The chances that you know this Croatian island by its beauty, clear waters, stunning sunsets and parties, are high. What you probably don’t know is that Hvar is a wine island, that its wines are amazing and unique, and that wine production plays a very important role in the island’s history and in the locals’ lives.
Grapevines were planted on the island for the first time in Stari Grad, by the Greek colonists from Paros, all the way back to 385 B.C.. Hvar has been producing wine ever since, for 2,400 years, despite wars, economic crisis and plagues. The island was once a very important wine exporter, but there was a time when plagues destroyed almost everything for some, and everything for others, making them leave the island and move to countries such as New Zealand, Australia and the United Estates, where they could implement their knowledge on wine production.
Today, Hvar has been gaining space and being acknowledged for its great wines once again. Famous for its red wine, even though there aren’t any cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir on the island, other great and unique varieties found are Bogdanjusa (Bogdanusa), Kuc (Trbljan), Posip, Marastina (Rukatac), Darnekusa (Drnekusa), Plavac Mali, the best indigenous variety in Croatia, a great candidate to compete with the most famous in the world, among other rare ones such as Hvar Malvazija.
There are a few local producers well respected for their wines: Zlatan Otok, Andro Tomic, Ivo Dubokovic, Ivo Caric, PZ Svirce, Teo Huljic, Vjeko Vujnovic, and Plancic. Together with Secret Dalmatia, while we were in Hvar, W. and I had the chance to visit two of them on a half day wine tasting tour with our private guide Leo. Of course, we would have loved to have visited all of them, but we didn’t stay long enough on the island, and I’m afraid tasting all this wine in one day could be a bit too much to handle.
Our wine tasting on Hvar Island with Secret Dalmatia started in the middle of the afternoon. After being greeted at our rented apartment by Leo, we drove through some off the beaten path villages, by taking a road rarely used by cars nowadays. From the start, our local guide showed us how much knowledge he has of the island’s history and its important relationship with wine.
On our way to the first winery, we observed Hvar’s landscape, with hills and flat land, both used for grapevines plantation. Most of the land, however, is covered with stones. Centuries ago, families worked together to get the stones out of the way with their own hands. It has been said that there were more rocks moved on Hvar island for grapevines plantation than in China to build the Chinese Wall. In many parts of the island is possible to see agglomerated stones moved to the side, giving space for the grapes.
Our first winery was Dubokovic’s, located in Jelsa, whose wine has been called “garage wine”, or boutique wine. In fact, he was chosen as one of Croatia’s top boutique winemakers. His winery produces around 25,000 bottles a year, some of them are exported, but most stay in the country, which means, some can only be tasted there, and trust me, it’s reason enough to visit Croatia.
The wine tasting is conducted in a cozy cellar, with background music, candlelight and oak barrels. The wine is served with bread, cheese, and some of their homemade olive oils (basil, oregano. We tried 6 different wines among rosé, white and red, and a Prošek (not to be confused with Prosecco) a type of dessert wine:
N: 11 – rosé
Moja M – white
Moja B – white (it was our favorite white)
2718 – red
Prije 6009 godina – red, vintage (my favorite red, my kind of wine)
Medvid – red, very unique (W’s favorite red)
The second winery was Huljic, located in the center of Jelsa. Teo Huljic comes from a 6 generations winemaker family, and because he loves to play with creating wine (so you have an idea, he was the first to plant chardonnay on the island), he opened his own winery.
It is a small winery, which produces around 10,000 bottles of 9 different sorts of wine per year. They are sold only in Hvar, on Teo’s restaurant and for those who do the wine tasting and are interested on buying some. Since his wines aren’t exported, you can only try them when in Hvar, which makes it authentic and very special.
We tried 5 different wines, among white and red, here are 4 of them and our favorites:
Lukeja – white (we loved it)
Mekoja – white
Global – red
Plamen – red (also another favorite)
The wine was served with two delicious types of bruschetta, one with cheese and basil and the other with olives and tomatoes. At the end we got to talk to Teo, got a grape bunch from his cellar and experienced labelling the bottles. The little things you can only experience in small wineries.
After visiting the two wineries, we were very glad that our guide was driving. We finished the tour having dinner at a traditional local restaurant in the Vrisnik village, called Konoba MASLINA. The tour was a very unique and culture enriching experience, if you’re looking to see the authentic side of Hvar, you can’t miss it. As wine lovers and great appreciators of local culture and details, W. and I had a wonderful time and left with the certainty that we will be returning to the island soon and try more of the wines.
Of course, we left both wineries with a few bottles, which we can now enjoy back home. In fact, I’m considering opening one right now.
More information on Hvar’s wine and wineries click here.
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We partnered with Secret Dalmatia, who kindly offered us the tour, to try some of the wonderful Hvar’s local wines. As always, views and opinions are my own, and I only recommend what I like and believe my readers will like too.