The Brotherhood of Croatian Wine Knights is a civic association that promotes the culture of wine, Croatian history, culture and tradition, peace among peoples, undermining prejudices and also promotes moral and human values based on the foundations and traditional values of Christian Europe. It was founded on the pattern of the many voluntary socio-religious traditions, that is, the socio-professional associations of believers-laymen that were founded throughout Croatia during the powerful development of urban life, which have played an important role in religious, social and cultural life throughout history. The history of the Brotherhood of Croatian Wine Knights, or shortened, Knights of Wine dates back to the time of creation of an independent Croatian state. A group of patriots from businessmen, winegrowers, oenologists, intellectuals and cultural workers joined and launched projects that will have far-reaching consequences on the development of wine-growing and vineyards in Croatia. With great enthusiasm, love for wine and national charge, they organized two major exhibitions “Wine in Croats” in 1993 and 1994, which were held in Zagreb. These were the first such exhibitions and ratings at the national level that many Croatian winemakers from all over the world came for the first time and dreaming of independent Croatia for decades.
Except for wine making, the exhibitions were major cultural and social events of the time. Through these exhibitions, an initiative was initiated by all relevant subjects that, with the cooperation of the profession, they intensified their efforts to improve the quality of wine and to increase the grapevine plantation. Since then, Croatian winemakers have begun their ruthless but unstoppable take-off in the quality of their wines to the very top of the world where they are still today. Croatia has a long, many-centuries history of wine-growing and viticulture, but the impossibility of national wine promotion, the socialistic management of agriculture in the former state and the Homeland War have resulted in a huge lag behind other winemaking forces in Europe.

Numerous contacts and friendships between Croatia and the Diaspora have been established at the exhibitions that have brought numerous experiences from the wine-growing countries not only to the profession but also to the social life of the wine-makers and wine lovers. Gradually the idea was to set up an association that will, besides promoting Croatian wines, also deal with the culture of wine that was created only between wine professionals and wine-consuming people. In 1994, the first statute of the association was written. It consists parts of the rich history of the medieval statutes of Croatian cities, where the rules related to production, quality and wine trading were mentioned. The founders were businessman Ante Ledić, academician Josip Bratulić, oenologist Milorad Zoričić, winery Ivan Enjingi and cultural worker Ivan Maruna. Great help in founding and advice was given by the Croats of Burgenland Mate Klikovic and Barbara Leeb. They called themselves Wine Knights whose purpose, organization and action differ from the former medieval knights, because members are no longer warriors but peacemakers who use wine as a means and a bridge of action. Although they regularly consume wine at all festivals and social gatherings, they do not get drunk. Whoever knows the wine culture and learns from it the wisdom of life will not go astray into addiction, because wine must not dominate man, but man governs wine.

First Knights’ ceremony was held on 3 November 2002 in the sanctuary of Holy Mother of Freedom in Zagreb. Some twenty members have first passed the solemn oath. This date is considered to be the official establishment of the Brotherhood of Croatian wine knights. Knights’ celebrations or ceremonies of receiving new members and promotion to a higher rank is traditionally held in the church after the Mass. The sermons are talking about wine and is reminiscent of the efforts of a man who has grown wine, refreshment and joy, and of his spiritual connection with Christianity. There is a protocol for getting new members into the knighthood by laying the oath on the ritual sword, pouring wine from the chalice, and dividing medals and diplomas. It is imperative to play the Croatian anthem. After the first, 23 annual festivals were organized throughout Our Beautiful. Household usually choose historic towns, spiritual sanctuaries or areas of high wine-growing tradition. The host cities have recognized the significance of such events so far they have made great contributions to their organization. The wine knights go through the city with ceremonial dresses and motifs, and often include brass music, majorettes, local folkloric societies or historic military units, giving importance and respect to the tradition and culture of the host city. In addition to the church ceremony, the program includes a tour of historical and cultural sights, tasting of local wines and a solemn dinner.

The brotherhood has its own structure, administrative bodies and a statute that is made up in accordance with the statutes of the old fraternities, adapted to the present age and legal regulations. The fraternity also has its own marks used at all festivities and are made up of a sword, a ritual stick, chalice and ceremonial flag. The wine knights continue their tradition of Western Christian knighthood and their activities are numerous. They celebrate traditional wine festivals and events, participate in wine exhibitions and wine evaluations, organize professional seminars and lectures for winemakers and winegrowers, organize knightly festivities and promotions and keep from forgetting an autochthonous grape variety in Croatia, promote and preserve old customs, organize charitable actions, conduct open type education on winemaking, viticulture and wine culture, and promote peace and fraternity with other peoples on a cultural basis.
They have a duty to preserve national identity and to overthrow prejudices within the Croat people. The wine knights are proud of the great successes of their winemakers who have won numerous awards at international wine competitions and thus promote Croatia on the world wine scene. Also, members of the order who are renowned experts in the field of oenology with their scientific and publishing work transfer scientific knowledge about wine, educate numerous producers and consumers of wine and help the development of the profession that has experienced a boom in independent Croatia.

The Wine Knight can become any adult person independent of nation, religion and political beliefs with the recommendation of a member of the Brotherhood (godfather). It is a condition that he respects the values and tradition of Christian Europe and the affiliation of the Christian-knighthood. All members within the Knight Order by position are equal and unburdened by political or economic interests. There are three categories of membership for men; a trainee, a bowler and a knight of wine, and a knight’s lady for women.

The Knight Order is a major guardian of wine culture because knighthood is a part of the true nobility of spirit and commitment to everything that is true, good and beautiful, for ideals of value, noble spirituality and knighthood friendship. Modern wine knighthood is to support all those who still believe in nature as a true human residence, respect its laws, preserve human dignity, grow and promote true friendship between people and peace in the world. The vineyard of the Lord encompasses the whole world and conceals many tasks so that each member of the Brotherhood – the Wine Knight is invited to fulfil its mission of order in the way that best knows and thinks.

Wine knights retain the identity of Croatia, its history, self-consciousness, culture and customs. They always proudly show up on numerous knights’ celebrations and social gatherings throughout our beautiful country and abroad. This promotes the homeland and the people who, by coming to these areas, have refined the land and were enriched with that land. They accepted the wine as food and refreshment, planted new wine cellars, accepted Christianity, and contributed to the development of Europe in spite of its very difficult history. Wine knights are always invoked to fellowship, Christian roots, and struggle for noble ideals and goals. Although they are archaic to many people today, their existence and activity are needed in times of economic crisis, globalization, insecurity, loss of positive patterns and traditional values that have preserved our people, language, letter, identity, customs and vine throughout history as part of European culture we have always belonged to.