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Croatia: 14 award-winning wines worth seeking out

Croatian wines are gaining recognition - at the Decanter World Wine Awards included. Discover the 95+ point winners from the 2020 competition...

Located across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, Croatia has its own rich winemaking history and a multitude of indigenous grape varieties to discover. 

In a Decanter Expert’s Choice article, Caroline Gilby MW, joint DWWA Regional Chair with Beth Willard for North, Central and Eastern Europe, writes of Croatia: ‘This is a country with a very long wine history and the UNESCO listed Stari Grad plain on Hvar island is believed to be the longest continually cultivated vineyard anywhere.’

She continues, ‘The landscape varies, from the rolling wooded hills and dramatic hilltop villages of Istria to the sweeping landscape of continental Slavonia… to the sun-baked, rocky and often precipitously steep vineyards of Dalmatia and the islands where nothing much other than grapevines could possibly grow.’

Premium – Expert’s Choice: Slovenia & Croatia

Scroll down to see the 95+ point Croatian wines from DWWA 2020 and tasting notes

Though Croatia has centuries-old winemaking traditions, an ideal climate for growing and a varied range of terroirs and native grape varieties, it’s only in the last decade or so that Croatian wines are beginning to take the spotlight.

Long-time DWWA judge Dirceu Vianna Junior MW recently included Croatia on his list of ‘Top wine trends for 2021: countries, varieties and styles worth exploring,’ and recent results from DWWA highlight the expert judges’ recognition of Croatia’s top-quality wines as well.

Arguably the country’s best performance to date at the Decanter World Wine Awards, Croatia received three Platinum medals (all 97 points) and 11 Gold at the 2020 competition, alongside 68 Silver medals and 88 Bronze.

In comparison, in 2019 Croatia received 7 Gold, 55 Silver and 77 Bronze medals, and the year before, 10 Gold, 38 Silver and 71 Bronze. 

On judging, Beth Willard commented at the 2020 competition, ‘I think there’s something really special about Decanter and its standing in the international wine world – the fact that there are international wine judges and that it attracts such a broad, diverse range of wines. The standard is incredibly high and it’s really demanding to achieve even a Bronze medal – a Silver and a Gold is incredibly difficult.’

Platinum medals were awarded to just 178 wines out of the 16,518 judged at DWWA 2020 – Croatia lays claim to three.

For those interested to discover what Croatian wine is all about, below we highlight the 95+ point sparkling, white and red wines from the Decanter World Wine Awards 2020 worth seeking out…

Croatia: 14 award-winning wines worth seeking out

The Platinum medal winners

Excerpts from the Decanter World Wine Awards 2020 Supplement

Cattunar, Nono 4 Terre, Hrvatska Istra, Coastal 2015

Platinum, 97 points
Resplendent nose of cloves, cinnamon, marmalade, honey, herbs and stone fruit. The palate is broad and complex, with good concentration, a zesty freshness and mouth-filling peach and fig flavours. A lovely wine with a very long finish.

My father, grandfather and great-grandfather all worked their own small vineyards, but I didn’t immediately follow in their footsteps,’ says owner and winemaker, Franco Cattunar. ‘I worked for a local company until I met my wife, which was when my life changed; family, children, they all steered me towards returning to my Istrian homeland.’ Franco and his wife, Antonella, began in 1985 with 3.5ha of vines inherited from Franco’s parents, making their wine in the 50m² family basement, but today their roomier 1,700m² facility accommodates fruit from 56ha of vineyards.

Kozlović, Selekcija Malvazija, Hrvatska Istra, Coastal 2017

Platinum, 97 points
Stunningly clean and impressive mineral and saline nose. The palate is crisp, bright and fresh, with some elegant grip. The finish is very persistent and delivers plenty of flavour, with prickly lime and herbal notes. Superb wine!

As a child Kozlović owner and winemaker Gianfranco Kozlovi´c used to hear old men talking about a ‘famed Malvazija from Santa Lucia’. This site, situated in the northwest of the Istrian peninsula, enjoys a Mediterranean climate and contains plots which were planted in 1962. When Kozlović purchased the 20ha site, he set about rejuvenating the old vines and planting new ones. These new plots produce the fruit for his Selekcija Malvazija. ‘The Malvazijas of my youth were old fashioned, oxidised and heavy,’ explains Kozlovi´c, but we have turned towards a new style.’

Kutjevo, Graševina de Gotho, Slavonija, Continental 2018

Platinum, 97 points
Scintillating Graševina with a serious, complex nose of honey, pear, spice, flowers and quince. Rich and intense palate with generous notes of peach and apple, bright acidity and penetrative length. Highly impressive.

Graševina de Gotho pays homage to our history, the importance of terroir and our cellaring knowledge, which we have preserved for almost eight centuries,’ says Kutjevo’s chief oenologist, Ivan Marinclin. Holding his position since 2014 and coming from a family of wine-growers, Marinclin manages 800ha of vineyards, with the winning wine coming solely from one of the oldest. ‘It is a selection made from grapes from a special micro-location in the appellation of Vetovo,’ explains Marinclin. ‘We harvested later than usual to discover what Graševina can offer and express in all its splendour.’


Štampar, Urban White Extra Brut, Zagorje – Međimurje, Continental NV

Gold, 95 points
Serious nose with tons of complex lemon, acacia and honey. Quince, lemon and creamy hints on the palate with lovely depth, length and harmonious acidity.


Pilato, Malvazija Istarska, Hrvatska Istra, Coastal 2019

Gold, 95 points
Honeyed pear aromas with savoury spicy notes Concentrated with poached pear and tropical notes, lovely silky texture, good depth and bright fine acidity.

Rossi, Templara Riserva Malvazija, Hrvatska Istra, Coastal 2017

Gold, 95 points
Lovely herby, minty and exotic fruit aromas and well managed oak. Ripe and silky peach and caramel palate with rounded texture and backbone; complex and maturing.

Tercolo, Campi del Bosco, Hrvatska Istra, Coastal 2019

Gold, 95 points
Peach and spiced, youthful bright nose with a touch of spritz. Light body with appealing orange, lemon and almond flavours; easy drinking style and great value.

Testament, Pošip, Sjeverna Dalmacija, Coastal 2019

Gold, 95 points
Fresh lifted nose of youthful pear and acacia with salted lemons. Refreshing palate with bright cut pear and citrus fruit; impressive length and precision.

Tomaz, Sesto Senso Malvazija Istarska, Istria, Coastal 2017

Gold, 95 points
Expressive and rich peach and dried pear scents with a touch of vanilla. Ripe palate with lovely silky texture, impressive acidity, harmonious expression and salty finish.

Vina Istria, Festigia Malvazija Istarska, Hrvatska Istra, Coastal 2016

Gold, 95 points
Fresh cut pear and interwoven coriander and acacia scents. Lovely intensity of yellow and citrus fruit with an attractive acidic lift; very youthful with a long finish.


Tomaz, Barbarossa Teran, Istria, Coastal 2017

Gold, 96 points
Mightily impressive oozing with dense black fruit, chocolate, spice and dried cherries. Super intense fruit sweetness, mouth-filling but backed by refined tannins and lovely acidity and length.

Fakin, Teran, Hrvatska Istra, Coastal 2019

Gold, 95 points
Lifted aromas of fresh raspberries and herbs with spicy undertones. Juicy, rounded and sleek palete with generous loganberry fruit and a delicate finish; a wonderful expression.

Testament Winery, The Dalmatian Dog Babić, Sjeverna Dalmacija, Coastal 2016

Gold, 95 points
Fine and subtle raspberry and damson nose. Attractive, fresh and concentrated palate packed full of black fruit, forrest floor character and soft tannins; very well made.

Vina Laguna, Festigia Castello, Hrvatska Istra, Coastal 2016

Gold, 95 points
Mature nose with a hint of savoury character. Rich and intense fruit expression of sweet plum, cherry and chocolate, well managed oak with lovely acidic length.

Search all DWWA 2020 medal winners from Croatia

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