Festa Vina Jelsa 2016: Largest Wine Festival on the Adriatic in Pictures

By 27 August 2016

The largest wine festival on the Adriatic concludes in Jelsa on the island of Hvar on August 27, 2016. A snapshot of the atmosphere from last night. 

A wonderful late season party on the island of Hvar concludes tonight, as the iconic Festa Vina Jelsa (Jelsa Wine Festival) comes to an end - the biggest wine festival on the Adriatic, an event that traditionally attracts thousands and has the ferries from the mainland full of mainlanders coming to enjoy the unique atmosphere that this historic wine town delivers on the last weekend of August.

This year's event has been prolonged from the usual two days into a 9-day festival, incorporating many other events in the Jelsa tourism programme. New tourist board director Ivo Dubokovic, a famous winemaker in his own right, is moving to steer the festival back to a celebration of quality wine after years of the festival hardly featuring the quality wine tradition of the island's winemakers. 

Last night's opening party in the run up to tonight's main festivities was a delightful occasion, with fun for all the family.

After some traditional Jelsa dancing in front of the town hall, the focus turned to the pretty harbour which is one of Jelsa's most attractive features. 

In they sailed, the traditional sailboats from Lantina, based a few kilometres away in Vrboska, a spectacular torchlit flotilla which lit up the harbour and provided the signal to let the festivities begin. 

Catamarans, yachts, torchlit sailboats, tourist boats and fishing boats - the diverse Jelsa harbour, around which concerts were taking place, food being consumed, and wine being enjoyed. 

This being Dalmatia, it would not have been possible to walk too far without coming across some enchanting live Dalmatian music.

Have a listen to the unofficial Hvar anthem, Eyes the Colour of Lavender.

And no Jelsa feast would be complete without this man - Barba Luka, master of the lamb and pig on the spit, an essential part of the festival. 

And the winemakers were out in force, some in more relaxed mode than others. Famous Jelsa winemaker Andro Tomic found time to entertain his guests with a little of his Beleca and Veliki Plavac Mali.

While his team were busy pouring his wines at the Hvar Wine Association tasting section, just off the main square along the main waterfront. This is one of the best changes introduced to this iconic festival, as until recently, the quality Hvar winemakers were very poorly represented at the festival, whereas now they have become an integral part in a prominent position.  

The tasting continues tonight, with several of the island's best known winemakers present, including Tomic, Dubokovic, Caric, Zlatan Otok, Huljic and Plancic. Wines are sold by the glass via voucher, priced according to their quality.

A chance also to meet the first Master of Wine to make wine in Croatia. Popular Londoner Jo Ahearne MW is the newest member of the Hvar Wine Association, and her Ahearne Rosina, made from the indigenous Darnekusa grape, is available for tasting.

And there were lots of small attractions for the kids - 50 euro if you could knock over all the blocks by throwing a ball.  

Traditional handicrafts added a very local flavour to the event, with some highly skilled work and unique souvenirs.

And Jelsa's famous donkey monument in the middle of the new waterfront was once again a huge hit for the little ones, and one of the most popular photo opportunities of the night. 

Away from the waterfront, there was plenty to enjoy in the back streets - celebrated Slavomir Drinkovic's art has been on exhibition all summer. 

It is located on picturesque St. John's Square, just off the main square, and the small museum in the square houses more of the collection.

The main square itself was packed, as visitors were treated to a night of excellent music from the 4 Dalmatian Tenors. 

A sterling performance, which was greatly appreciated by the large crowd. It was nice to see the square so full. 

And a hint of what tonight will bring - the first waterpolo match to be staged in Jelsa since 1976 - the goalposts moving gently with the lapping waves. Kick off tonight is at 18:00. 

The romantic Vrboska sailboats, their striking entrance over, contributed to the pretty setting in the harbour.

Many Jelsa families have a stand selling their food, wine, liqueurs and other wares. The commercial streak starts young in this part of the Adriatic. 

One of the nice aspects of the festival is the range of music options available all over town. Some excellent saxophone in popular cocktail bar Villa Verde, for example.  

Away from the waterfront, offering a comfortable alternative away from the crowds.  

The selection of traditional production on offer was highly impressive, a souvenir option for everyone. 

And no Festa Vina is complete without the party at Mojito, which drew in the crowds until the early morning. 

Sleep. Eat. Repeat. The final night of Festa Vina Jelsa tonight promises to be a memorable occasion.