(Continued from “The Icon of Serbia” on 18 May 2018)
Covering some 88,000 sqkm (with Kosovo) or 77,000 sqkm (without Kosovo) and with a population of just over 7 million, Serbia is by some distance the largest and most populous amongst all post-Yugoslav states. At its peak during the 1970s, Yugoslavia was one of the top ten wine-producing countries in the world, with roughly 220,000ha of vineyards, equivalent to modern-day Languedoc-Roussillon of France.
South Africa is often raised as the archetypical example of how politics and wine interact with each other, but it can be argued that Serbian wine provides yet a better case study. During Tito’s rule from 1953 to 1980 and beyond, Yugoslavia used to be one of the few countries in Europe that was aligned with neither NATO nor Warsaw Pact, hence its wine industry did not suffer as catastrophically as Bulgaria’s or Moldova’s in the late 1980s, when Mikhail Gorbachev’s vine pull scheme – part of the “Make Soviet Union Sober Again” campaign – came into effect.
The wine industry of former Yugoslav states, however, was badly damaged during the decade-long Yugoslav Wars from 1991 to 2001. By the time Serbia and Montenegro, the last remnant of the multi-ethnic former Yugoslavia, broke up in 2006, peace and political stability finally returned to Serbia arguably for the first time over a quarter of a century, not coinciding with but resulting in a much-awaited vinous renaissance.
Latitudinally on a par with southern France and northern Spain, modern-day Serbia, arguably the most romanised region of the Balkans, has been producing wine since time immemorial. Whereas northern Serbia is part of the Pannonian Plain, southern Serbia is an extension of the Carpathian Mountains, and the majority of Serbian wine is produced in regions near the Danube. As Serbia’s vinous renaissance moved into full swing, the country’s nine traditional wine regions (Timok, Nišava-South Morava, West Morava, Šumadija-Great Morava, Pocerina, Srem, Banat, Subotica-Horgoš and Kosovo) are being reclassified into 22 new regions without subregions.
Depending on sources, Serbia has between 25,000 and 70,000ha of vineyards, some 120,000 vine growers and 400 wineries, producing 2/3 whites and 1/3 reds. In addition to its heritage varieties (e.g. Prokupac and Tamjanika) and indigenous varieties (e.g. Afus Ali, Dinka, Krstač, Smederevka and Vranac), Franco-German varieties make up the rest of Serbia’s vinous portfolio. With renewed interest and incoming investment, and not least the inception of In Vino and Beo Wine Fair in 2004 and 2010 respectively, Serbia’s wine industry has been substantially improved and modernised.
On the forefront of the Serbian vinous renaissance is Vinarija Aleksandrović, whose high quality wines are amongst the first to represent Serbia on the international stage. Renowned for its association with the former royal house of Karađorđević, this historic estate possesses some of the country’s finest vineyards in the heart of the Šumadija District of central Serbia.
To be continued one day…
Ex-château samples supplied by Vinarija Aleksandrović (www.vinarijaaleksandrovic.rs), whose representatives regularly participate in major wine fairs in the Greater China area.
An innovative yet time-honoured blend of 85% Sauvignon Blanc and a combined 15% Pinot Blanc and Riesling, sourced from south- and southeast-facing vineyards between 250 and 350m above sea level, vinified sur lie and entirely in stainless steel tanks without any oak influence. Limpid citrine with shimmering golden reflex, the mischievous noses oozes elderberry, gooseberry, crushed shells and cat’s pee. Braced by racy acidity and palpable minerality, the playful palate radiates guava, passion fruit, crushed leaves and flint. Refreshingly bone-dry (merely 0.7g/l residual sugar) Medium-bodied at 13.7%, the tangy entry continues through a gingery mid-palate, leading to a spicy finish. A Slavic jester in a bottle, perhaps the most amusing of all.
Vinarija Aleksandrović Regent Reserve 2013
A classic Bordelais blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in equal parts, sourced from south- and southeast-facing vineyards between 250 and 350m above sea level; 15 months in Frnehc barriques is followed by 15 months in 4,000l Slavonian barrels, and a further 12 months in bottle. Reddish black with cardinal-ruby rim, the unfathomable nose reveals black cherry, mulberry, clove, dark chocolate and pencil shavings. Buttressed by profuse acidity and abundant tannins, the profound palate unveils cassis, damson, black pepper, caffè espresso and graphite. Full-bodied at 13.5%, the dense entry persists through an impenetrable mid-palate, leading to a potent finish. An ageworthy wine of the aristocratically reticent type.
Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain, France,
and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages