Croatian wines and beers are gaining worldwide notoriety

Croatia prides itself on its wines, and production here dates back to Roman times – in fact, even before that. In recent years, the industry has improved considerably, especially around Istria and in Pelješac in Dalmatia, where oenophiles can follow wine trails, visit cellars and taste their products. In Slavonia, winegrowers have built their business on centuries of tradition and fame.

2022 saw a record for Croatia at the prestigious Decanter World Awards. In the most remarkable year for the local industry to date, national winemakers won three platinum medals and 16 gold medals.

Considered the gold standard of the global industry, accolades have been handed out since 2004. For the most recent awards, UK magazine experts sampled more than 18,000 wines from around the world.

CNTB/Sinisa UstulicaKutjevo wine cellar

Croatia can therefore rightly consider itself a major force in the region when it comes to wine. Istria remains the national leader – Gianfranco Kozlović and the Benvenuti brothers won platinum medals. Loyal Marko Fakin won another gold medal for Istria, with his wines being recognized by the Decanter team every year they were entered. Motovun winemaker Claudio Tomaz picked up another gold medal for his Teran Barbarossa.

Two golds went to the Zura winery in Korčula and one to Badel for its nine-year-old Korlat Supreme. David Štampar and Branko Jakopić brought gold to the increasingly important vineyards of Međimurje, and even the venerable wineries of Ilok in Slavonia, in operation for generations, claimed gold.

Istrian vineyard
CNTB/Hrvoje SerdarIstrian vineyard

Perhaps most impressive, Croatia’s third platinum went to Šoškić in Plešivica, just outside Zagreb. “We are dedicated to finding exceptional wines,” says the motto of this family winery, which has only been in operation since shortly before the pandemic. His Variety Haiku scored 97 points out of 100 to win Team Decanter’s top prize.

The Croatian beer industry has also made great strides in recent times. First developed in modern times under the Habsburgs, beer was also brewed by the Czechs who settled in the Slavic city of Daruvar, otherwise known for its winemaking prowess.

Staročeško is one of Croatia’s oldest craft beers, since complemented by its newer cousins, the 5th Element range.

More recently, pioneering craft brewers from Medvedgrad were established in 1994 by a quartet of brothers who resisted the temptation to call their new brand Four Boys, but followed the Bavarian tradition of naming it after the medieval fortress the closer.

The Garden Brewery
© The Garden Brewery

While their four reliable locations around Zagreb, each with its own mini-brewery, grew in popularity, it took another 25 years before the craft trend took off in Croatia and garnered international acclaim. In 2020, The Garden Brewery won the Champion Gold award from Beer52, a UK beer lovers club with over 200,000 registered members. Tom O’Hara’s team then received the same medal a year later for their Micro Niepa New England IPA.

Meanwhile, Croatian craft brewery Lepi Dečki from Čakovec in Međimurje has won Best Value Beer 2021, a gold medal and three silver medals at the London Beer Competition. The criteria were quality, price and packaging, and the beers involved were Hyperbola in the Russian Imperial Stout category, Međimursko from lagers, Čakovečko from the pilsner category, and Regoč from the Imperial IPAs.

It’s not just what’s inside the bottles that has captured global attention. In 2021, Croatian studio ANII won international awards for the best beer label design, including the prestigious A’Design Award, one of the largest and most influential events of its kind, held annually in Italy .

This article is sponsored by the Croatian National Tourist Board: “Croatia full of life”.


Shirley M. Pinder