Croatia is a small wine country but with very old and rich wine traditions situated on the Adriatic Sea in the west part of Europe's Balkan Peninsula.
The wine history goes back to the Greeks 2500 years ago and the wines from that part of Europe were among the best in the empire. The Hvar Island in Dalmatia is home to the world’s longest continually cultivated vineyard (UNESCO World Heritage Site of Stari Grad Plain), where grapes have been grown since 400 BC. The white wine dominates of the productions of the country and as an Old World wine country has numerous autochthonous grape varieties.
The shoreline of the Adriatic Sea is excellent for grape cultivation because of its hot, humid summers and mild winters with a Mediterranean climate. The south part of the coastline, and on the various islands, grapes are planted on the karst hillside, sometimes on a very steep slopes. The most famous wine-production areas are on the Dalmatian islands, located along hillsides and slopes.
The country is also the home to the Slavonian oak forest, producing the oak casks preferred by many winemakers in Europe for ageing their most distinct wines. There are five principal wine-growing areas Dalmatia, Central Croatia, Slavonia & Baranja, Istria & Kvarner and Lika & Gorski Kotar with 16 sub-regions and over 300 geographically defined wine regions. There is a special quality classification with three levels: Vino - table wine, ZOZP (Zaštićena Oznaka Zemljopisnog Podrijetla) - regional wine and ZOI (Zaštićena Oznaka Izvornosti) - quality wine with a protected designation of origin. The last level of the quality wines is divided into Predikatno Vino which follows the German Prädikatswein quality levels.
The native grape varieties a more than 150 but there are three key grapes: Plavac Mali, Graševina (also known as Welchriesling) and Malvazija Istarska, also important are the Plavina, Babić and the international Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc. Although a small country it is extremely diverse in terms of wine style and wine production is improving steadily in terms of quality.