Serbian Wine Routes: An Ancient Culture Of Winemaking
Did you know that winemaking in Serbia dates back thousands of years? Many authors claim that winemaking in the southern Balkans dates back to the Neolithic period. Moreover, Roman and Greek historians described Celtic and Illyrian wild grapevine from the Pannonia region which is located in Vojvodina(Northern Serbia).
However, the first written records of wine production are associated with the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus. He planted the first vines on Fruška Gora and therefore launched the beginning of the first grapevine production in Serbia. During the first Serbian kingdom, the Nemanjić dynasty paid great attention to vineyards, which pretty much outlined today’s wine regions in Serbia.
Today we’re going to explore Serbian wine culture and show you why this country is a paradise for wine lovers.
Indigenous Serbian Grapevines
When it comes to Serbian indigenous wines, these species were grown alongside international ones for hundreds of years. However, during socialist Yugoslavia, numerous old vineyards were torn down to make room for growing large amounts of international varietals. Hence, winemaking in Serbia followed a state-sponsored model which led to only a handful of large wineries producing large quantities of wine.
Today, Serbia is finally returning to its old winemaking traditions, and this has caught the eye of wine lovers from all over the world. Let’s take look at some indigenous wines you must try on your Serbian wine tour.
To many experts, this grape is still a mystery. Some signs suggest that Prokupac is over 500 years old, and it has a parent-offspring relationship with Kadarka.
The home of Prokupac is located in Southern Serbia, in the “tri Morave region”. The region includes three basins of the Morava river; Zapadna Morava, Južna Morava, and Velika Morava.
This region belongs to the temperate continental climate zone with the characteristics of the Mediterranean climate. Winters are mild, with little snow, while temperatures rarely fall below -10 degrees Celsius. That is why it is not surprising that the population in this area has been engaged in viticulture for centuries. The driest period of the year is from April to June, while the autumns are sunny and dry, which is especially suitable for late varieties such as Prokupac. Therefore, it is not surprising that typically Mediterranean cultures such as figs and almonds can thrive in Župa.
Today, producers from all across the country are planting Prokupac. The wine itself gives off forest berries, earth, and white pepper notes. Most Prokupac wines are medium-bodied and can be less than 13 ° V. All of this leads to a highly drinkable red wine that works well with food.
The most common name for the wine is Prokupac, however, some labels bear the names Rskavac or Kameničanka. If we look at sources from the 19th century, the name “Prokupac” was common in southern Serbia in towns such as Niš, Prokuplje, Leskovac, and Vranje. Also, it was the main variety in vineyards across the Toplica region, in the towns of Niš, Vranje, and Pirot. The wine was known as “Prokupačko Crno”, but it was shortened to ”Prokupac” over time.
Winemakers in the Župa region managed to preserve the original grape variety in their old vineyards, called the wine “Rskavac”, whereas, in central Serbia(Šumadija), it bore the name “Kameničanka”.
The word “Rskav” means crispy, which perfectly describes the thick skin of the grape that crunches under your teeth. On the other hand, the word “Kameničanka” is derived from the word “Kamen” which means “rock”. According to a theory, this is because this variety was often planted on rocky terrain. However, it is more likely that the variety was named after the village of Kamenica in the vicinity of Kragujevac.
Although “Tamjanika” may not be completely indigenous, we think it is worth mentioning as it has been grown on Serbian terrain for so long. It is a clone of the international white muscat, and according to DNA analysis, the variety did not come from Serbia.
Interestingly though, wines produced from this varietal are pretty different from ones made from international white muscat. These white wines are typically dry, light, floral, refreshing, and unveil aromas of citrus fruit followed by bright acidity.
Until recently, Tamjanika was associated exclusively with the Župa region. Despite the great hardships Serbian viticulture has gone through over the centuries, these vineyards managed to survive and are attracting more and more tourists from Serbia and abroad. However, in recent years Tamjanika has spread to other regions in Serbia, and it is more and more common in Jagodina, Fruska Gora vineyards, and the Negotin region.
Interestingly, Serbia has also managed to preserve Black Tamjanika. It is a very rare varietal specific to the Negotin area which probably came from southern France in the 19th century.
Today’s wine lovers, especially foreign tourists are fed up with standard wine varieties such as “Chardonnay” and “Cabernet Sauvignon”.They are looking for something new with great interest, and this brings them to southern Serbia in the Negotin region which is home to the mythical black Tamjanika. Ten years ago, the monastery “Bukovo” decided to put this myth into reality and planted two hectares of black Tamjanika vineyards.
Muskat Krokan is a grape variety that came to Northern Serbia from Algeria, through France. It requires a loose, sandy, and alluvial base with plenty of sun, hence, it survived only along the Tisa tribunary.
The variety is susceptible to diseases, sensitive to gray mold, and low temperatures. It requires daily care, and there is no possibility of expanding and growing on a massive level.
As we said, the wine was brought from Algeria, but it also carries an interesting story. Namely, the story begins with count Gedeon Rahonjci who brought the grape from Algeria and planted it on “Biserno Osrvo”(Pearl Island) which still exists to this day. It is the only type of this varietal that survived the infamous phylloxera, and according to legends, Muscat Krokan was a favorite on courts of many kings and a personal favorite of Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito.
“Biserno Ostrvo’’ is located in the vicinity of Novi Bečej and covers about 980 hectares of land. The castle with a winery along with economic premises was built by the famous count Gedeon. It is recognized as an immovable cultural good and also as a cultural monument. If you want to find out more about count Gedeon and the mysterious Krokan wine, we suggest you find a private Pannonia tour and experience your Serbian wine route on a whole new level.
The wine itself contains 10-12% alcohol and 4-5 g / l of total acids. It is drinkable, refreshing, full, and harmonious with a fine nutmeg aroma and taste. In terms of quality, it belongs to the group of quality wines. When it comes to the commercial moment, some producers classify it as a top wine. Otherwise, the wine can be classified into a group of aromatic wines.
The name of this grape varietal is often associated with Portugal. However, this varietal is historically linked with central Europe. Some sources tell us that it was Baron von Fries an Austrian Ambassador who brought the grape from Portugal to the region of central Europe.
However, according to research, the variety originates from Central Europe and was common across the Austro-Hungarian empire.
Today, Portugieser can be found in Serbia only on mount Fruška Gora in the Vojvodina region. The wine has a reputation for being light-bodied without an intense color, and its low acidity increases the watery impression. Some sommeliers were pretty cruel to this variety, calling it a bland and trivial wine. However, this variety has very few problems in vineyards as it is resistant to diseases and not too demanding.
Portugieser is a red wine of beautiful ruby color, light, and extremely drinkable. It shows off ripe fruit aromas, especially strawberries. The taste is recognizable by its mild sweetness and special fruity notes that round off the beautiful acids and make this wine fresh and juicy.
Now it’s time to end our little journey and let you decide which Serbian wine route you will take on your Balkan tour. There are countless wine cellars across the country, so our advice is to taste wine as much as you can, enjoy beautiful Serbian cuisine, and make your Serbia tour worth a while.