Like the rest of Central Europe, grape cultivation in Croatia predated the Romans by several hundred years and is at least 2500 years old. Oldest traces of vine planting and wine production come from is, an island on the south of Croatia, where a small coin dated 5th century BC was discovered and features a grape cluster on one side and an amphora for keeping wine on the other side. Similar archeological and written documentation can be found in many places on the coast, from Istria to Dalmatia.
In the continental part of Croatia winemaking came several centuries later and was spread by Illyrians and Thracians, as well as Romans. One of the most famous promoter of the wine culture was Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius Pro- bus, who planted huge vineyard areas from the Rhine valley in Germany to the Danube River basin in Croatia. Forcing his army to plant and maintain these large territories (when not fighting against rebels) turned his army against him. After all, legionaries understood themselves being there to fight, not to plant vines. He paid for his passion with his head.
Wine production and traditions were interrupted only during the time of the Ottoman empire in the 16th century. Phylloxera, the pest, which destroyed most of the vineyards in the late 19th century in Europe also had a strong influence on the final selection of grape varieties in Croatia, especially in the Continental region. Many indigenous varieties became extinct and were replaced mainly by German and Austrian grapes, brought by the new rulers, the Habsburgs. Later in the 20th century, French varietals were introduced. Istria and Dalmatia were also hit by phylloxera, but because of their distinctive climate and soil, indigenous varieties managed to persist and are still dominating.
Croatia is a country with a strong and long wine tradition and people that have always appreciated its true quality. Throughout the generations wine has always represented much more than necessity, a mere beverage or a nutriment. Families rarely sold their wines: most was kept for their own consumption, or for friends and celebrations.
Most wine produced for commercial purposes is primarily consumed within Croatia and is rather unknown outside Croatia. The main reason being that Croatia over the last several decades did not have the capacity for significant exports. After the fall of Yugoslavia, Croatia gained independence and freed itself from the former communist system, which had focused on large, state-run cooperatives that gave priority to quantity rather than quality.
Today new generations of winemakers have turned their ambitions, talents and attention to increasing quality and embracing new technology. Yet there is a passion to preserve the best of the old traditions while nurturing Croatia’s unique terroirs and micro-climates to produce world-class wines to be enjoyed both at home and abroad. In Croatia, furthermore the local consumption was increasing and the production, which has been badly hurt during the war in the 90-ties, has decreased, so there was only just enough wine for the local market. Only in the last two decade, after most vineyards have been revived, Croatia started producing enough wine for exports.