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The Croatian Riviera: Truffles, Olive Oil and Wine

With its Italian, Venetian and Austrian influences, Istria – a strawberry-shaped peninsula in the far north of Croatia – has rich culinary traditions and is a paradise for food-enthused explorers. Only a short, two-hour flight from London,  sip, savour and sample the best Istria has to offer, whether it’s unearthing indigenous grape varieties at local vineyards, hunting for the treasured white truffle or feasting on fresh Adriatic seafood in Croatia’s first Michelin-starred restaurant.

Truffle Hunting

White and black truffle varieties reside in the Istrian ‘Bermuda’ triangle between Pazin, Buje and Buzet, thriving in the valley of the river Mirna and Motovun Forest, where the earth is rich in minerals. In fact, Istria holds the record for the largest truffle ever foraged and is the only place in the world where both high quality white and black varieties can be found. Those who want to impress back home with truffle-infused flavours can embark on a truffle hunting tour with sharp nosed hounds to forage for the Istrian delicacy. Back in the kitchen, accompanied by the Karlic family, use your freshly foraged truffles to pepper a rich risotto, infuse a homemade pasta dish or season a regional olive oil.

Istrian Wine: From Grape to Glass

The triangular shape of the Istrian peninsula looks rather like a bunch of grapes – and given the strong vinicultural heritage of the region – some say this is no coincidence. Unbeknown to many, the culture-rich region plays home to some of Croatia’s top wineries, housing soaring vistas of vines producing Merlot, Malvasia and more. Whilst exploring local wineries, budding connoisseurs are invited to taste Teran, the region’s most popular red wine, typically deep ruby in colour and often blended with other grapes. Fruity, fresh and fragrant, and one of the oldest grapes in Croatia, Malvazija dates back to Ancient Greece, and is the most common white wine in Croatia.

Age-Old Olive Oil Trails

Hailed by epicurean explorers as the ‘new Tuscany’, Istria is famed for its fresh Adriatic seafood and favourable Mediterranean climate. People appreciate and understand the local ingredients, delight in their home-cooked delicacies and proudly protect family recipes, passed down through generations. Dating back through centuries, and perhaps the most highly valued Istrian ingredient, is the olive oil; rich, peppery and on par with that produced in Tuscany. The region has been dubbed best in the world for olive oil production for three consecutive years, and plays home to Roman-era olive trees; one of the oldest grows in Brijuni National Park, a cluster of islands off the coast of Pula.

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Published 20th November 2019

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