Where are we? This is a question which we, Bulgarians ask often. It’s all about evaluating and comparing – to Romania with regard to the EU and our progress, to the colleague, to the neighbouring winery… Well I had a brilliant opportunity to find out where the Balkan wine tourism is by means of visiting wine cellars, historical sights and interesting wine destinations in other countries and namely – Serbia and Croatia. I took part in a Danube FAM trip in September (representing Odysseia-In and presenting our wine tours project Via Vino). The exact subject of the trip was the promotion of a recently developed and attractive route, including the Middle/Lower Danube countries and supported by the Danube Competence Center (in which Odysseia-In is a co-founder), called Roman Emperors and Danube Wine Route. Unfortunately Croatia dropped out of the program due to the political crisis with refugees and the closure of their border with Serbia (otherwise we would have gone to Ilok, which is known as a very attractive wine place). I prefer to focus on our visits to wineries and wine tastings in Serbia (in the Bulgarian part of the trip we visited Chateau Burgozone – see the picture below, definitely worth a visit – and Winery House Ruse/Leventa – magnificent atmosphere, delicious meals, great wines).
I would say that the wines we drank were mainly made from local vine varieties (why often this is not the case in Bulgaria?), the quality was satisfactory, good in some cases and rarely excellent. But what was the most impressive for me? Everything seemed very well organized and prepared, wine and souvenir (!) shops (always convenient and “close” to the guest) worked, things seemed well managed and developed with regard to the wine tourism! And people from different areas (tourism, municipality, wine industry) work together in tight, professional cooperation. The outcome – wine tours could be a good and profitable business and not a boring and cost-intensive activity for the wineries or the DMOs (destination management organizations)! But let’s get into the details and the places…
It is a very interesting place on a slope near the town of Negotin and Danube River, consisting ONLY of tiny house-cellars. The people live in the village “down” and go “up” to the vine yards, in order to produce and well, taste wine. By the way, the grapes here escaped the phylloxera in the 19th century and this region turned at that time into an essential wine exporter for Europe, including also France!
We had a lunch with wine and rakija tasting in one of these colorful small wineries – the people were very hospitable, the food – extremely tasty, the wine, however, was different story. I tasted wine in 3 other wine cellars, almost all of them were in the style “home-made wine bought from the open market”, the only truly good wine was in a cellar called Vinarija Raj and managed by an English entrepreneur (I really liked their Gamey). In addition I should mention that the winemakers here simply adore Tamjanika (white and black) and produce widely off-dry/semi-dry wines.
It is located in Sremski Karlvoci, quite close to Novi Sad which is a winery and… a bee museum (yes, a bee museum, one of the few in the world!). They are producing less than 30 000 l wine annually but are welcoming 20 000 guests. The winery highlights are an unpopular variety called Probus and the semi-dry Bermet; all in all good quality of the wines, reasonable or even low prices of the tasting packages and professional approach. There is also an attractive and very well advertised annual festival in the region of Sremski Karlovci called “Karlovacka berba” in September where people celebrate the beginning of the grape harvest. My goal for the next visit…
I had the pleasure to taste many other Serbian wines during lunches and dinners (my cherry on the cake undoubtedly was Vinarija Kovačević – one of the major producers in the country). Well, I’ve started with comparison and a question so let me answer it – Bulgarian wine is a few steps in front regarding quality but in all these beautiful, unpopular wine destinations you will enjoy a new and memorable wine experience, thanks to the great hospitality and huge enthusiasm among the local “wine people”!
Tip: Please check our round wine tours in the Balkans on the trails of the Roman Emperors and Danube Wine Route: