The Kvarner wine region of Croatia is beautifully located along the coast between Istria and Dalmatia. This regions produces small quantities of some of the most acclaimed wines in Europe. The best-known grapes of the region are white grapes, particularly the Zlahtina varietal which is native to the region. The most significant wine producers in Kvarner take place on the island of Krk. Krk island is also home to the well-known and much respected Sipun estate – one of Kvarner’s most notable wine producers. This region is the perfect destination for food, wine, and nature lovers as it provides visitors with the best of all of these worlds.
The highest quality Croatian wines made in small quantities
In the Kvarner region of Croatia, vines have been cultivated since as far back as the ancient times. The first vines were introduced into the region by the Greeks as far back as the 6th century BCE. Today the wines produced in his region are praised for their excellent quality. These wines are made using local and international grape varietals.
The combination of the historical and social circumstances in Kvarner meant that the region began to create a consumer culture of excellent quality, superior wines. This tradition has survived and continues to date. It has also set an extremely high standard for new wine makers looking to enter the industry in Kvarner.
The Kvarner region is known not only for its excellent wines but also for its wonderful mountain biking trails and routes. The environment is perfect for mountain bikers and has plenty of steep climbing, viewing platforms and off-road biking opportunities.
Within the Kvarner region, the most well respected and famous wine growing area is Krk island. The island is extremely popular for being the home of Vrbnicka Zlahtina.
The climate of the Kvarner region is mid sub-Mediterranean, which is a climate typical of this area. The majority of the rainfall takes places during the autumn and winter months. Kvarner soil is known as ponca soil which consists of stratified marks and sandstone of eosinic origin.
The subregions of Kvarner
The wine making subregion of Kvarner is Kvarner Bay or Hrvatsko Primorje. Winegrowing and production in this region are not as prolific as in the other areas of Kvarner but in recent times it has begun to catch up. Within Kvarner, there are five further subregions of Opatija-Rijeka-Vinodol, Krk, Rab, Cres-Lošinj, and Pag, which cover approximately 2500 hectares.
Red: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir
White: White Muscat, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Vrbnicka Zlahtina
The superior quality wines of Kvarner
The most well-known grape varietal of Kvarner is the Vrbnicka Zlahtina which is grown on the island of Krk. The Vrbnicka Zlahtina that is held in the highest regard are those that grown in the village of Vrbnick. Zlahtina is a high quality dry white wine that is bright yellow in colour, fruity, and which has a high level of acidity and sugar. The wine has a relatively low level of alcohol. It pairs best with seafood or lamb dishes. Gegic is another native Croatian white grape that produces wine with flavoures of pine, peaches, green herbs and minerals. When drunk, the wine is round on the mouth and full of flavours and salinity.
Other grape varietals that are grown in Kvarner are Merlot, White Muscat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. There are also pockets of some lesser-known varieties, such as Refošk, Sansigot and Trojišćina.
Unlike other European countries, Croatian wines do not have a DO or AOC system which can make it confusing to understand the origin and grade of the wine. Despite this, they do have three categories of wines” Vrhunsko Vino premium quality wine, Kvalitetno Vino quality wine, and Stolno Vino table wine.
Trsat Castle is located just outside of the town of Rijeka and is a historical monument and pilgrimage site. The castle is perched high on a hill that overlooks Rijeka and was built in the 13th century for its excellent location. Part of the castle is a lookout tower that was fortified by the Romans. Trsat Castle is the perfect destination for rest and relaxation and for visitors to enjoying the sweeping panoramic views that it offers from the top of the hill. Close to the church belonging to the castle is Frankopan Square that is lined with bustling cafes and restaurants, particularly during the summer months. The Square also hosts a number of concerts in the summer which attract visitors from far and wide.
Rab Town – The town of the island of Rab
The walled Rab Town on Rab Island is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the northern Adriatic area. The town is instantly recognizable thanks to its four bell towers that rise from the closely built red-roofed town buildings. Rab is made up of a maze of cobbled stoned streets that all lead to the upper town where one can find the town’s ancient churches and wonderful lookout points. The lookout scenes provide unique and wonderful views of the bright blue ocean, the surrounding hills, and the Rab harbor. After exploring the small town of Rab, there are plenty of exciting excursions to enjoy from the town, particularly to the surrounding beaches on the island. Rab Town and Island provide the perfect location for an idyllic beach escape on the Adriatic Coast.
Volosko Town – The idyllic fishing village of Volosko
Volosko is a small fishing village located 2km east of Poatija that is considered one of the prettiest places along the Kvarner coastline. In recent times, this small fishing village has become a restaurant and gourmet hotspot for visitors from across Europe. Despite this, it has managed to not transform into a tourist resort and has maintained its quaint charm and beauty. Volosko is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the scenes of hardworking local fisherman, the bustling harbor and white stone houses with colourful flower balconies that rise from the coast. This town has a wonderful atmosphere and the perfect coastal ambience, ideal for an escape to the coast.
The Church of Our Lady of Trsat
No trip to the Kvarner region of Croatia would be complete without experiencing some of its religious structures, the most majestic of which is the Church of Our Lady of Trsat. This magnificent place of worship does not only appeal to the religious thanks to its phenomenal buildings, incredible art, and breathtaking architectural designs. Inside the church is the Shrine of Our Lady of Trsat which is the center for pilgrimage in Croatia as well as the country’s largest shrine. The people of Croatia believe that the angels rested here when they carried the Virgin Mary from Nazareth before they moved it across the Adriatic Sea to Loreto. Along with the shrine, the Church of Our Lady of Trsat also houses a Baroque cloister and the Petar Kruzic Stairway entering the church. There is no entrance fee to access the church although donations by visitors are encouraged. The best way to get to the Church of Our Lady of Trsat is to walk along the path of the pilgrimage and ascend the Petar Kruzic Stairway. The church is open to visitors daily from 08:00 – 17:00.
Spend time in the wonderful nature of Kvarner
Kvarner is exactly what one pictures when thinking of the perfect coastal destination. This region is a wonderland of small islands and endless sunshine, set against magnificent mountain peaks. The flora and fauna of Kvarner showcase the best of Croatian nature and provide hours of escape from city life.
Stara Baska – Paradise found on Krk Island
Stara Baska is a unique location on the south west of Krk Island with a population of only 112 people. The natural environment at Stara Baska is unique thanks to the specific karst relief of the area. In the village there are a number of small beaches that are accessible only by foot. The beaches are incredibly clean and while some are rocky, others are sandy and perfect for long lazy days of soaking up the sun. The environment of Stara Baska has remained relatively untouched with no hotels or private homes in the area. The location is perfect for an active vacation and to explore the islands highest peak of Obzova.
Paradise Beach – The most famous Rajska Beach
Paradise Beach is also known as Rajska Beach and is by far the most popular beach of the Kvarner region. The beach stretches for 1.5km long and is lined with many of Kvarner’s most popular tourist hotspots and attractions. In 2003, Paradise Beach was awarded Blue Flag status as a result of its quality, the protection of the natural environment at the beach and its bather safety. Most tourists to Kvarner and Rab Island flock to Paradise Beach for the perfect seaside holiday in one of the world’s most beautiful locations.
Ucka Nature Park – The mountain with the most magnificent views
The Ucka Nature Park is located in Vojak and is where one can find Ucka, the highest peak of the Istrian Peninsula. The peak has the perfect lookout point from a tower that was built in 1911 with panoramic views of the surrounding area. The Ucka peak was first summited by climbers in 1852 and has since then been a popular tourist attraction for both local and international visitors. It is the perfect spot to visit for hikers, nature lovers and alpinists. There are numerous activities to enjoy in the nature park including mountain biking, hiking, canyoning and exploring the over 62 different climbing routes. The unique landscape of forests, meadows and mountains paired with the warm climate makes the Ucka Nature Park the perfect place to experience the best of Croatia’s natural beauty.
The local cuisine of Kvarner
Kvarner is one of Croatia’s most popular gastro destinations. The cuisine of Kvarner is very similar to that of nearby Istria and comprises the freshest seafood, hearty stews, wild game, and lamb dishes. The mountain and coastal regions of Kvarner provide fertile grounds for the production of the freshest ingredients as well as the ideal location to enjoy the best in Croatian food.
Surlice – The specialty of the island of Krk
For very visitor to the island of Kirk, it is a must to try the local favourite of Surlice. Surlice is a type of local pasta that is long, thin and usually served with thick meat gravy or a seafood sauce. To make surlice, flour, warm water, eggs, salt and olive oil are kneaded to form a form dough that is then left to rest for 1-2 hours. Once the dough is ready, it is rolled and cut on a floured surface. Each cut piece is flattened using the palm of the hand and then wrapped one by one around floured sticks to form rolls. The prepared surlice is cooked in salted water until it is al dente. For special occasions, surplice can be paired with lamb or game meat. This traditional dish is perfect during any season and pairs perfectly with one of the excellent local Kvarner wines.
Sugo po starinski z Kvarnera – Belly warming stew of Kvarna
Sugo po starinsku z Kvarnera is a delicious local stew that is made in the Kvarner region. The dish traditionally uses goat meat, but it can also be made with beef. In preparing the dish, the meat is cut into cubes and cooked in oil with onion, bacon, carrots, celery, garlic, ground pepper and wine. The mixture is left to cook slowly on low heat for at least 2 hours so that all of the flavours can be released. Just before the meat is fully cooked, the dish is flavoured with herbs, salt and additional pepper. The best way to enjoy Sugo po starinsku z Kvarnera is with polenta or potatoes and with a rich red Kvarner wine.
Kvarner Scampi – The taste of the Adriatic Sea
Kvarner scampi is a type of langoustine that is found in the Kvarner Gulf of Croatia. The scampi is easily differentiable thanks to its pale orange and pink colour, thin shell and delicate and tender meat that is sweet and complex in flavour. These scampi are caught using specialized fishing traps at a depth of 40 – 60 meters under water. Kvarner scampi are a high-end delicacy that are typically caught fresh from April to October. During this time, they can be found on most menus of fine dining restaurants in Kvarner. Every year, the scampi is celebrated at the Kvarner Scampi Festival which is held in Istria. During this time a wide range of different scampi dishes are prepared and paired with local fine wines. For seafood lovers, Kvarner scampi should not be missed.