Hvar has a long and proud history of wine-making, ever since the ancient Greek settlers planted the original vines here, back in 384 BC. The island’s wines were considered a valuable commodity then and now, exported around the Mediterranean, and enjoyed by many people down through the ages.
Hvar island is a dynamic landscape. Its mountain ridge extends from east to west for 68 km, making Hvar the longest of all the Croatian islands. The highest peak, Sv. Nikola (628 m), provides a view of the sea and other islands to the north and south.
The face of Hvar island was formed over time by two factors, the Mediterranean climate, and the Hvar farmers. The karst landscape, with its shallow soil full of rocks, was turned into arable land as the farmers built stone walls and mounds. Imagine how much effort was needed to create today’s landscape!
With its vineyards, olive groves, orchards, lavender fields, flower meadows, and forests, interlaced with dry-stone walls and mounds, Hvar island looks like a mosaic when seen from the air. And in the winter and early spring, seasonal streams appear and flow all over the island. One such stream, the ancient river Farion, was one of the reasons why the Greek settlers chose this island.
Though vines were already grown here by the early Illyrians, it is since the arrival of the Greeks from the island of Paros and the establishment of Pharos (Stari Grad) in 384 BC, that wine has become one of the dominant industries of the island.
Today the Stari Grad Plain, known as “Chora Pharou” by the ancient Greeks and “Ager Pharensis” by the Romans, is a UNESCO protected world heritage site and is the best-preserved example of a Greek cadastral agricultural plan.
At the heart of the Island of Wine are the picturesque villages of Svirče, Vrisnik, Vrbanj, Pitve, and Dol, nestled in the wooded hills below the peak of Sv Nikola. The vineyards are built as terraced steps in the surrounding hills and valleys, where seasonal streams feed the vines.
The famous south-facing slopes of the Hvar Beaches lie directly across the mountain – accessible in the old days only by a long trek up and over the passes. Because of the difficulties of getting there to work in the fields, the settlements of Ivan Dolac and Sv Nedelja grew up on the southern shores.
Below the hills of Svirče stretch the fields of the Stari Grad Plain. This is where the Island of Wine story starts. First, there were the Illyrians, then the Greeks who measured and parceled this fertile field, and then the Romans, who built more of rustic villas. Then, as now, the crops were grapevines, olives, and figs.
At the eastern edge of the Stari Grad Plain, providing access to the sea for the villages in the heart of the wine country is the town of Jelsa, and the small fishing harbor of Vrboska.
Along the backbone of the island lie the higher vineyards, and at the Eastern tip, the small port of Sućuraj provides a convenient point of entry to Hvar the Island of Wine.
Hvar is famous for its Plavac sortes of red wines, but it also has excellent white wines. Here we would like to present to you Plavac Mali and Bogdanuša.
It originated from the spontaneous crossing of Crljenak Kaštelanski and Dobričić varieties. It is rarely known that Zinfandel, which has gained worldwide fame, emanates from the same area as Plavac Mali. Sensitive to low temperatures, resistant to the disease, and of long vegetation cycle, Plavac Mali ripens late, and grapes may remain on the vine for a long time. Due to the uneven ripening, green and even completely dried berries can be found at full technological maturity, and they contribute to the quality development and the scent intensity.
Originally Bojdanuša, it is an indigenous white grape variety of the island of Hvar. Legend says that the name (“given by God”) was given because, due to its exceptional quality, it was drunk exclusively on religious holidays. It is golden yellow with an alcohol content of more than 13%, and due to its quality, it was served on Viennese Court.
Hvar wines, like all gravelly soil wines, have a character, so it is best to enjoy them where they are made, in cellars buried in the same stone. So, while on Hvar, visit some of the following wineries and enjoy!
Hvar: Carić Winery (also in village Svirče – tasting and sales in konoba “Kod None”)
Jelsa: Tomić Winery
Vrboska: Pinjata Winery
Vrbanj: Hvar Hills Winery
Sućuraj: Cellar Vujnović
Bogdanuša Evening, Svirče (June 22) Wine Tasting of one of Hvar’s indigenous varieties Bogdanuša, by the Hvar Winemakers’ Association
Sv. Mandalina,Svirče (July 22): Folk Festival
Tasting wines from Hvar – July and August – Sv. Ivan Square, Jelsa by the Hvar Winemakers’ Association
Wine Festival – Tourist Board of Jelsa – late August
Procession “Za Križen” – Maundy Thursday when six villages in the heart of the island take part in the 500-year-old tradition of the “Za Križen” procession of the cross (UNESCO).