We are not Croatian and we are not experts in geography, economics or politics. One must go to encyclopaedias and guide books for facts, figures and statistics. But we know what we like and the Adriatic Sea and its people provide us with a spectacular welcome every time we arrive; the Tourist Board promotes it as "Mediterranean as it used to be."
In an out-of-print tourist guide to the Adriatic published in 1976 by Turistkomerc, Zagreb, to us the following paragraphs encapsulate Istria, the heart-shaped peninsula and gateway to the Adriatic:-
"If a region were to be denoted by a colour – a colour which would describe it without words – in the case of Istria, the largest peninsula on the Adriatic coast, it should certainly be red. For red is the colour of its fertile soil, so powerful that it has kept its people here for centuries and given them always new strength.
Red is also the wine produced by this soil, red as the blood spilled for this earth. This continuous circle of giving and taking has kept the Istrians on their soil in the permanent struggle for freedom.
If another colour were to be added to Istria’s basic hue, it would be green: the green indented coastline with many islets, coves and bays: the green fertile fields stretching all the way to the sea; the green vineyards that yield the renowned wines; the green olive groves, orchards and forests.
Green are also its rivers: the Dragonja which hugs it in the north; the Mirna which crosses its heart; the former sinking river and present-day 11 kilometre long Lim Canal; the Raša which empties into the Kvarner bay.
Blue is also one of Istria’s colours. This is the colour of its sea which reflects the enormity of its clear skies..."
To us, these three colours – red, green and blue – represent this region of the Adriatic throughout the year; as vines turn from green to red in autumn; the sea turns from the turmoil of winter viridian to summer ultramarine; skies turn from slate to violet, from turquoise to indigo and then to red as the sun fizzles into the sea.
The three main indigenous grape varieties of the Istrian region – Malvazija Istarska (Istrian Malvasia), Refošk and Teran – are joined by Merlot, Muškat, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc among others, and winemaking is not reminiscent of 'Eastern Europe' by any means; in fact its sophistication has surprised many journalists and wine experts.
And this is just one region. We are lucky we have so much more of the Adriatic and its wines still to explore.