Marko, Li and I are sitting at the outside table of my favorite wine bar in Belgrade. It’s a quiet Tuesday afternoon in early September. We are about to talk and taste some Serbian wines!
Marko and Li are WSET qualified. They are those people who deeply understand grape growing and wine making. The ones who can assess wines accurately and then help us, mere lovers, understand and appreciate wine better.
I am hoping for a conversation with sparks! Both Li and Marko are passionate and knowledgable about wine and, if I may say, more on the opinionated than on the neutral end when it comes to taste (not just taste in wine). I expect Marko, the local, to be a cheerleader for Serbian wines. And I expect Li, who is Chinese by birth, our fellow Belgrader for the last three years and has lived across continents, to be an unbiased reviewer.
The first glass of red is on the table. Li is tasting it. “Merlot?” she asks. “Cabernet Sauvignon from Eastern Serbia, Negotin region” replies Marko. “At 3.5 EUR per bottle. Undiscovered and underpriced treasure”. Li and I are impressed.
I note down I need to buy a little stash before it’s no longer a secret! With that thought, I sit back and carefully listen Li and Marko dialogue on wine.
Marko: What is your favorite Serbian wine variety?
Li: My favorite Serbian wine is Prokupac (red). It’s native and unique. I haven’t had in anywhere before I came to Serbia. And it’s yummy! I see it has a great future.
Marko: Prokupac indeed has a great potential for winemakers. They can really add their personal touch. It can be very versatile, unlike some other Balkan sorts like Plavac or Vranac which are very “stubborn”. Prokupac blends beautifully with Merlot, Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Marko: What do you think about international varieties in Serbia?
Li: I love Serbian Bordeaux blends. Regent by Aleksandrović from Oplenac region to name one. There is lot of vić-s in Serbian wine making !(laughs)
Marko: On the subject of Tamjanika (Serbian muscat), the much talked-about Serbian native white?
Li: Well, to be honest, it gets too flowery, too perfumed on nose, low acidity…
Marko: Some wine makers are now experimenting with Tamjanika, to make it more crisp, to better the acidity. If you harvest it earlier in the year it gets livelier, more crisp, less bitter. Let’s try this one, the price is 9-10 EUR per bottle.
Li: Now, this is nice! I could imagine myself sipping it all day long!
Another discovery for me! Another note on what to buy for my wine cabinet.
Marko: What do you think about the prices of Serbian wines?
Li: I find the mid range overpriced. But top quality is priced with moderation. Take for example Budimir’s Sub Rosa, loved by Wine Advocate, at 33 EUR.
Marko: Other examples are Radovanović Cabernet Sauvignon or Aleksandrović Regent (Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon). Those are excellent wines at great price of 15 EUR.
Li: The wines by Aleksić winery (three sisters winemakers! from the Southern Serbian town of Vranje) are very well priced.
Marko: I agree, Aleksić is the best value for money.
Marko: Goulash pairs with Serbian Bordeaux blends. Moussaka with Prokupac.
Marko: My favorite! Definitely with Bordeaux blends. The roast pairs well with old Serbian reds. Match pork with Prokupac.
Li: What to have with desserts?
Marko: Pair Bermet with chocolate cakes, the likes of Sacher. Bermet is a unique dessert wine from Fruška Gora region in Northern Serbia. Its secret recipe, that includes some 20 herbs and spices, is known only to several local winemaking families. The amazing history of Bermet includes the episodes from Hapsburg court and Titanic!
Li: Which wine shows and events would you recommend me to visit?
Marko: There are three principal wine trade events: Beo Wine Fair in February, WineStyle Salon in spring and Belgrade Wine Salon in December at Belgrade Hyatt Hotel. Then there are Wine Jams, dynamic pop ups organized by younger generation of winemakers several times a year.