Croatian wine is in! With its 130 indigenous varieties, the home of the original Zinfandel and an array of original flavours that have attracted interest and praise from wine experts all over the world. Add to the mix Croatia's popular tourism industry, and it does not take a genius to work out that wine tourism in Croatia is going to be popular.
Nowhere more so, perhaps, than the island of Hvar, whose wine tradition dates back some 2400 years, and it offers a number of indigenous grape varieties, micro-climate with different terroirs, the first Master of Wine to make wine in Croatia, and a powerful red which is served in a 3-star Michelin restaurant in Holland. Not bad for a small island, whose vineyards comprise just 280 hectares in total.
And when it comes to wine tours, the choice is equally exceptional. There are several tours now available to the most popular winemakers - Tomic, Dubokovic and Zlatan Otok. But if you are looking for something really special, here are five of the best that you will not find at every tour agency...
Speedboat delivery to perhaps Hvar's most secret winery - built into a cave on Hvar's south side, and only accessible by boat, where a stunning Plavac Mali awaits from a lesser-known foreign winemaker, who beat the best of Hvar in blind tasting.
A curious thing about wine tasting on Hvar is that almost none take place in the actual vineyard. But when you have a vineyard which literally falls into the Adriatic, where better to showcase your wines?
Toni Bojanic is one of the new breed of Hvar winemakers. Just 26 years old, he comes from a family winemaking tradition which dates back more than 500 years, and he has been a winemaker already for three years, having started in 2015. And with considerable success!
Bottling just 5,000 bottles a year, Toni is a very humble young man, whose four reds and one white are slowly starting to attract attention. He is passionate about his craft and dedicated to spreading the word about the Hvar wine story.
What makes the Toni Bojancic wine experience unique on the island of Hvar is its location. While other winemakers conduct their tastings in their cellars and tasting rooms, Bojanic brings you out into the vineyard to breathe the air and experience the terroir of the grapes which are the essence of his quality wine.
Fine local wines, fine local foods - where to meet the man who can combine the two?
Meet Teo Huljic, a local man through and through, with a strict adherence to local traditions and quality. An experienced chef from one of Zagreb’s finest restaurants (Marcelino), Huljić is also an outstanding winemaker, preserving the island’s traditions, and working with some almost extinct grape varieties. Try the Mekuja grape variety, you will not find it anywhere else, just one of the indigenous wines of Hvar on offer.
This is a food and wine pairing off the charts, and the location for your exquisite Hvar experience is almost as magical as the food itself. At the back of Huljic’s home is a courtyard with two distinctive features. Above two majestic lemon trees, whose annual yield is half a ton, and whose fruit you can pluck from the tree, and some stunning (and a little uneven) stone dining tables, paying tribute to the island’s stone traditions.
Hvar has a wine tradition dating back to the Ancient Greeks, who arrived in 384 BC, when they sailed into the deep bay of modern-day Stari Grad and established the settlement of Faros. The Hvar wine story has taken many fascinating turns since then.
And just as the Hvar wine story has its history and its treasures, so too its wines. Join a tour of Hvar Island Rarities, a tour of the island’s most intriguing (and rarely available) wines, sampled in the company of the winemakers themselves. Choose from reds and whites, oaked an unoaked, delightful dessert wines and aceto balsamico. Visit the wineries and sample the increasingly rare but equally brilliant Plavac Mali vintages from 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2007.
As if the Hvar wine story were not rich enough, in 2014 Jo Ahearne MW moved to Hvar and set about becoming the first Master of Wine to make wine in Croatia. Working exclusively with local grape varieties, Jo has encountered considerable acclaim in her early years on the island. Grapes from Hvar, hands from London has proved a great success, and last year one of her wines was named in the top 10 in all Croatia, and her recent first attempt at the tricky Posip variety earned a commendable 93 points out of 100. Now with her own winery in Vrisnik available for tastings by appointment (or personalised tastings on your yacht or private accommodation), a chance to sample the outstanding wines of Hvar's very own Master of Wine. You can learn more about Ahearne Vino via Facebook.