Events / 11/30/2014 / 619


at the horse racing ground

On 27th November 1095,  somewhere in France (Clermont), Pope Urbanus II invited European knights to join the First Crusade. He promised them rich booty, a lot of gold and glory if they liberate Jerusalem from the Seljuk Turks ... In Belgrade, on 27th November, 2014, "Wine Guerilla", devotees and wine lovers  invited wine lovers from Belgrade unobtrusively to another subversive action of proving that wine doesn't represent snobby pastime. They did not announce glitz and glamour, exclusive guests ... But they promised a friendly community, warm atmosphere, wines from Serbia, fish from the Danube ... The venue: bistro called "The Chasm", nestled on a walking path in Zemun, right on the cliff overlooking the Danube ... A location which is kept as a carefully guarded secret by elderly reisdents of Zemun and the Danube fishermen. Slowly, along the path which is winding between fishermen's dwellings, dark silhouettes of wine guerilla comrades-in-arms who were able to figure out the exact location of this Chasm started emerging from the dark (what a relief that today's mobile phones have GPS navigation !!!). The sole star of the evening was the winery "Do Kraja Sveta (Until the End of the World) from Kovilj (North Serbia).

Until the end of the world, in the Chasm, with the New Moon ... those uninformed might have concluded it was a sect with strange rituals which captured the souls of Serbian youth ... However, this Thursday provided relaxed interaction between wine audience and the winery Do Kraja Sveta. During the evening, the visitors had an opportunity to make new friends, to learn more about the winery Do Kraja Sveta and taste their wines, accompanied with fishermen's soup made from the Danube fish (which I misses due to  condensed schedule of wine events in the Balkan Vinopolis so  I will not comment it here).

Wine Guerilla

Mlad Mesec (New Moon) 2009 - Do Kraja Sveta Winery - (Varietal composition: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay) - The nose is characterized by varietal herbal aromas of Sauvignon Blanc. On the other hand, Chardonnay gives this wine body and intensity. On the palate, complex fruity aromas prevail with plenty of tropical fruit, citrus notes and a discrete touch of vanilla and spices.

Roze 2013 - Do Kraja Sveta Winery - (varietal composition: Pinot Noir) In the glass, the wine is characterized by a beautiful ruby color. On the nose, harmonious scent of fruit such as strawberry , cherry, with hints of floral notes of rose petals. Medium-bodied wine which leaves a light, fresh impression in the mouth. The finish is lingering and persistent.

Cabernet Sauvignon Selection 2011 - Do Kraja Sveta Winery - dark red colour in the glass. On the nose, you first feel elegant complex aromas of black forest fruits, dark cherries,  followed by an elegant floral note which complements the overall impression. Aging in French oak has given this wine a nice spicy character accompanied with aromas of ripe fruit. The wine is full bodied, rich in tannins which coat the mouth in layers.

Socializing in the Chasm had to be interrupted because just a  few kilometres away, almost in the clouds, on the 25th floor of Business Centre Ušće, slightly different sort of atmosphere was heating up. Vina Belje (Croatia), one of the largest wineries in the region with capacity over 3 million liters of wine per year and with vineyards covering650 hectares, hosted a tasting of wines from their portfolio.

Vina Belje

The quality of wines from Belje Winery has been confirmed at international competitions. Suffice it to mention that at this year's Decanter, its Graševina Goldberg 2006 won the regional trophy. In the portfolio of this winery, wines made from Graševina (Italian Riesling), Merlot and Chardonnay deserve the greatest attention of wine lovers.

For a breakthrough on the Serbian market, Vina Belje definitely have the wind in the sails owing to the fact that this winery belongs to Agrokor Company, owned by Croatian tycoon - Ivica Todorić. Therefore, they will surely attempt to maximize the market position of supermarket chains in Serbia that constitute the triangle Roda-Idea-Mercator (approximately 40% of Serbian retail market).

However, it will require more hard work to attract local wine enthusiasts. If we look at the flagship wines from this winery i.e. Graševina (Italian Riesling), Chardonnay and Merlot, as well as the habits and trends on the Serbian wine market, we come to the following conclusions:

Graševina (Italian Riesling) is a great variety and year after year wineries continually improve the quality of wines made from this variety. However, this variety in Serbia still suffers from reputation earned in the times of former Yugoslavia, when it had little ambition other than being well chilled and suitable for spritzer. Even wineries from Serbia, which have some great examples of Italian Riesling in their portfolio, do not shape their identity on marketing this variety as their flagship wine. The circle of fans and admirers of this variety is still small, while for the spritzer-drinking part of the crowd, it matters only that the wine is cold enough... and cheap. Therefore, Vina Belje will also face the challenge to educate consumers about the quality of Graševina. Agrokor certainly has larger marketing budget for this purpose than our wineries Kiš, Molovin or Vinum. Consequently, the popularization of this variety through activities of Vina Belje will benefit all small producers in Serbia who offer on the market their Italian Riesling or Grašac.

Chardonnay is certainly a challenging task if a new winery wants to enter the Serbian market ... On the local market, the popularity of chardonnay has reached its peak. Almost all wineries (with the exception of those coming from Župa region) grow Chardonnay in their vineyards, so the competition there is the toughest. Paradoxically, Serbia is currently undergoing a trend of rising interest in other varieties (the famous ABC), whilst those genuine Chardonnay-lovers are quite loyal to proven local players, led definitely by Chardonnay Kovačević, and there are no signs that its number one position will be usurped.

Merlot is the variety that Serbian market likes to drink and certainly there is still space on the market for quality wines made from this variety. However, the question is to what extent Vina Belje will be convincing to explain to consumers that the region from which they originate is also favourable for production of red wines, given that an average consumer perceives continental Croatia as a region typically well-suited for production of white wines.

Accompanied with magnificient night views of Kalemegdan fortress, wines produced from from grapes with the character of the Danube were presented to Serbian wine scene exactly at the spot where the Sava river flows into the Danube. Symbolically, because wine brings people together ...



Tomislav Ivanović

Awarded wine writer, wine critic and contributor to selected wine magazines. WSET3-certified author and editor-in-chief of Member of Vojvodina Sommelier Association. Juror in national and international wine competitions. Lecturing about wines of Serbia and the Balkans. Local partner of Wine Mosaic organization. Co-founder of International Prokupac Day.

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