The Story of a Wine Renaissance from Croatia’s Sunny Island

The Story of a Wine Renaissance from Croatia’s Sunny Island

The essence of the sea and sun

The island of Hvar is affectionately known as the “sunny island”. It is widely popular among boaters, and it owes its popularity to its natural attractions, beautiful coastal towns and fine local cuisine. Yet another important part of this beautiful mosaic that many find irresistible are the island’s distinct and authentic local wines. Hvar winemakers are the first in Dalmatia to make the leap towards superior quality that is characteristic of many small producers in the region.

 

From an oenological perspective, Hvar can be divided according to its different wine varieties into two parts: the sunny southern side, which has spectacular slopes that seem as though they might slide down into the sea, and the northern side of the island, which is dominated by the Stari Grad Plain.

Marijan Močivnik

Whether you are looking to try some wine from the vineyards of Sveti Klement, the largest of the Pakleni Islands, or the renowned plavac varieties from Zavala or Sveta Nedilja, you will be able to tie your boat almost right next to the wine cellar.

A slightly different story awaits you on the other side of the island. Although the town of Hvar is a magnet for boaters, nowadays many opt for Stari Grad, Jelsa and Vrboska as well, which comes as no surprise. The northern side of Hvar still has traditional taverns called konoba, open to any passers-by, where time seems to stand still and where wine-making techniques are some of the best-kept family secrets.

 

A peculiarity of the area is a fertile field surrounded by dry-stone walls, which is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, located right behind Stari Grad. For over 2,400 years now, its soil has been used to grow various plant species, including grape vine.

Ivo Biočina

The most common grape varieties are the bogdanuša, elegant and straightforward, and maraština, a mild variety that’s perfect for combining with e.g. prč, another Hvar variety that’s a bit wild, but has a high yield. This field connects the town of Stari Grad with the Jelsa municipality and other centrally located towns, where some of the carriers of the Croatian wine Renaissance manage their fields and wineries.

The ACI Marina in Vrboska, known affectionately as “little Venice”, and the promenade in Jelsa are ideal for berthing during the summer. Many family-owned farms in this part of the island decided to jump on the bandwagon and bring their worn-down barrels and outdated winemaking methods up to standard for the clientele that’s used to getting the best.

 

Before you untie that rope, there’s another interesting option you can explore – leave your boat safely docked for a few hours and head for the magnificent south side of the island through the tunnel. 

Ivo Biočina

The plavac grapes, which give some of the most renowned Dalmatian wines, bask in the sun here, shaped by the sea and the rocks, nurtured on the sediment ground, fighting against the extreme slopes, contained only by the stone terraces.

The complex yet harmonious plavac can be found along the entire southern stretch of the island, from Hvar to Zavala, and beyond. It has given the island its far-reaching fame and is a source of local pride; this is your chance to see it from the perspective of the locals and understand its roots.

If you find yourself in need of fuel along the way, make a stop at the Sućuraj port and restock on supplies. Without a doubt, you’ll soon find out that wherever vines are planted here, hardworking hands and affection for the local varieties will bring out their pure essence.