About regional food and wine in Croatia
There's a varied and distinctive range of food on offer in Croatia, largely because the country straddles two culinary cultures: the seafood-dominated cuisine of the Mediterranean and the filling schnitzel-and-strudel fare of Central Europe. Drinking revolves around a solid cross-section of wines and some fiery spirits. Main meals are eaten in a restoran (restaurant) or a konoba (tavern) – the latter is more likely to have folksy decor but essentially serves the same range of food. A gostiona (inn) is a more rough-and-ready version of a restoran. For Croatians the most important meal of the day is lunch (ručak) rather than dinner (večera), although restaurants are accustomed to foreigners who eat lightly at lunchtime and more copiously in the evening, and offer a full range of food throughout the day. Because many Croatians eat lunch relatively late in the afternoon, restaurants frequently offer a list of brunch-snacks (called marende on the coast, gableci inland) between 10.30am and noon. These are usually no different from main meat and fish dishes, but come in slightly smaller portions, making an excellent low-cost midday meal. Details are often chalked up on a board outside rather than written on a menu. No Croatian town is without at least one pizzeria, and most of them serve Italian-style, thin-crust pizzas made to reasonably authentic recipes, and seafood pizzas are quite a feature on the coast.
Croatia's wine industry has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, with a new breed of boutique wineries and family businesses leading the way. Although there are plenty of decent-quality Chardonnays, Cabernets and Merlots in Croatia, it's really the indigenous or near-indigenous grape varieties that are worth exploring. Of the main wine producing regions, Istria is renowned for its dry white Malvazija, and for the tannin-rich reds Teran and Refošk. More excellent reds are to be found in Dalmatia, where Babić is king in the Primošten-Šibenik region, while Plavac mali (a distant cousin of Zinfandel) predominates on the south Dalmatian islands and the Pelješac peninsula. The Plavac wines from Pelješac's Dingač and Postup vineyards are among Croatia's finest reds, and command the highest prices. The island of Korčula is home to the excellent light whites Pošip and Rukatac; Krk is renowned for the medium-dry Vrbnička Žlahtina, while Vis is famous for the more flowery white Vugava. Hvar offers an embarrassment of riches, with Plavac mali, Pošip and indigenous white Bogdanjuša. White Graševina (Welschriesling) and Traminac (Gewurztraminer) cover much of eastern Croatia, with the cellars of Kutjevo and Ilok traditionally producing the best wines. Wine sold in shops and supermarkets is graded as stolno vino (table wine), kvalitetno vino (quality wine) or vrhunsko vino (supreme wine). Basically, anything in the stolno category (20–40Kn/bottle) is cheap and drinkable, although the kvalitetno category (40–70Kn/bottle) usually delivers higher quality for a very reasonable price. Anything in the vrhunsko band (120–140Kn/bottle) is really quite special. Popular wine-derived drinks, all served cold, include bevanda (white or red wine mixed with plain water), gemišt (white wine and fizzy mineral water) and bafflingly popular summer tipple bambus (red wine mixed with cola).