Valentina Silovic

6 Must-Try Croatian Grape Varieties For Beginners

Image of interior of a tasting room of Black Island Winery in Korčula island
Photo credit: Black Island Winery, Korčula island

When it comes to wines, names like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Grigio are undoubtedly familiar to even casual wine drinkers. But beyond these well-known international varieties lies a treasure trove of unique and captivating Croatian grape varieties waiting to be discovered. Croatia, with its long, rich wine culture and diverse terroirs, boasts an array of indigenous grapes that can entice anyone to delve into the world of Croatian wines. The country’s diverse climate and geographical features have made it an ideal region for cultivating various unique grape varieties, resulting in an impressive selection of top-quality wines. Whether you’re a wine enthusiast or a curious novice seeking new and exciting tastes, Croatia’s one-of-a-kind grape varieties are definitely worth considering. It’s worth mentioning that certain Croatian wines with a cult following are made from these specific grape varieties. If you’re unfamiliar with Croatian wines, there are six grape varieties that you should definitely try. Each of these grape selections possesses unique and delightful characteristics bound to captivate those new to the world of Croatian wines.

Malvazija Istriana (Malvasia Istriana)

Image of Malvazija wine in a glass with olives on a table
Photo: Malvazija wine in a glass

Embraced by the stunning Istrian peninsula in the northern Adriatic, Malvazija Istriana is a grape variety that speaks of its Mediterranean origins. These wines capture the essence of the sea breeze, offering enchanting aromas of ripe peaches, apricots, and wildflowers.

Venture into the picturesque Istrian peninsula, and you’ll encounter Malvazija Istriana, a captivating white grape variety that epitomizes the Mediterranean spirit.

Grown predominantly in the Istria wine region, this wine delights with its floral bouquet, notes of ripe citrus fruits, and a distinct minerality drawn from the region’s unique soil composition divided into:

  • red soil or terra rossa,
  • grey soil or terra grigia,
  • white soil or terra bianca,
  • and black soil or terra nera.

The perfect pairing for seafood delicacies or sipped as the sun sets over the Adriatic Sea, Malvazija Istriana is a wine that captures the essence of a blissful seaside escape.

As we mentioned, Malvazija Istriana’s versatility is astounding; you can enjoy it as a crisp and mineral-driven wine or explore more complex expressions with oak or amphorae aging, which impart extra layers of nutty and honeyed nuances.

For a true taste of the Malvazija range, begin with fresh and crisp Malvazija wines. Here are some suggestions:

Next, let’s explore the world of aged Malvazija wines, such as:

Finish off with a serving of orange and Malvazija wines which have been aged in amphorae, like:


Native to the idyllic island of Korčula, Pošip is a charming white grape variety starting to make waves in the international wine scene and has won numerous awards.

Travel to this enchanting island, where the Pošip grape variety thrives in the unique microclimate. Pošip wines are known for their exceptional balance of freshness and richness, with aromas of stone fruits, figs, and a delightful touch of Mediterranean herbs.

When you take a sip of Pošip, it’s as if you’re tasting the very essence of this pristine island, making it a wine that undoubtedly deserves a spot on every wine lover’s must-try list.

Pošip wines often boast a well-rounded body and a pleasant hint of salinity, reflecting the island’s coastal influence. Whether you’re enjoying it on a sun-kissed terrace or pairing it with grilled seafood, Pošip will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression.

The Pošip grape is famous for its versatility and ability to showcase various characteristics. For a great starting point, try Pošip wines from Korčula.

Next, go to the ones that come from the nearby Pelješac peninsula.

Don’t forget to sample the excellent Pošip wines from other areas of the Dalmatia wine region, such as:

If you enjoy sur lie and skin contact wines, then you should choose:

Graševina (Welschriesling)

Image shows a glass of Graševina wine in the restaurant
Photo: A glass of Graševina wine

Prepare to be enchanted by Graševina, an elegant and versatile white grape variety prevalent in the continental regions of Croatia. Known by various names, such as Welschriesling, Laški Rizling, or Olasz Riesling, Graševina wines possess a bright acidity coupled with enticing floral and fruity aromas.

With a delicate bouquet of green apple, pear, citrus notes, and lively acidity, these wines pair wonderfully with various seafood dishes, light salads, or just as a refreshing sip on a sunny afternoon.

Sipping on a glass of Graševina is the perfect way to enjoy a relaxing afternoon by the sea or in a romantic vineyard setting. The wine’s smooth finish adds to the leisurely pace of the moment.

The wine’s remarkable capacity to showcase the distinct terroir produces a wide range of flavors, from crisp and invigorating to rich and sweet late-harvest wines.

Some best-scored and most-awarded Croatian wines come from the Graševina grape variety.

If you want to explore the different characteristics and nuances of the Graševina grape variety, try beginning with young, fresh, and crisp Graševina wines, such as:

Then head to taste some single-vineyard wines made from Graševina, such as:

If you prefer orange, macerated wines, or grand selections, head to taste:

If your preferences lean towards sweet dessert wines, you may want to consider trying:

If you’re looking for a great gift for wine lovers or are a connoisseur of archive wines, you’ll be pleased to know that wines made from the Graševina grape variety are also available. Take a look at this fantastic option:

Plavac Mali

Image of Dingač vineyards on Pelješac peninsula
Photo: Dingač vineyards on Pelješac peninsula

The crown jewel of Croatian red wines, Plavac Mali, holds a special place in the hearts of local wine aficionados.

Grown primarily in the southern Dalmatian region, on the rocky slopes overlooking the Adriatic Sea, this grape variety yields bold, full-bodied wines with rich flavors of dark fruits, Mediterranean herbs, and a hint of spiciness.

Plavac Mali’s high tannin and alcohol content gives it excellent aging potential, so don’t hesitate to stock up on a few bottles to savor its evolving complexity over the years.

If you savor a glass of Plavac Mali while overlooking the stunning Adriatic coastline, you’ll understand why this wine holds such a special place in Croatian hearts.

To fully appreciate and familiarize oneself with Plavac Mali, it is recommended to sample as much Plavac as you possibly can. 🙂

We recommend starting with those made on the Pelješac peninsula, especially hailing from the famed Dingač or Postup micro-appellations, one of the most unique Croatian appellations:

Some amazing cult Croatian wines are made from the Plavac Mali grape variety, and those are:

If you want to explore the variations between Plavac from Pelješac and other regions like Croatian islands or inland Dalmatia, you should try these options:

You should also consider trying the exquisite underwater Plavac Mali wines.

If you’re interested in trying some of the finest Croatian rosé wines, be sure to taste those made from Plavac Mali.

Enjoy even a sparkling Plavac Mali rosé with Vislander Viško Bonda Rosé and a dessert wine made from Plavac – Bunčić Issa, in Vis island.

If unsure where to start check our special case offer:


Image of Prgin Winery Babić vineyards at famed Bucavac appellation
Photo credit: Prgin Winery Babić vineyards at Bucavac appellation

The Bucavac stone-laced appellation in Dalmatia has a distinctive climate with extremely hot summers and mild winters. This unique climate, combined with the challenging terrain, creates the ideal terroir for growing bush wines of Babić grapes.

This indigenous red grape variety thrives in the region’s dry and rocky soils, producing wines with a rustic charm and an enticing aromatic profile.

Babić wines typically exhibit rich dark fruit flavors, such as blackberries and plums, complemented by earthy undertones and a touch of Mediterranean herbs. Its robust character and velvety tannins make it an ideal companion for hearty meat dishes or aged cheeses.

Embrace the rich cultural heritage of Dalmatia through this indigenous grape variety.

With its captivating taste and fascinating stories of the past woven into each bottle, Babić is an experience that immerses you in the true essence of Croatia.

Make sure you don’t miss out on the opportunity to discover and sample one of Croatia’s most unique indigenous grape varieties. We suggest starting with the following:

Don’t miss the chance to taste a one-of-a-kind Testament Babić Opolo Brut sparkling wine.


Image of the Teran grape on the vine in the vineyards
Photo: Teran grape variety

Bringing us back to Istria, Teran is a red grape variety that embodies the region’s bold and vibrant winemaking traditions.

Known for its intense color, lively acidity, and a bouquet of red wild fruit, Teran is a wine that exudes confidence and character.

As you explore the charming Istrian villages and sip on a glass of Teran, you’ll come to appreciate its uniqueness, a testament to the devotion of local winemakers in preserving and elevating this exceptional grape.

For a genuine taste of the various top-quality Istrian Teran wines, we suggest beginning with:

To signature wines made from Teran such as:

And end with more matured and aged versions of Teran:

If you prefer bubblies, head to try Vina Laguna Perla Rose sparkling wine.


In conclusion, Croatia’s indigenous grape varieties offer a delightful and captivating journey through its diverse landscapes, cultural history, and winemaking heritage.

From the sun-soaked vineyards of Dalmatia to the enchanting islands and the picturesque Istrian peninsula, each wine tells a story, inviting you to explore the true essence of this extraordinary wine-producing country.

So, the next time you raise your glass, consider indulging in one of these six Croatian wine treasures – an experience that will undoubtedly leave you enchanted and longing for more.

Cheers to the discovery of Croatia’s indigenous grape varieties!

Our Expertise

Valentina Silovic is an experienced sommelier and content creator with over a decade of expertise in the wine industry. She has worked in various settings, from luxurious hotels to cozy wine bars, and has explored the grandest wineries in Croatia, tasting and discussing an uncountable number of bottles along the way.

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