This arrowhead-shaped peninsula at the top of the Adriatic Sea is sometimes referred to as “the New Tuscany.”
West of Zagreb, north of Zadar, this body of land is as much Italian as it is Croatian. Both Hrvatski (Croatian) and Italian are official languages, and you will see road signs and menus printed in both.
Cooled by the Italian Alps and warmed by the Mediterranean Sea, this corner of Croatia produces not only amazing wines planted in the red-brick earth, but some of the best olive oils in the world. Like the renowned Piedmont area in Italy, the Istrian Peninsula is home to both black and white truffles. This combination of wine and food makes travel through Istria a culinary and cultural delight.
Fruity dry white wines produced in Istria from indigenous grapes include Malvazija (Malvasia) and Žlahtina.
Bold dry red wines of Istria are Teran (Terrano), Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Refošk (Refosco). The Momjan region is known for its Muškat Momjanski (Yellow Muscat) and the town of Bakar for a centuries-old traditional sparkling wine.
Highlights to visit in Istria are many, but a few deserve special attention:
Motovun – located in central Istria, it is a captivating walled hilltop town with stunning overlooks of the Mirna River Valley below.
For more than 500 years it was continuously under Venetian rule. The Motovun Forest is the best place for truffle hunting with the nearby village of Livade considered to be the truffle capital of Istria (September is the rare white truffle season there).
Cuisine of Motovun has earned praise from around the world, including the late Anthony Bourdain.
Rovinj – on the western shore of the peninsula, Rovinj is a stunning jewel in this corner of the Adriatic overlooking a harbor ringed by a bustling Riva.
With a tangle of cobbled streets leading up to the hilltop church of St. Euphemia, it is a worthy destination for wine and food lovers alike.
Poreč – also on the western shore of the peninsula, north of Rovinj, is the popular summer resort of Poreč. Byzantine mosaics from the 6th century are found in the historic old town. Wine bars and olive oil shops abound here.
Pula – while lacking the old town charm of Motovun and the stunning setting of Rovinj, Pula boasts Roman ruins including a huge amphitheater rivaling Rome’s Coliseum.
Detailed Istrian Wine Trails are soon to be added. Please watch this space for updates.