Wine tourism has taken off arguably more than any kind of tourism on Hvar in the last few years. With a tradition dating back some 2400 years, the Hvar wine story is a fascinating one, and today's producers have the quality to match, with exports now reaching as far away as California, China and Singapore.
Although there are many wine producers on the island (every family seems to have their own vineyard), about a dozen of the more serious ones formed the Hvar Wine Association a few years ago, with the aim to promote Hvar wine as a brand and as a destination.
They have had considerable success, and the tasting facilities are improving as well. Wine tours are now a popular option, but what are the individual tasting experiences like? Here are our top five on offer from the Hvar Wine Association, with a two more coming shortly when the Caric winery opens its soon to be finished facility on the canal in Vrboska, and Teo Huljic finishes his tasting room in Jelsa:
1. Zlatan Otok, underwater in the sea - Sveta Nedjelja
As you can see above, it really is possible to taste wines underwater, part of the unique restaurant complex of Hvar's best-known producer, Zlatan Otok. A regular international medal winner, and producer of the famous Grand Cru, Zlatan's winery in Sveta Nedelja is a must-visit for all wine lovers, from where you can marvel at the impossibly steep vineyards on the south side which produce the very best Plavac Mali.
2. Andro Tomic in Jelsa
What looks like an ordinary family house from the outside is transformed upon entry to reveal one of the best tasting experiences in Dalmatia. Head downstairs to the cellar for a mini-replica of the basement of Diocletian's cellars in Split, with togas (male and female) optional. And the quality of the wine produced by Tomic would make Emperor Diocletian himself very proud.
3. Ivo Dubokovic in Jelsa
Known as the leading boutique wine-maker in Croatia, the tasting facilities of Ivo Dubokovic are another surprise for unsuspecting passers-by. Located in the cellar of his family house, the Dubokovic tasting experience is perhaps the most intimate on Hvar, and his wines certainly the most experimental, and his structured, candlelit tasting of his range of wines and flavoured olive oils is quite outstanding. Get a flavour here.
4. Pinjata in Vrboska
While their wines don't quite reach the quality of some of the other island producers, the tasting experience of Pinjata in the back streets of the old town of Vrboska is one of the most authentic on Hvar. A delightfully restored traditional konoba in the heart of the old town, with some fabulous Dalmatian artefacts to learn more about life here in the past. Get a flavour here.
5. PZ Svirce (Svirce Cooperative)
Probably my most surprising discovery on the Hvar wine scene. Cooperative are not usually noted for their quality, and I drove past the Svirce Cooperative for years without even thinking of visiting. Boy, was I missing something...
Apart from an outstanding range of quality (and VERY affordable wines), including the flagship Ivan Dolac Barrique (which won organic gold in Germany two years running), the tour of the winery is a fascinating insight into how wine was made in the socialist era, a start contrast to the smaller and more modern private producers such as Caric and Dubokovic today. A visit to the sales room will show their international medal-winning pedigree, a place where you can also pick up a range of premium spirits, including that summer essential, Bombay Sapphire.
Five great and highly unique wine tasting experiences on Hvar, offered by five very individual producers. To learn more about Hvar wine tourism and to book a tour, visit the Hvar Wine Tours website.