Serbia is a fascinating country historically and culturally, though the wines that I have tried recently are the first that I have been able to sample from this re-emerging wine country. Like many of the nations formerly under communist rule, quality production in Serbia was stagnant as quantity received greater value than quality production. However, unlike many other communist nations, Yugoslavia retained more private property rights and a greater trade freedom, which may have made for an easier transition into the “free” wine market, had the nation not been plagued by ethnic conflict and subsequent trade restrictions and sanctions throughout the 1990s and early 21st century. As Serbia looks toward inclusion in the EU, formal vineyard assessments will occur, which should pave the way for much-needed infrastructure and intellectual investments in the fields of viticulture and viniculture.
Because vineyard censuses and classifications are terribly outdated, there is little information to be found about the current state of wine culture in the country. In these instances, it can be helpful to forget existing political boundaries and look to neighboring nations for comparisons. For example, the northern area known as Vojvodina is, more or less, an extension of the continental regions of Croatia, where white varieties like Welschriesling reign supreme. This large area north of the Danube is divided into the Srem region in the south, Subotica-Horgoš in the far north near the Hungarian border, and Banat in the east, near the town of Vršac on the Romanian border. Here, the various Pinots are also grown, along with Traminac (aka Traminer). One of the more noteworthy areas of production is located in the Srem region, colorfully known as Fruška Gora, which has purportedly cultivated the vine for 1700 years. Another historical and protected wine style produced here is Bermet, an aromatized wine similar to vermouth, produced through macerating red wine with about 20 botanicals and herbs.
Further south of the Danube, there are several different regions known as Morava, divided into Greater Morava, Western Morava, and Southern Morava. Our wines that we sample for today’s post come from the village of Aleksandrovac, located in Western Morava (Zapadna Morava). In this area a wide variety of grape varieties are grown, most notable the red Prokupac and the white Tamjanika, which is said to be a strain of Muscat grown in the area for 500 years, which happen to be the two varieties that we tried for today.
Wine growing areas are also located in the mountainous eastern frontier near the borders with Bulgaria and Romania, known as the Timok River Valley, with the Negotin-Krajina subregion being the better known.
Vineyards are also located in the former territory of Kosovo-Metohija: primarily sweeter reds produced for the German export market.
On to the wines! The two wines that we tasted were from the Ivanović winery located in Aleksandrovac in Zapadna Morava. The Vinarija Ivanović Prokupac 2011 was very reminiscent of a medium-bodied, earthy Merlot. Soft plum, baked black cherry, black fig, and dried blackberry flavors dominated, with a hefty dose of dried herbs and dried autumn leaves. Light spice notes of allspice and clove came in on the back end, which would lend well to hearty fare like grilled meats and stews.
The Vinarija Ivanović Tamianika 2012 was of particular interest to me, being a fan of dry Muscats that I had tried from other nations. A light golden color in the glass led into an explosively floral nose. Fresh white flowers, incense, wet rocks, tropical and citrus fruits were all fighting it out in the glass. Lime, pineapple, green apple, and white peach fruit flavors were subsumed by bright floral qualities, a strong mineral/wet limestone note, and an earthy herbal note of Thai basil and lemongrass. This was a very complex and interesting wine, though I feel that a touch more RS (residual sugar) might have helped to meld the flavors a bit better. I really like strong-floral impact wines like this, but it might be a little discordant to your average “cougar juice”- or watery Pinot Grigio-drinker. Lovers of great German Riesling should find a lot to like here in the strong mineral elements, though definitely lacking the subtlety of a fine Mosel or Nahe Riesling.
Overall, I really liked the wines. They were both technically correct, which already says quite a bit for an emerging wine region like Serbia, and were very interesting and spoke of a traditional winemaking culture and a unique sense of place that I feel is extremely important for novel wine countries. I’m very glad to see them utilizing indigenous grape varieties with modern, but not too modern (i.e. barrique use, concentrated musts, etc.) winemaking technologies to bring delicious and interesting wines to a thirsty public.