The Croatian Diaspora

Top Croatian Wines in the USA: Indigenous Grapes Grow Sales

By 22 January 2016

The pioneer of Croatian wine promotion in North America Cliff Rames on the Croatian wines causing a stir State-side. 

In a recent interview for Wines of Croatia, American Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer championed Croatian wines as an exciting and solid categorywith staying power and appeal for consumers who seek something fresh, something authentic, something excitingly can appeal to different.He also said that Croatias strength as a wine producing country stems from its more than 130 indigenous grape varietiesas well as the Zinfandel story, which he called fascinatingand totally cool.


While Dexheimer admitted there is still much work to be done to raise awareness about Croatian wines and increase distribution, several producers have already found success on the international market, particularly the United States. On January 21, 2016, I asked the top three American importers of Croatian wines to reveal which Croatian wines were best sellers in 2015 and provide clues about what new and exciting developments await in 2016. So grab a glass of your top Croatian wine and check out revelations below, listed alphabetically by producer, with tasting notes and added commentary by the importers about what made the wines successful in the U.S.




Bibich R6 2012 (Red; $20; Blue Danube Wine Company, Los Altos, CA)


34% Babi; 33% Lasin; 33% Plavina


This northern Dalmatia wine shows more smoke and Mediterranean herbs than heavy, overbearing fruit,observed Eric Danch, Sales Manager at Blue Danube Wine Company. 


Theres immediate life and levity without compromising its unique character. Its a wine that can be readily be devoured at a casual dinner party and yet capture the attention of wine professionals.



Kozlovic Malvasia 2013 (White; $18; Vinum USA, Basking Ridge, NJ)


100% Malvasia Istriana


Gianfranco Kozlović is the largest private producer of Malvasia in Istria, and a vocal crusader for quality. His vineyards dot the hillsides of northern Istriathe Tuscany of Croatia, where his modern winery is located. This lemon-colored dry wine offers hay, white peach, apple and almond on the nose. It is medium- bodied, unoaked, with fresh, almost sparkling-like, acidity laced with slight mineral, almond and herb notes on the palate.(Courtesy of




Miloš Plavac 2010 (Red; $27; Blue Danube Wine Company, Los Altos, CA)


100% Plavac Mali


Plavac Mali has a much thicker skin than any of the three native grapes in the Bibich R6,noted Danch. The Miloš Plavac is a wine built to age. Grown in an impossibly terraced limestone amphitheater on the Pelješac peninsula along the Adriatic Sea, it is fermented and aged in Slavonian oak and is richly textured and mineral driven. We often refer to it as Nebbiolo by the seafor its age-ability, grip and acidity.



Piližota Plavina 2013 (Red; $14; Vinum USA, Basking Ridge, NJ)


100% Plavina


Plavina is often overlooked and dismissed, taking in a place in the shadows of better-known varieties like Plavac Mali and Babić,mused Ilya Shchukin, Partner/Owner at Vinum USA. Yet Plavina has its own place and offers completely different characteristics from other Croatian coastal reds. Plavina is fresher, softer, brighter, more restrained yet livelier. One would never guess that it comes from a warm climate on the rocky soils located right in front of the pristine Adriatic Sea! With all grapes hand-picked and the wine only coarsely filtered, Piližotas Plavina expresses authentic Dalmatian characteristics: lively acidity, fresh red berries and fruit, lower alcohol, solid tannin structure, and a hint of chocolate and persistent undertones of Dalmatian earthiness. 



Trapan Ponente Malvasia 2014 (White; $18; Winebow, New York, NY)


100% Malvasia Istriana


Citrus and green apple fruit on the nose, with a floral hint of Istrian meadow flowers. The fruity-floral aromatics give way to zesty citrus and noble bitter almond notes, with a salty, pronounced mineral finish that lends a serious touch to themerrimentof character that reflects the passion and exuberance of winemaker Bruno Trapan." (Winery notes)



Trapan Rubi Rosé 2014 (Rosé; $16; Winebow, New York, NY)


70% Teran; 10% Syrah; 10% Merlot 10% Cabernet Sauvignon


A red fruit, floral firecracker that explodes and sprays a dirt and beetroot aromatic complexity. In the mouth, freshgrapefruit and raspberry notes give way to piercing minerality and a long sweet and savory aftertaste.(Winery notes). Marko Babsek, Brand Manager at Winebow, suggested Trapans success in the U.S. is no fluke. I believe that it is the same set of characteristics that make these wines successful: low alcohol (12.5% and under); stainless steel fermentation and no barrel aging; freshness, good fruit and minerality; very food friendly; and competitive prices. All these factors render these wines easy to be placed on By The Glass lists in restaurants and priced under $20 a bottle in retail shops. Our customers are responding well to lighter styled, more versatile, crisp, clean and zippy wines. Bruno Trapan has precisely dialed into that style.  


Looking ahead, we invited the three importers to reveal any new additions to their portfolios and what new, exciting wines from Croatia await us in 2016:


Eric Danch, Blue Danube Wine Company:


In 2016 we are excited to offer the 2015 Toreta Pošip from Kor

ula, a bright, briny and aromatic white wine from a sunbaked island appellationa beautiful expression of the terroir. We will also present the 2013 Šipun Sansigot from Krk island, produced from grapes planted in pure pink Karst limestone and kept cool by the bura wind. It is a pungent yet light red with low tannins, low alcohol, and truly alluring aromaticsa perfect seafood red! Finally, we are excited to introduce the 2014 Coronica Črno, which is a blend of 80% Teran, 10% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon from Istria. Coronicas Gran Teran reigns as a benchmark red for the region, and the Črno is great introduction to the ferrous flavors of the terra rosa (iron rich red soils) of Istria. Ripe and balanced, this is an ideal jumping off point to explore the vast diversity of Croatian Teran from other producers like Piquentum and Terzolo. What ties all of these wines together is a true sense of place, high quality-to-price ratio, passionate winemaking, great farming, and a focus on native grapes. Croatia is an exciting country to drink!


Ilya Shchukin, Vinum USA:


We recently added several Roxanich wines to our portfolio (Porco Rosso, Malvazijica, SuperIstrian, and Teran Re), and so far they have been very well received. These are esoteric wines, of course, but within that niche we are seeing encouraging results and initial orders followed by re-orders, which is a great sign! We are also excited about adding Krauthaker 2015 Graševina Mitrovac to our portfolio, which is expected to arrive in Spring 2016. Mitrovac is the best Graševina Krauthaker makes, and we are happy to present along with Enjingi Graševina, which we love and have successfully sold for years.


Marko Babsek, Winebow:


We are excited by the arrival of Trapans Che Teran sparkling rosé.Our customers and sommeliers are responding tremendously to this bone dry sparkler from Istria. We look forward to growing this segment of the Croatian wine business. We also hope to add a producer from Slavonia, particularly one who makes a good Graševina!