Just below the Drava River, bordering Slovenia, lies Varaždin County. One of the most developed counties in Croatia, it’s a perfect location to explore by bikes.
Varaždin County is one of the northernmost Croatian counties, neighbouring Međimurje (that one is even more to the north), Krapina Zagorje, Koprivnica-Križevci county and a very small “border” to Zagreb county. Named after the wonderful county seat, town of Varaždin, it spans mostly the region around the river Bednja, and is part of Hrvatsko Zagorje region and is home to some of the nicest castles in Croatia, Trakošćan castle.
The region is quite hilly, and has been a winemaking country for ages. Traditionally, the wines from the region were not held to a high regard, as they were considered too acidy with not enough sugar to balance the acids out, but that has dramatically changed in the last 20 or so years. That’s when some of the producers started changing their varieties, modifying the methods used in the vineyards and in the cellar and many high quality wines can be found in Varaždinska County nowadays.
There are around 20 registered winemakers in the County (notably less than in some of the neighbouring counties), and they are organized in associations and the county is working hard on making wine one of their brands. Most wine production in the County are white wines, but recently reds have started gaining prominence in the region, as a careful selection of the variety and hard work from the winemaker can result in great red wines from this region.
The varieties that have been dominant here, similarly to the rest of the northern Croatia are graševina, rhein reisling, pinot blanc and gris, chardonnay, sauvignon, traminer and yellow muscat. The reds, still grown less in this region are: pinot noir, frankovka and portugieser. A lot of winemakers in this region will leave some of their grapes for the so-called ice harvest, as it is a region where it gets quite cold rather fast in the autumn, so it makes sense to wait for the frost and make the sweet dessert predicate wine from the over-ripened berries.
You can taste all of those wines if you decide to take a trip down one (or all) of the wine roads in the County – there are 4: Jalžabet, Toplička vinska cesta (wonderfully hilly, with almost dreamy views of the surroundings), Klampotić (in Cestica, on the north and near the Slovenian border) and Ludbreg. The most renowned winemakers in the County are Najman, Mežnarić, Pungračić, Kotolenko and Šafran.