Meet the Indigenous Grape Varieties of Central Dalmatia, Home of the Original Zinfandel

Did you know that Central Dalmatia is famous for its wines? Indeed, it is the birthplace of one of the most famous grape varieties of them all, and a great favourite in America – Zinfandel.

Back in 2001, the University of Davis found that there was a 100% match between Zinfandel and Kastelanski Crljenak, the original variety which grows in the vineyards around Kastela and Trogir.

But while the ‘original Zin’ may be the best known of the 130 indigenous varieties in Croatia, there are plenty more which are fascinating to try, particularly on the islands.

Hvar leads the way with its indigenous varieties, as it has several. Arguably the best known is the early-drinking white variety called Bogdanusa – which literally translates as a ‘Gift from God’ – but there are other whites you can only find on Hvar, including Mekuja, Prc, Kortolaska and Kuc.

Plavac Mali, an offshoot of Tribidrag, is the main red variety throughout Dalmatia, but Hvar also has Darnekusa, which grows best above 470m above sea level. With the island’s peak being at 621m, that does not leave many vineyards, but the only Master of Wine making wine in Croatia produces an excellent Darnekusa rose each year.

If you would like to meet one of the parents of the original Zinfandel, then head to the island of Solta, where the powerful reds of the Dobricic grape await, while the island of Vis has its own indigenous white, Vugava.

There are less indigenous varieties on the mainland in Central Dalmatia, but one not to miss is the local white Kujundzusa, which is mostly produced by small family growers these days, but was one the second largest cooperative production in former Yugoslavia.

Trying local wines with local dishes is all part of the holiday experience. Ask your waiter for the best local wine recommendations and find out why more international wine experts are landing at Split Airport these days.

Learn more about the wineries of Central Dalmatia.