Fruška Gora is a long-running hill range, in Srem district, west of Belgrade, partly in Serbia and partly in Croatia. It’s name is originating from Frankish period in 9th century, when the Germans called it ‘Frankenwald’. Srem was Sirmium, the regional capital in Roman times and it is still an important administrative union, and in Serbia part of Vojvodina. More than a million years ago central Europe was covered by the Pannonian sea and Fruška Gora was an island, fossils show ancient marine life. The area has distinct beauty and knows not only vineyards but other types of agriculture as well and a beautiful national park. It is wonderful touring through Fruška Gora, enjoying it’s quiet, rustic landscape and rural areas. All this is not yet discovered by international public but may be considered an interesting destination for wine enthousiasts. Vineyards in Serbian part actually cover some 1.800 hectares. The region is fast developing now, with many new wineries producing interesting wines.
Photo: map of Fruška Gora
Photo: Novo Hopovo monastery dating from 13th century. Fruška Gora possesses many orthodox monasteries, whose architecture combines byzantine and baroque styles. During Ottoman period the monks had a difficult time because some of them were burned. They still manage the monastery, it’s churches and it’s agricultural activities. Originally there were 35 monasteries, but actually 15 remain.
History Grape pits found in Ilok from the first century AD indicate old history but Roman sources tell of earlier viticulture by Dacians and Celts. Roman Emperor Probus stimulated the growth of viticulture in Sirmium. Later during Middle Age Orthodox and Catholic monasteries intensified the wine production. Hungarian was the common language at the time. During Ottoman occupation (1526 till 1688) viticulture was officially forbidden but persisted because the ‘Osmanli’ raised taxes on wine, ‘bedeli hamir‘ and muslims owned many vineyards too. When Vojvodina became part of Hungary and later of the Austro-Hungarian empire, viticulture continued. Wine pictures of 100 years ago show peasants selling their wine in German language. During Maria Teresa (starting 1745), big parts of Fruška Gora were given to an Italian noble family from Rome: Odescalchi. Probably these princes introduced some Italian and French varieties although in that period Kadarka was considered the best grape. Later events (Phylloxera, first and second word war) prevented development of the area and after 1945 socialism came which introduced big cooperative cellars. After 1997 Serbia and Croatie became separated states and the territory was divided.
Climate Climate is continental with hot, dry summers and cold winters. It can well be compared with that of wine regions Balaton lake (Hungary), Neusiedlersee (Austria) and Sopron (Hungary) – all of them not far away. It is said that the Danube reflect some sunshine at the vineyards and create a special micro-climate. Because of that effect the northern part of Fruška Gora used to be called ‘vinski Srem’ (wine), the southern part ‘svinski srem’ (relating to the wild boars in the woods).
Photo: vineyards overlooking the Danube
Soil: Fruška Gora originated by tectonical movements millions of years ago when the area was covered by the Pannonian sea. Some rocky materials and minerals can be found in the soils in many places, especially at higher levels as well as fossils. The topsoil is formed by layers of loess of ca 2 meters or sometimes a mix of loess, sand and clay in various combinations. The types of loess may vary from west near Ilok to east of Sremski Karlovci and scientific research of soils and their qualities for the different grape varieties is still going on. Below this loess topsoil we find layers of limestone. As loess topsoil is quite fertile, therefore the best situation for Fruška Gora is when the vine plants grow older and their roots are going deeper and are fed by the poorer, chalky limestone: therefore it can be expected that the best wines will be made from vineyards with older vines.
Grape varieties: Welschriesling and Frankovka can be considered autoctonous. Welschriesling is known in Serbia as Italijanzki Rizzling or Grašac and in Croatia as Graševina: a lot of confusion and therefore a general name change might be a better solution for all. Frankovka is probably Fruška Gora’s most original red variety although Kadarka was planted in the past as well. Both are well-known in the Pannonian area (with Hungary, Austria and Slovenia). In Croatian part of Fruška Gora they are most common, but in the Serbian part many producers prefer international varieties like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Shiraz. Other varieties are Traminac (Traminer) and Probus (a crossing of Cabernet Sauvignon x Kadarka). And there are rare varieties like Seduša, Neoplanta (a crossing of Traminer x Smederevka), Zupljanka, Sila and Slankamenka. Also (Rhine) Riesling is present and south-Serbian grapes like Tamjanika, Prokupac and Vranac. In modern viticulture the clonal selection is very important and it is my impression that in some locations (especially in Serbia) selection of the right clones for the vineyard positions has to be researched yet.
There are differences in wine styles and varieties used, but that is mostly due to the fact that Serbia and Croatia have different history and different economic situations. The same counts for Austria and Hungary, where most of these grapes are grown too: market requirements can be different.
Photo: Mr. Kovacevic in his vineyards
Photo: Deuric winery, one of the new upcoming wineries believing in the future of Fruška Gora
Photo: hospitality at Kovacevic winery
Photo: amfora’s are also present in Fruška Gora: this is an experiment by Kovacevic winery
Photo: Mr.Spasic in his cellar at Acumincum: the cellar is situated in an old Turkish hammam, a unique destination for a former hammam.
Photo: Djordje Stojisic (standing) of Chichateau winery from Sisatovac with one of his partners: his wines belong to the avant-garde of Serbia, he prefers to work with indigenous yeast ( I needed an extra-size lenze to get both huge guys on the photo…))
Photo: Erdevik cellars, also this is a rather new winery, with vineyards along the Danube
Photo: medieval frescoes in Krusedol monastery
Photo: Ivana Sijacki with her Sedusa: Sedusa is a grape which is probably indigenous in the region, although is roots are unclear yet. Sijacki is the only producer of the variety.
Photo: Sremski Karlovci is a picturesque town, with clear Austro-Hungarian influences. It is home to many wineries but also an important religious centre.
Photo: Partijaršijski Podrum: the winery, situated in the centre of Sremski Karlovci is owned by the orthodox church – the barrel is of Slavonian oak.
Photo: view from the vineyards of Chichateau at Sisatovac: they lay open to the south with views on the plains of Srem district and some south Serbian mountain in the distance
Photo: Serbian musicians playing traditional music: these musicians have great ability on their instruments and often sing a capella – a revelation in this time of electronic music… they manage to create an authentic ambience. (Photo taken at Mackov Podrum winery, Irig)
The western part of Fruška Gora is partly in Croatia: about that part my next article in 10 days.
WINERIES (see also: http://vinavojvodine.com/vinari_fg2.php)
–Vinarija Acumincum in Slankamen: small but very interesting, quite good Shiraz
–Veritas winery in Sremski Karlovci: interesting, new winery. They produce an elegant Sauvignon blanc and an excellent red blend Momentum
–VINUM in Sremski Karlovci: reliable quality Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay
–Kis: a traditional winery in Sremski Karlovci, making good Grasevina, Chardonnay and Riesling
–Patriarski dobra: winery owned by the orthodox church with cellars in the centre of Sremski Karlovi, always open for public: they make a nice blend of Graševina and Zupljanka and an interesting Merlot-Gamay-Pinot Noir blend
–Kovacevic winery in Irig: leading winery in Serbian part of Fruška Gora, all wines are good and reliable. Outstanding Riesling with aging potential, good Chardonnay, red blend Aurelius and also excellent sparkling. The winery also possesses a fine restaurant.
–Mackov Podrum in Irig: traditional winery, they make interesting Portugiezer.
–Winery Hopovo in Irig
–Chichateau vinarija in Šišatovac: interesting winery of Djordje Stojisic, one of the few in Serbia who dares to work without prepared yeast. Nice Sauvignon Blank with rich flavors and a most interesting Chardonnay Fabula Mala 2015 with rich earthy perfume and complex flavors of fresh tropical fruit, fatty, some sweet fruit, most intense wine. and a great red blend of Merlot-Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon: wonderful subtle fruit, light spicyness well integrated oak, length.
–Erdevik vinarija in Erdevik, a new upcoming winery, investing much in this new brand. The cellars in Erdevik are state-of-the-art and they have a stylish wine house. Oak aged Chardonnay with some subtle flavours. The red blend Trianon of Merlot-Syrah-Cabernet is quite good.
–Deuric winery, new upcoming winery, state-of-the-art cellars. Vineyards on the warm south side of Fruška Gora. The produce some interesting whites and soon some new vineyards will be in production. Interesting is also the curious but well-made blend of Pinot Noir-Merlot.
–Sijacki podrum in Banostor: winemaker Ivana Sijacki produces a selection of different wines, mostly young drinkable. Next to Chardonnay and Riesling there is also Neoplanta. Interesting is their Seduša – they are the only producer of this variety.
–Belo Brdo in Banostor, big, new winery in Banostor, investing much in strong, oak aged red wines. Some impressive wines to find, especially their Alma Mons 2013.
–Quetwine in Banostor, old cooperative cellar from Banostor, turned into private, reliable quality.
-Interesting new winery is the project of Bojan Baša who is experimenting with orange wines, inspired by many wineries from Collio in Italy.
Bermet is a historical wine only produced in Sremski Karlovci where each cellar has its own variant. It is a sweet wine blended with herbs and the receipt is different at each cellar
Many people have contributed to this article. Many thanks to Kika Stanojlovic, Milos Kalapis. Special thanks to Kovacevic winery for their hospitality and to Jovana Stojkovic. Many thanks to all wineries for their hospitality.