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A wine tour of Istria

Isabel Putinja

Contributor

Istria, Croatia's biggest peninsula tucked in the Adriatic Sea, is reminiscent of Tuscany with its rolling hills of vineyards and olive groves. It's also an important wine-making region known for its home-grown Malvasia and Teran grapes, as well as other popular varietals cultivated here such as Pinot, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Sign-marked 'wine roads’ point the way to local producers and are an open invitation for wine enthusiasts to drop in at these family-run wineries and sample their high quality vintages. Here are only a few Istria's best wineries offering tastings in stunning natural settings:

Kozlović

Kozlović is one of Croatia's best-known wine producers and their chic winery set in sprawling vineyards is a popular stop on Istria's wine-tasting circuit. This family-run winery has been in operation since 1904, producing over a dozen award-winning wines from grape varieties native to the soil here, such as the crisp white Malvasia, red Teran and Momjan Muscat, a dessert wine.

In 2012 the winery unveiled a new contemporary building that catches your eye on the drive up from the tiny hilltop village of Momjan in northern Istria. From the rooftop terrace of their chic wine bar, you can sample their excellent wines while taking in the panoramic views of the lush vineyards below. Nine different expert-led tasting tours are on offer here ranging from a basic introduction to to a two-hour-long wine experts tour. 

Kabola

At Kabola, the same family has been producing wine in the village of Kremenje, located between the hilltop towns of Buje and Momjan. since 1891. Their vineyards stretch over 20 hectares, framed by views of the Alps in nearby neighbouring Slovenia and a sliver of the sea towards the west. Wine enthusiasts can choose from four different tastings led by professional sommeliers.

11 different types of wine are produced here using an entirely organic method introduced in 2009, which made Kabola the first certified organic winery in Istria. Almost three quarters of their entire production is made from the local Malvasia grape in three different ways. Their Malvasia Amphora is the most unique of these, because this amber-coloured wine is made of grapes macerated in huge terracotta amphorae buried in the ground. This ancient way of producing and storing wine was once used by the Greeks and Romans. The porousness of the clay pots allows the wine to “breathe” and prevents it from oxidising.

Meneghetti

Meneghetti is a secluded and luxurious countryside retreat set in the middle of vineyards near the scenic town of Bale in south-western Istria. This charming wine hotel offers the ideal escape for lovers of good wine, who can also visit the on-site winery without spending the night.

The vast vineyards set in the fertile red earth of this corner of Istria are arranged in eye-pleasing geometrical patterns. They're also impeccably maintained: the vine plants are pruned with the Simonit & Sirch method which involves an extremely precise method of cutting vines which helps to prevent disease and extend their life.

Visitors can tour the vineyards and wine cellars before heading to the rustic tasting room where they can choose from five different types of tastings. The quality wines produced here include the ubiquitous Malvasia and Teran but also Merlot. Along with their acclaimed vintages, the Meneghetti brand also produces award-winning extra virgin olive oils.

Roxanich

The Roxanich Wine and Heritage Hotel occupies a brand new building that combines the traditional stone architecture typical of Istria with a more contemporary addition. The hotel and winery is set at the bottom of picturesque Motovun, one of Istria's most-visited hilltop towns, perched at 277 metres. With the opening of the enlarged winery and new hotel in 2019, Roxanich has become another destination for gastronomes thanks to its fine-dining restaurant with vineyard views, and of course their exceptional wines. The bottom two floors of this five-level building nestled on a hillside are taken up with cavernous wine cellars.

Describing their method as “honest and natural”, wine is produced here following a centuries-old method that shuns chemical additives or added tannins and uses only minimal amounts of sulphites. Look out for their selection of “orange wines”: these are white wines left to macerate for a long period of time with the grape skins.

Cattunar

Tucked among 56 hectares of neat rows of vineyards, the Cattunar Wine Residence and Winery overlooks the nearby town of Nova Vas and a panorama of rolling hills. Look to the west and you'll see the Adriatic Sea, only five kilometres away.

This is another family-run winery producing high-quality wines from the four different types of soil Istria is known for: red (known as terra rossa), as well as black, grey and white, each with its own unique properties. A large tasting room welcomes wine connoisseurs eager to sample the best of Istrian local wines guided by experts fluent in Croatian, Italian, English and German.

A cosy and luxurious wine hotel is a new addition above the vast wine cellars on the ground floor. The outdoor infinity pool and on-site spa offer a spot of R&R with a view, while in every guest room you'll find a wine-filled minibar.

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