Archiv der Kategorie: To the unknown lands

Obscure, forgotten wine growing regions.

Serbian Wines Part 1: 2011 Sofia Tamjanika – Braca Rajković

As a frequent user of the Vivino-App, a wine scanner for smart phones I have come upon a fairly unknown wine producing country, Serbia. Using the App one can earn badges for scanning different wines, in this case a badge for scanning a wine from Serbia. Searching the internet did not really show any interesting wines, the neighboring countries Croatia and Slovenia are much easier to get wines from here in Germany. But for these, there are no badges with Vivino…

Serbia has quite a long history concerning wine, a history that has directly influenced the wine regions of Europe. The Roman emperor Probus was born in the Serbian of Sremska Mitrovica. He cancelled the edict Domitian’s edict which forbid any planting of vines north of the alps. That would have meant, no Champagne, no Burgundy, no German wines at all.
Up to the Ottoman occupation wine making was flourishing in Serbia. The eventual freedom freed the wine makers as well, so wines could be produced. The next enemy of Serbian wines was a little insect, the Phylloxera. It had a mixed influence though. The northern region of Subotica-Horgos, near the Hungarian border was protected against Phylloxera by way of sandy soils. A lot of wines could be exported from here to compensate for other wine regions in Europe, where no wine could be produced anymore. In the other regions of Serbia Phylloxera was a problem that could only be solved by grafting onto american vine roots, which took some time to be discovered.
During the Communist era, quantity was looked for rather than quality. Only now with talks of Serbia joining the european market this trend has changed, a new wine law has been introduced, similar to ones from the EC setting a focus on quality and its control.

Serbia as a wine producing country has a unique climate. Temperate to warm temperate, sub humid to wet with very cool nights. A blend of Baden’s cool nights and precipitation combined with the sun of Tuscany would be a good description. Which suits red wine, only the heavy rains distract a bit. But usually there are strong winds from the Adriatic Sea, keeping the vines healthy. But strict yield control has to be enforced.

The most important wine growing regions from north to south:


Sandy soil, around the Palić Lake near the Hungarian border. Serbia’s coolest region although the lake acts as a warmth accumulator, thus ensuring a less harsh contrast of day and night temperatures.

South of the Carpathians there is still a German influence to be found. More white wines are made here than reds, which from a climate point of view does not make sense, but maybe this will change.

This fertile plain bordering Croatia is mostly influenced by the Fruška Gora mountain. Its here on the southern side that most of the regions vines are grown. Due to the southern exposure and the heart retaining properties of the mountain soil the warmth does not drop too low during nights, similar to the Banat region and the influence from the Carpathians. Here as well more whites are made.

Sumadija – Great Morava:
Penned in between the rivers of Danube and Morava, this is one of Serbia’s cooler regions. Cool is relative, Cabernet Sauvignon can easily ripen here.

Western Morava:
The hilly region around the western Morava is seen as the cradle of Serbian wine. There is a problem of high rainfall.

This small region has a high contrast of temperature between summer and winter but also between day and night. Even sun loving grape varieties like Mourvèdre and Carignan could ripen here if it were not for the frequent winter frosts.

Nisava – South Morava:
One of Serbia’s warmer regions but not as extreme as Timok.

Then there is the small region of Pocerina around the Cer mountain and depending on your political point of view the region of Kosovo.

And now for the wines:

I found them on the homepage of Samovino, a young start-up looking for capital through crowd-funding. Their goal is to introduce Serbian wines to Germany. To achieve this they toured Serbia two times and tasted 200 wines from 40 winemakers. Lukas Ertl, one of the founders was nice enough to send me three of their wines, that they wanted to include in their final selection.

Sofia Tamjanika Braca Rajkovic 2011

2011 Sofia Tamjanika, Winery Braca Rajković, Region Župa, Subregion of Western Morava

The Tamjanika grape is identical with Muscat blanc á petits grains. But it has been grown here for 500 years so that through natural selection the vines have perfectly adapted to the climate and terroir.
The Rajković family has been growing grapes since the 18th century. They grow mostly red wine grapes, being famous for introducing Serbia’s first Pinot Noir in 1962.
2011 is not a really young vintage for a Muscat, but lets see:

Straight out of the fridge:
Strong, ripe melon followed by elder flower, ripe apricot, acacia honey and grapefruit.
Full, soft acidity which comes from behind together with a accentuated bitter. Grapefruit and elderflower aftertaste.
This Tamjanika reminds me of a fully ripe Muscat that has some Viognier grapes thrown into the press. No sign of oxidation, great fruit. Drink rather cool to give freshness to the wine, the fruit can handle it.

My first Serbian wine was a nice surprise.

The Vivino-App needs to do better tough. Scanning all three pictured wines did not get me  a single badge!

2012 Klevener de Heiligenstein Nature, Domaine Rietsch

Alsaces most rare official grape variety is the Savagnin Rosé. It is only allowed in the region around Heiligenstein (42ha) where it has been grown since 1742. Its aromatic mutation, the famous Gewürztraminer can be found in all of Alsace. Both grape varieties are hard to distinguish, so they were at first interplanted but the Savagnin Rosé got banned because it lacked the desired aromas.

A completely atypical example of this grape is the Klevener de Heiligenstein Nature from Domaine Rietsch. Atypical because it has been vilified completely without adding sulphur and it has been left on the lees for ten months.

And it is an example of orange wine, a wine making technique that treats white grapes like red grapes. The crushed grapes are fermented before being pressed which gives more flavors, tannins and colour.

The winery is certified organic since 2008/2009. Part of their production is vilified in the style of <em>Vin Naturel</em>, i.e. without adding anything during vinification, no sulphur, no yeasts, no enzymes, no nothing.

Poured into the glass the expected light orange colour. Cider with cinnamon and pear juice.

The first sip shows juicy pear, fresh celeriac and mountain hay followed by a long bitter note. The slightly unnerving Cider note disappears, leaving cinnamon, pear, celery seed, hay. Light curry aftertaste- Later pear swaps with apricot. The next day hay comes to the foreground. Lightly oxidized, Madeira and raisins. The wine reminds me with its accentuated hay taste of the  „<a title=“Heugäuer“ href=““>Heugäuer</a>“ hay-soda from the german Allgäu region.

Bought this one at<a title=“Vins Vivants“ href=““>Vins Vivants</a> for€14.50.

2013 Mondeuse Blanche, Maison Philippe Grisard, Savoie

After our stay at Domaine Mèjane we continued the journey to Beaufort, famous for its cheese. Here the local cooperative is quite involved in new technology, having installed an automatic cheese vending machine so no one will run out of cheese 24/7. They also convert the whey from the cheese making process to electricity which is more than enough to run the dairy, so the excess is sold. But this is a completely different story.

I definitely wanted to stop at Maison Philippe Grisard in the mountain village of Cruet. The winery sells my favorite Verdesse, a Frühroter Veltliner (called Malvoisie here) and Mondeuse Blanche.

Mondeuse Blanche is one of those ultra rare grape varieties from the Savoy that keep popping up in ampelographic texts. It is not a mutation of the much more common Mondeuse Noire but they are definitely connected. The Blanche’s second of fame came in 2000, when it was shown that Mondeuse Blanche and Dureza (another almost extinct grape variety, this time from the Ardèche Region in France) are parents of the world famous Syrah / Shiraz.

So three wines that would be worth a little detour, I thought, while processing the address into the navigation system. Passing a couple of bikers on the straight road was easy. Once inside the village I had to turn right, straight up the mountain, a steep and narrow road. Any oncoming traffic and I would have been in big trouble. Panicking I turned into the next corner where we met a friendly Savoyard who asked me where I wanted to go. Up to Maison Philippe Grisard was my answer. No Problem, they have a parking space was the answer in perfect German. Back onto the road and going up the steep road under the watchful eyes of some inhabitants I finally found the parking, one space even free to settle the camper van.

Grisard Parking

Just check the relative height compared to the mountains in the distance, and the steep road in the left corner… I had to go back down there without really having ranging space in the back, past the amused onlookers commenting…

Grisard Weinkeller

Well, I didn’t feel like wine tasting at that moment, so I just bought two of each wine and tried the Mondeuse Blanche later back at home.

The bottle has been sealed with white wax, hiding a Noma cork.
Straight from the fridge: Banana, fresh and chewing gum. Quite full for a mountain white, balanced acidity. Cooked banana on the palate and long mineral finish.

Pouring the wine a couple of times from one glass into another (wine glass decanting) introduces fruit: Banana, unripe apricot, jasmine. On the palate cooked banana, apricot and a very interesting bitter sweet salty finish.

The next day surprises with more fruit: Banana peel, apricot, raspberry and cherry jam mixed with oat porridge and honey. One hour later the fruit is gone, leaving dandelion and honey.

The following day: Dandelion and apricot.

A very interesting grape variety on its own but next time I am not taking the camper van up to the winery!

Verdesse, Persan, Étraire de la Dhuy – Cave de Bernin – Côteaux du Grésivaudan

Looking for unknown grape varieties one often has to look to unknown wine growing regions. One of those is set in France between Grenoble and often overlooked Vin de Savioe AOC region. Overlooked at least in Germany. The Côteaux du Grésivaudan is part of IGP Isère (together with the equally unknown Balmes Dauphinoises) and have to battle with low prices for their wines, high labour cost, also due to difficult mechanization and high realty prices.

Only through passion and the wish to preserve its culture by some winemakers some wines still find their way to the world of wine. Especially through the use of autochtonuos grape varieties.

Among those are the white Verdesse and the dark Persan and Étraire de la Dhuy grape varieties. The Verdesse I have tried the one from Domaine des Rutissons before and found it to be quite interesting. With only 2ha grown in 2008 a real rarity. Persan and Etraire were still unknown to me. According to  Wine Grapes Etraire is a natural seedling of Persan. 2008 only 6ha were planted. Slightly more grown is the Persan,  9ha in France and some winemakers in the Piedmont where it is called Becuet. All three grape varieties are grown by the  Wine Cooperative in Bernin , vinified and bottled. This makes them to my knowledge the only winemakers that offer all three grapes as mono varietals. One reason to have a look around!


Cave de Bernin

The cooperative was easy to find using the navigation sytem and also easy to reach with our camper van, something that is not a given in the little mountain villages with their steep and narrow roads. A big parking space, a small shop with their wines and local specialities like walnuts and fruit jams and a free, fabulous view. What more can one ask for? And all very reasonably priced. Bottles range from 2.90€ to 5€. Bag in Boxes are even cheaper. All wines are made without vintage. Unfortunately I did not have time to do some tastings at the cooperative because we were pressed to reach our next destination, the Domaine de Méjane with its camper van space.

Verdesse Cave de Bernin

The first wine, Verdesse was light in colour. Granny Smith, lemon and lemonade, light soap followed by cooked apple with lavender honey and overripe pineapple but also unfortunately a touch of volatile acidity. Light on the palate as well with a long mineral finish and dried apple peel aftertaste. Slightly watery, lacking concentration.

The second day the volatile acidity has dispersed, Granny-Smith, iced pineapple, banana chewing gum, lavender honey, raspberry soda and chalk. Overripe pineapple and oyster mushroom aftertaste.

Etraire de la Dhuy Cave de Bernin

The second wine, the Etraire de la Dhuy, was lightly coloured as well. On the nose cloves, vanilla, cherries (combination of cherry jam and ripe, juicy fruit). On the palate light as well, light tannins and refreshing acidity. This wine too makes me wonder what could be made from these grapes if the yield was kept low.

The second day the wine changed only slightly: Cassis, cherry, lightly smoked ham mit cloves. Cherry and cloves aftertaste with light bitter note.

Persan Cave de Bernin

The third and with 5€ the most expensive of the cooperative is the Persan.

The colour shows more intensity than the Etraire, which is no big feat.

The nose is attacked my a blast of Brett (Brettanomyces) which reminded me of cow manure. Luckily the stink is quickly gone only to be replaced by raspberry jam, hibiscus flowers and orange marmalede with saffron. Fuller than the Etraire with a balanced Acidity and plum finish.

The second day the Brett influence has diminished. Now it gives the wine a foxy note, reminding me of concorde jam. On the palate I head the impression of a nice country bread spread with concorde jam without the sweetness, obviously. Acidity seems to have gained in strength. Despite all, this is one is my favourite of the three.

All in all a couple of interesting wines. Complex aromas, unfortunately lacking concentration. So there is still some space to improve. And dirt cheap.

Domaine Méjane, Saint Jean de la Porte, Savoie

The next stop after Cave de Bernin was at Domaine Méjane, another France Passion participant. Latest arrival time was set at 18:00 to get a last chance of a wine tasting. Unfortunately the given GPS-data was not accurate, we were led on a small street behind the house. The givenj description in the book was a bigger help so we were able to make it in time.
Domaine Méjane Wohnmobil unter den Bäumen

The camper van site lies in the Domaine’s park, a huge lawn with big trees and not straight at all places. The whole park is enclosed by a high wall and a gate that is closed at night. Next to the tasting room is a rest room which can be used by the campers at all times. In front of the house is a fountain with refreshingly cold and fresh spring water.
Domaine Méjane Brunnen
Nachdem wir das Wohnmobil abgestellt hatten, gingen wir direkt zur Probierstube, um die Weine der Domaine kennenzulernen. Die Weinprobe kostet normalerweise 5€, wird aber bei einem Einkauf ab 30€ erlassen. Dafür werden die Gläser aber auch gut gefüllt. Geschätzte 0.05 Liter. Ein Spucknapf war nicht zu sehen…
Domaine Méjane Tasting

White wines, the Domaine offers Jacquere, Chardonnay, Roussanne and Altesse mono varietals, of which I tasted the latter two.


Domaine Méjane Roussette de Savoie 2013
The simple 2013 Altesse, or Roussette as it is called in the region was a nice introduction. Limeflowers, pear, honey and porridge. Lively acidity with a soft finish. All this for only €5.50.

Domaine Méjane Altesse fût de Chêne

The same grape variety, 2012 vintage and oaked. This one astonishes with orange, vanilla and light oak. Appetizing acidity and some oak on the palate with long dried apple and peach aftertaste. For €6.60 a steal.Red mono varietals are made from Gamay, Pinot Noir, Mondeuse and the rare Persan. I left out Gamay and Pinot Noir.

Domaine Méjane Mondeuse St Jean de la Porte 2012
The Mondeuse 2012 priced at  €6.10 offered low to med tannins and a nice acidity. Woodland and beet root.

Domaine Méjane Mondeuse Fût de Chêne
The Cru St Jean de la Porte was where the next Mondeuse was grown, vintage 2010, oaked. Soft with red fruit, cocoa, cherries. Tannins nicely matured. Oak in the aftertaste.  This oaked version was again slightly more expensive: €6.70.

Domaine Méjane Persan
Highlight was the  Persan 2012:  violets, dark red fruit, Plums. Still young with balanced acidity and tannins. This wine as well was more than reasonably priced at €6.70. One might recognize the house fountain on the label.

Blick von Domaine Méjane
Good, dirt cheap wines, a nice camper van site with an astonishing view. I’ll be back!