Radiant Renaissance of Polish wine
For most, Polish wines are unchartered territory. The winemaking history of Poland dates back to the early Middle Ages, but a changing climate and devastating wars, followed by communist rule, brought the tradition to a decline. However, in the 1980s, dedicated enthusiasts started growing modern vines, and in 2009, the government approved the sale of homemade wine, helping local winegrowers formalise their activity.
Today, most wine regions in Poland are located in the south and west of the country, with the best growing conditions in the western lowlands and the southern highlands. Despite the country’s harshly continental climate, with an average annual temperature of 8.7॰C the Vistula River helps moderate the stark contrast between seasons and shapes some of the best terroirs. Climate change has contributed to the overall rise in temperature, with a 2°C increase since 1951 leading to longer, warmer summers and milder winters. This is a game-changer for a country that sits at 49°00′–54°50′ N, extending slightly further north than its northerly neighbours like Reims or Rhine.
The majority of land under vine is planted to hardy hybrids such as Solaris, Seyval Blanc and Johanniter, just to name a few, but Vitis vinifera varieties are rapidly growing in popularity too. This impressive diversity of grapes is a result of winemakers’ relative free rein. Poland does not have officially delimited appellations, and it is yet to implement a definitive regional or varietal classification. Vintners can essentially use any grape variety registered at least in one of the European countries.
Winemakers in Poland belong to the Polski Instytut Winorośli i Wina, which holds yearly conferences such as the Convent of Polish Winemakers. Wine regions have evolved by way of distinguishable geographical traits and numerous associations of Polish winegrowers. There are plenty of regional associations for winegrowers, as well as for local tourism trails. Let us explore the country’s main regions and trails.
Major Polish Wine Regions
Bordering Germany in the western part of Poland, this is arguably the country’s most famous wine region. The surroundings of Zielona Góra boast a winegrowing tradition that goes back to the 12th century and the robust international success of its 19th-century Sekt.
Visitors are spoilt for choice in Lubuskie: numerous wine cellars of Zielona Góra, palaces and manor houses of German magnates and the impressive monastic complex in Żagań await in Poland’s most densely forested part.
The village of Zabór is home to a wine tourism centre, a great starting point before the visit to two of Lubuskie’s classical vineyards: Winnica Miłosz and Winnica Milsko.
Major winegrowers association: Zielonogórskie Stowarzyszenie Winiarskie
Major vineyard trail: Lubuski Szlak Wina i Miodu
2. Lower Silesia (Dolny Śląsk)
Further south lies Lower Silesia, a dynamic wine region with particularly grape-friendly conditions. Just like in Lubuskie, vines here have been cultivated since Middle Ages. Lower Silesia is among the warmest places in Poland, with relatively mild winters and a long growing season.
The area’s varied topography treasures Loire-like castles on high hills, hilly terrains of Trzebnickie Hills, the Barycz Valley and striking views of the basalt highlands, as well as the bustling regional capital, Wrocław.
Make sure to pay a visit to Winnice Wzgórz Trzebnickich vineyard and explore the region’s vibrant pét-nat scene.
Major winegrowers association: Stowarzyszenie Winnice Dolnośląskie
Major vineyard trail: Dolnośląski Szlak Piwa i Wina
3. Upper Silesia and Opole (Górny Śląsk & Opolszczyzna)
Another wine corner to discover in the southwest of Poland is Upper Silesia and Opole. There is truly something for everyone here: the urban industrial old town of Katowice, testimony to the thriving industrial past of the region; beautiful lakes and rivers, an imposing Franciscan monastery on St. Anne Mountain…the list goes on.
The region is home to some of Poland’s beautiful medieval towns like Paczków, the “Polish Carcassonne”, and excellent wines from producers like Winnica Hople, whose vineyard features a surprising Museum of Motor Cars.
Major winegrowers association: Śląskie Stowarzyszenie Winiarzy
Major vineyard trail: Opolski Szlak Winnic
4. Lesser Poland (Małopolska)
In one of the most picturesque corners of the Carpathian Foothills lies the region of Lesser Poland. Rocky passes of the Ojcowski National Park, scenic low-lying Vistula River Valley, and hills rising directly above the vast plains: the region’s varied terrain is a winemaker’s paradise, with plenty of sunny slopes and warmer, lighter air from the lowlands.
The warmest place in all of the country, the town of Tuchów in the east of Lesser Poland, hosts an annual international wine festival, Tuchovinifest. The region’s capital is Kraków, a royal city listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Unmissable vineyards in Lesser Poland include Winnica Kresy and Winnica Wieliczka.
Major winegrowers associations: Małopolskie Stowarzyszenie Winiarzy, Stowarzyszenie Winiarzy Jury Krakowskiej
Major vineyard trail: Małopolski Szlak Winny
5. Subcarpathian (Podkarpackie)
Bordering Lesser Poland in the east is the Subcarpathian region, a main cradle of the modern Polish winemaking revival. Pristine meadows and unending forests dot this lush, green area of the country.
Its must-see attractions include Krosno, ‘the City of Glass’ with the Glass Heritage Centre, breathtaking mountain trails and Lemko people heritage south of Jasło in Beskid Niski, as well as the traditional Wooden Architecture Route.
There are currently over 100 vineyards in the region, with many worth a visit such as Winnica Spotkaniówka or Winnica Sztukówka.
Major winegrowers association: Stowarzyszenie Winiarzy Podkarpacia, Jasielskie Stowarzyszenie Winiarzy ‘Vinum Pro Cultura’
Further up north in the southeast of Poland is Sandomierz. It shares the name with the picturesque town of Sandomierz, sitting atop seven hills overlooking the Vistula river.
The region’s rich winegrowing past can be traced back to the 12th and 13th centuries, with the vines tended by Dominican monks for religious purposes. The climate is one of the warmest in Poland, with generous sunshine and relatively short winters.
Sandomierz is home to a few dozen of vineyards, including the Winnica Nad Jarem and Winnica Płochockich, and some true monuments to nature. One of them is the 500-million-year-old Pieprzowe Mountains which owe their name to the pepper-like colour of their rocks (“pieprzowe” meaning “of pepper” in Polish).
Major winegrowers association: Sandomierskie Stowarzyszenie Winiarzy
Major vineyard trails: Sandomierski Szlak Winiarski
7. Lesser Poland Vistula Valley (Małopolski Przełom Wisły)
A true heaven for wine lovers, Lesser Poland Vistula Valley region in the east of the country is renowned for its hospitality. Virtually all of its vineyards scattered around Kazimierz Dolny and Janowiec offer wine tastings and a walk among the vines, together with a chance to sample regional delicacies and even stay the night.
Perched high above the Vistula river, Kazimierz Dolny is a small historic town with big appeal and rich artisanal and artistic traditions. Just across the Vistula lies the town of Janowiec, the other wine capital of the region with an imposing castle that hosts the annual Janowiec Wine Festival.
One of the top producers in the region is Winnice Kamil Barczentewicz and Winnica Kazimierskie Wzgórza.
Major winegrowers association: Stowarzyszenie Winiarzy Małopolskiego Przełomu Wisły
Major vineyard trails: Małopolski Przełom Wisły
8. Western Pomerania (Pomorze Zachodnie)
The new frontier of Polish winemaking, Western Pomerania in the northwest of the country has seen a number of first vineyards pop up in the last years. Its vineyards, made up mostly of hybrid varieties, are planted in the vicinity of the sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs and popular resorts of the Baltic coast strip of the region.
The capital of Western Pomerania is Szczecin, a large port city with a fascinating history that offers a captivating combination of tradition and modernity for visitors to discover.
Most vineyards are located along cycling trails and are easy to reach. West Pomerania is home to the largest vineyard in Poland, Winnica Turnau, and the organic-certified Winnice Kojder.
Major winegrowers association: Winnice Pomorza Zachodniego
9. Central and Eastern Poland:
Major Poland, Masovia, Lublin
(Wielkopolska, Mazowsze, Lubelskie)
Other key wine regions in the country include Major Poland (Wielkopolska) in central western Poland with Poznań as a capital; the historical region of Masovia, home to Warsaw, in central-eastern Poland; and Lublin area, bordering on Ukraine and Belarus in the east.
The harsher climate in most part of these areas poses a serious challenge to winegrowing, hence the vineyards are much more scattered.
Among noteworthy producers is Winnica Morena, located close to Poznan, with terroirs shaped by the nearby Puszczykowo National Park and the river Warta. In Major Poland, the largest estate is Winnica Vera, crafting exciting wines with frost-resistant hybrid varieties.
Masovia has its Winnica Dwórzno, a favourite spot among orchards, popular with Varsavians. You will even find vineyards, such as Winnica Czarnowoda, in the Roztocze region in Eastern Poland. Be ready to admire the friendly rural landscape and have a drink of beer as this is the major hop-growing region of Poland.
Major winegrowers association: Wielkopolskie Stowarzyszenie Winiarzy in Major Poland
Major wine trails: Roztoczański Szlak Winnic in Lublin/Zamość area
- wirestock on Freepik
- SuperGlob on Wikiemedia Commons, Opole
- Enoportal, Winnica Spotkaniówka in Subcarpathian Region
- Elapros on Wikimedia Commons, Kazimierz Dolny in Lesser Poland Vistula Valley
- Jan M on Wikimedia Commons via Panoramio, Wolin, Western Pomerania