 ratio. The Teran grapes bring in a burst of forest berry aromas, along with high levels of acidity and crunchy, slightly wild tannins that give the wine a distinct character. Meanwhile, the Merlot grapes add flesh to the mid-palate and lend suppleness to the texture, resulting in a well-rounded and balanced flavor. This wine is made from grapes grown on the sunny terraces of the vineyards in the historically excellent position of Grimalda, giving it a pronounced terroir taste. The soil in this area also adds a unique accentuated minerality to the wine, making it even more special.

When you taste Grimalda Red, you’ll notice notes of marasca cherry, black currant, ripe plum, chocolate, and coffee dominating the palate, with well-balanced tannins and a long-lasting aftertaste that will leave you wanting more.

Key Takeaway: Grimalda is an exceptional Istrian red blend! Trust us, one sip and you’ll know that this wine can’t be replicated anywhere else in the world – it’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience that’s only possible thanks to the specific conditions found in the Matošević vineyards.

Krauthaker Mercs

Krauthaker winery is located on the southern slopes of Krndija, exposed to sunlight as they largely envelop Požega Valley on the northeast, and contains the famous Kutjevo wine-growing area exceptionally appreciated for the quality of wines produced there. Particular attention at Krauthaker winery​ is paid to both red and white wines. Environmentally friendly wine growing and constant quality are major principles of Krauthaker winery.

TASTING NOTES:

This fantastic red wine is a prime example of the incredible art of blending. When you take a sip of this Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon blend, get ready to be blown away by the incredible fusion of flavors. The dark, fruity notes of black currant from the Cabernet Sauvignon are perfectly balanced with the ripe plums of Merlot. And after spending 16 months in an oak barrel, this wine has truly been perfected.

You’ll notice that Mercs has a great structure and firm tannins, which are balanced out by a pleasant acidity that keeps things fresh and exciting. And the wine’s long-lasting finish is truly something to savor. You’ll get to experience a delightful mix of fruity and earthy tones, with hints of flowers and a touch of licorice. And as you savor the aftertaste, you’ll pick up on notes of leather and minerals that truly round out the experience.

Key Takeaway: Discover the perfect harmony of flavor with this modern and delicious red blend to round out your experience of tasting international varieties – Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with a Croatian twist! 

Korak Pinot Crni Križevac & Cimbuščak

Get ready to be introduced to one of Croatia’s best boutique wineries – Korak! Nestled in the picturesque Plešivica region, an hour away from Zagreb, this family-run winery is making waves with its small-batch, high-quality wines in the Plešivica wine region.

The Plešivica region is known for its continental climate and boasts about 2,300 hectares of vineyards and around 40 wineries. Most of these wineries are small and family-owned.

Korak is a family-owned winery and a true gem, producing only limited quantities of their beautiful wines that truly capture the essence of the Plešivica wine region. The Korak family owns six acres of vineyards that are perfectly situated in the most favorable wine-growing areas, specifically the southern, south-eastern and south-western slopes of the wine-growing amphitheaters in Plešivica, perched at an elevation of 350m to 400m above sea level.

TASTING NOTES:

This wine is considered one of the finest and most seek out Pinot Noirs in Croatia. Generally, Plešivica Hills are famous for its efforts in making Pinot Noir. With a medium red color, the nose presented fresh red fruit aromas and a touch of a floral element. On the palate, it was impressive, a well-balanced and complex melange of flavors, from red cherry to raspberry, spice to earth. Nice acidity, a lengthy finish, and fine elegance. The texture, the scent, and the taste is true to the elegance and smoothness expected from a profound Pinot Noir wine.

Key Takeaway: Step up your game with something truly special – the exquisite Croatian Pinot Noir! Explore this exquisite gem crafted from Plešivica vineyards cared for over generations!

Kosovec Frankovka Selection

Source: Kosovec

Ivan Kosovec, a young and virtuosic winemaker is breathing new life into Blaufränkisch

(Frankovka in Croatian translation). Driven by his passion, he made this variety into something extraordinary not only reviving the planting of more vines but also elevation of its taste and structure.

Armed with passionate enthusiasm, he’s devoted to making his wines with minimal intervention so that they can truly express their complex flavors while honoring the distinctive aroma of the Frankovka grape variety. 

TASTING NOTES: 

Meet Selekcija, a red wine that’s carefully crafted to bring out its one-of-a-kind character. This wine gets its name from the selection process – only the healthiest grapes of the Frankovka variety are chosen and manually vinified separately.

The winemaker, Kosovec, uses a natural approach to production that allows the wine to undergo spontaneous fermentation and aging in neutral 1000L oak barrels. The result is a beautifully balanced and versatile red wine that boasts a fuller body and an incredibly aromatic taste.

When you take a sip of Selekcija, you’ll be greeted with a rich blend of spices, dark berries, and earthy aromas that come together to form an exquisite flavor profile. This wine has significant aging potential, meaning you can savor it for years to come.

Key Takeaway: Experience this unique Croatian red wine that unravels its flavor with every sip! This Frankovka selection is sure to please the refined palate of all wine lovers with its bursting personality!

Matošević Grimalda 

Ivica Matosevic – a true force of nature in Croatia’s thriving wine industry! He’s not just any winemaker, but a passionate man who pours his heart and soul into every bottle he creates. His wines are not only exuberant and fresh but also stay true to their roots and embody the spirit of Istria. Today, Matosevic’s winery is a true gem of Istrian production, showcasing the best of the region’s native grape varieties – Malvazija and Teran. With each sip, you can taste the love, passion, and dedication that goes into every bottle of Matošević wine. It’s no wonder why he’s widely regarded as one of the brightest stars in Croatia’s wine industry!

Ivica Matoševiće’s innovative style shines through in every sip of Grimalda red. He’s not one to shy away from experimenting with textures and minerality, which sets his wine apart from the rest. What’s really impressive is that Matoševiće doesn’t rely on brute strength to create his magic. Instead, he’s harnessed the subtle, gentle touch of the soil to craft a unique, signature flavor that can only be found in Grimalda appellation. 

TASTING NOTES: 

Grimalda red is a very special, Bordeaux-style wine, that combines Merlot and Teran varieties in an 85 to 15 ratio.The Teran grapes bring in a burst of forest berry aromas, along with high levels of acidity and crunchy, slightly wild tannins that give the wine a distinct character. Meanwhile, the Merlot grapes add flesh to the mid-palate and lend suppleness to the texture, resulting in a well-rounded and balanced flavor. This wine is made from grapes grown on the sunny terraces of the vineyards in the historically excellent position of Grimalda, giving it a pronounced terroir taste. The soil in this area also adds a unique accentuated minerality to the wine, making it even more special.

When you taste Grimalda Red, you’ll notice notes of marasca cherry, black currant, ripe plum, chocolate, and coffee dominating the palate, with well-balanced tannins and a long-lasting aftertaste that will leave you wanting more.

Key Takeaway: Grimalda is an exceptional Istrian red blend! Trust us, one sip and you’ll know that this wine can’t be replicated anywhere else in the world – it’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience that’s only possible thanks to the specific conditions found in the Matošević vineyards.

FAQs About Croatian Red Wines

What is the red wine of Croatia?

Croatian wine is known for its diversity and quality winemaking scene. Many Croatian wines have won awards at international competitions and are becoming more popular and recognizable worldwide. Popular Croatian red wines are made from native varieties such as Plavac Mali, Teran, Trnjak, Crljenak Kaštelanski (alias Tribidrag, alias Zinfandel), Lasina, Plavina. But Croatian winemakers also produce exceptional wines from international varieties such as Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Blaufränkisch, and Zweigelt. 

Is Croatian red wine good?

Croatia is a hidden gem for wine enthusiasts! With varied climates and wine regions, Croatia produces unique red wines that are known for their diversity and complexity. Plus there’s an added bonus of discovering some of Europe’s oldest vineyards while tasting high-quality native reds. 

Croatian red wines have something special to offer to every palette. Starting from Dalmatia, reds are typically made from bold, powerful Plavac Mali, and full-bodied Crljenak Kaštelanski (original Zinfandel), Babić, Dobričić, Plavina, Lasina. 

In Slavonija and Danube, sample delicious wines made from international varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Zweigelt, and Blaufränkisch. Istria and Kvarner regions are known for some of Croatia’s most-awarded wines made from Teran – a native red variety! 

What is the most popular red wine in Croatia?

Looking for a truly unique and complex red wine experience? Look no further than Plavac Mali from the Dingač or Postup appellation or island Brač! You’ll be delighted by its carob, dried figs, and sage aromas combined with delicious warm dark fruit tones. The combination of specific climate and terrain provides low yields, but the result is an incredibly concentrated wine and what is considered the supreme expression of Plavac Mali. 

The Plavac Mali wines from this esteemed wine-growing microregion are a true testament to quality and indulgence. Their full-bodied taste, robust fruitiness, and high alcohol content make them stand out as one of Croatia’s finest wines!

Conclusion

Prepare to indulge in a world of flavors as you delve into Croatia’s remarkable winemaking culture, which is brimming with passionate producers who are dedicated to crafting unforgettable sips. Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or just starting to explore the world of wine, Croatia’s diverse regions are home to red wines that yield an array of unique and distinct flavors.

In recent years, the world has taken notice of the high-quality Croatian wines that are making their mark on the global wine scene. As more and more wine lovers discover the exceptional wines of Croatia, this picturesque country is quickly becoming a must-visit destination for wine enthusiasts. With a range of indigenous grape varieties that are gaining international recognition, each region of Croatia has something special to offer, no matter your budget.

Explore every region through its signature red wine, and get to know the unique flavors that make this country’s reds so special. Whether you’re raising a glass with friends or indulging in a solo sip, there’s no better way to experience the beauty of Croatian winemaking culture than with some of the 10 must-try red wines from our list. Cheers to an unforgettable journey of flavor exploration!

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