One of the many surprises when I moved to Croatia full-time in 2003 was learning that the country had a quality wine scene. My only real memories of wine in the region back in the UK was from some Yugloslav white wine called Lutomer Laski Rizling which came with a screw top and one litre bottle and cost under £2.
Slowly as I settled in to life on my adopted homeland of Hvar, I got to know both some of the winemakers and their range of excellent wines. Here was an island which previously had 5,700 hectares of vineyards under cultivation before phylloxera, but just 280 hectares today. And what they lacked in quantity, they more than made up for in quality. Characters such as Andro Tomic, Zlatan Plenkovic, Teo Huljic, Antun Plancic, Ivo Caric - to name but a few. And not only that, but here was an island which had a range of terroir, as well as several indigenous grapes, such as bogdanusa, darnekusa, prc and mekuja. All this led to the second surprise regarding Croatian wine.
There was almost no information out there, especially in English.
Although I spent five years in the wine trade prior to moving to Croatia, I am by no means an expert, but the more I travel around Croatia, the more I see that wine - in almost every region of the country - is at the heart of everyday life. I was stunned to learn that there are more than 2,300 registered winemakers in this beautiful country of just over 4 million people (about a third of whom are commercial). There are characters, festivals, amazing stories, stunning vineyards, an emerging wine tourism industry - but much of it untold, at least in languages other than Croatian.
It is said that there are more than 130 indigenous grape varieties in Croatia, and in a world of increasing globalisation, this freshness and diversity is a competitive advantage for Croatia, and one which is attracting an increasing number of international experts to the country to explore and learn more.
Croatian wine is celebrated as one of the great gifts of the country (and with good reason), it has even been included as one of the six key sectors to extend the tourist season, but for all the rightful pride in this gift from God (as one variety from Hvar, Bogdanusa, translates), there is no national website in English (and arguably not even in Croatian) to cover this fascinating and important topic.
So we thought we would make one...
Almost five years after starting Total Hvar one mild October evening in 2011, the Total project has really moved forward in the last year on a national level with the launch of Total Croatia News, the first daily, Google News-accredited website in English covering politics, business, sport, lifestyle and travel. That success encouraged us to explore some important niche sectors, where the Croatian potential far exceeds the information promoting it, and we will also be properly launching Total Croatia Cycling shortly, with Total Croatia Technology planned for 2017.
Total Croatia Wine is an ambitious project - and also a work in progress. Current and accurate databases for simple things such as winemakers, wine festivals, wine shops abroad and wine bars in Croatia simply do not exist, so we have had to build them. Building many of them from scratch, there will undoubtedly be errors and omissions, and we urge anyone who sees something wrong or missing to send us the details, so that we can update them for the common good.
Total Croatia Wine will attempt to do several things, starting with the maps:
1. Our winemaker map is now about 750 winemakers, with a location on the map and all contact details available. It is our intention to provide a profile of each winemaker, including information about which types of wine are available. This will be added to the details on the map in the form of a link to the profile page.
2. Our wine events map has more than 70 festivals of all sizes all over the country. We are sure there are many more, and please feel free to send us details. The intention it to do an information page on each festival, and then to slowly build a wine event calendar.
3. Our wine bar map covers the explosion in wine bar culture all over Croatia, sociable places to try the very best Croatian wines, and learn about them in the process. We will be profiling all the wine bars and adding a link to their map location.
4. Croatian wine is increasingly available internationally, and our growing map of international shops will help you find your nearest physical store or national online options. Again, we plan to profile these shops, giving information on what is available from Croatia, including special offers.
5. Croatian wine tourism is emerging slowly, and there are some truly innovative tours and unique experiences to be enjoyed. TCW is delighted to team up with the best wine tour operators in the business, Secret Dalmatia - and it's sister project Culinary-Croatia which is the First food and wine specific travel web site in Croatia - and we have a range of fabulous tours immediately available, and covering the whole country. Information about these tours can be accessed by a link on the individual tours on the map. Come and discover the truly unique world of Croatian wine - here are some early tours, many of which are immediately available.
We have various contributors (and invite all contributions, which are well-written and Croatian wine-related) who will be writing on all aspects of Croatian wine - winery visits, wine history, bottle reviews, festivals, Croatian wine in the news, and much more. The aim is to provide and entertaining and informative overview of all aspects of Croatian wine all over the country, not just in the sexy hotspots.
I am particularly grateful in these early stages for the enthusiasm and support of some established and excellent Croatian wine writers, who write in Croatian and who have given us permission to reproduce their insightful and very localised material on this site in English. Particular thanks as we launch to the team from G.E.T Report, Bakhov Sin Ivo Kozarčanin, and Nenad Trifunović, while the Photo of the Day feature from talented young wine photographer Helena Pletković is sure to be popular. Thanks also to Zdravko Podolski for his early support and superior knowledge on lesser known regions of Croatia.
But for now, perhaps let's raise a glass and toast the future of Total Croatia Wine. Thanks for joining us, and we hope the site will enhance your knowledge and tasting experiences of the wonderful world of Croatian wine. Živjeli!