A coastal tour: Istria and Dalmatia

Rovinj, Istria wine tour
Rovinj, Istria

Produced in partnership with Vinart.

When William Wordsworth wrote ‘Earth has not anything to show more fair’ than the view from Westminster Bridge, it seems more than likely that he hadn’t visited Croatia’s Adriatic coastline of Istria and Dalmatia.

In my view, there is little ‘so touching in its majesty’ than this astonishingly picturesque part of the world. From the Istrian peninsula opposite Venice in the north, Croatia’s western coastline is a mirror image of Italy’s eastern shores, running more than 1,000km past 1,246 islands of varying shapes and sizes until it becomes wafer-thin in the southeast, squeezed between the Adriatic and the Bosnia & Herzegovina border across the sea from Puglia.

Jutting out into the Adriatic in Croatia’s north, the Istrian peninsula’s proximity to Italy, Slovenia and Austria, and its Venetian architecture and medieval castles, make it gastronomic melting pot for tourists. There’s a good concentration of konobas here – small local restaurants where both Croatian and Italian are spoken, and which focus on rustic, seasonal dishes. They also showcase the dry white wines of Malvazija Istriana, along with reds made from the former jug wine variety of Teran, its reputation now on the rise thanks to the pioneering Istrian winemaker Moreno Coronica.

Once a vinous haven covering some 50,000 hectares, Istria today is one-tenth of that size due to the 19th-century devastation of phylloxera, the post-war decimation of the Austro-Hungarian empire’s vinous heritage and, more recently, ‘des res’ syndrome as Istrian vineyards are converted for housing.

To accommodate the growing numbers of tourists who come in search of Istria’s fine Malvazija, Gianfranco Kozlovi? and his wife Antonella are planning to upgrade the Zeljko Buric-designed family winery, an elongated cube of glass, iron and steel located in the old wine region of Momjan outside Buje. Kozlovi?’s Moscato di Momiano is an added attraction, along with Istria’s famous white truffles and activities such as bike riding and boating.

On a grander scale, the seaside resort of Meneghetti near Bale in southern Istria, close to the old Roman settlement of Castrum Vallis, is both a luxurious Relais & Châteaux hotel and restaurant, as well as winery making sleek, modern wines under the stewardship of the famous Italian wine consultant Walter Filiputti.

Map of Istria and Dalmatia

Credit: Filip Kelava

Island wines

Heading south, the coastal E65 is the route from which to check out Croatia’s island winescape. Croatia’s biggest island, Cres, is easily accessible from the mainland and connected by bridge to verdant Lošinj, which is popular for its high-end hotels. The island of Krk is also connected to the mainland by road and boasts its own wine, whose blandness fails to live up to the name of its grape variety, Zlahtina (meaning noble grape), but the town of Vrbnik hosts a number of wineries for the thirsty traveller.

Popular with families, the island of Rab signals the beginning of the Dalmatian coast, and further south lies the beautiful island of Pag, to be enjoyed for its ancient olive trees, its sheep’s cheese, and, for wine lovers, the gorgeous winery of Boškinac. Make sure to visit outside the July and August tourist peaks when clubbers throng to Pag’s Ibiza-esque Zr?e Beach.

Vistas from Saints Hills vineyards

Beautiful vistas from the vineyards of Saints Hills

Dalmatian destinations

If Pag is Croatia’s Ibiza, Bra?’s famous Zlatni Rat, close to Split, is its Bondi Beach, a hot destination near the town of Bol, with its excellent restaurants, hotels and camping facilities. For wine lovers, the excellent winery of Bakovi? on Bra? is worth the detour (+385 91 509 5891). Neighbouring Hvar is the Dalmatian coast’s best-known island, appreciated for its historic city and UNESCO-protected archaeological sites. Hvar boasts such excellent wineries as Dubokovi? and Zlatan Otok. Ex-Marks & Spencer buyer Jo Ahearne MW is also resident here, making her…

Source : https://www.decanter.com/sponsored/a-coastal-tour-istria-and-dalmatia-419375/