Wines of Serbia

There are nearly 70,000 hectares of vineyards in Serbia, producing about 425,000 tons of grapes annually. The majority of Serbian wines are produced in local wineries. Major varieties include the Belgrade Seedless, Prokupac, Sauvignon, ‘Italian Riesling’, Cabernet, Chardonnay, White and Red Burgundy, Hamburg, Muscat, Vranac, Tamjanika, Krstac, Smederevka, and Dinka. Some rare varieties survive in Serbia, too, such as the Muscat Crocant.

Harvest season in Serbia begins in July and ends in October.

The Serbian wine industry is showing signs of significant growth, as evidenced by In Vino, an annual international wine festival that is held in Belgrade since 2004 on an annual basis. Also, since 2010, an annual international wine fair is held at the Belgrade Fair, named ‘Beo Wine Fair’.

History

The history of wine-making in Serbia is more than 1000 years long. Ever since the Serbian state was first established, wine has been a part of Serbian culture and many of Serbia's rulers, especially the Nemanjic dynasty from 11th till the end of 14th century, have encouraged and promoted viticulture.

Former Yugoslavia was among the top-ten world wine producing countries. At its peak in 1970s, it produced over 6 million hectoliters annually. However, largely due to the constraints of the socialist state, emphasis was put on quantity rather than quality. Many wines were mass-produced in large agricultural combines such as Navip and Rubin, with generally low quality standards in all stages of the wine-making process. The 1980s saw a sharp decline in production and exports, a development that continued in the 1990s with the Breakup of Yugoslavia and the subsequent breakdown of the Serbian economy. 

But in the 2000s, Serbian winemaking started not only to recover, but to take a sharp and decisive turn towards quality and distinction. Numerous small and medium privately-owned wineries entered the market, often run as family businesses, and with very high regard for standards of quality and taste. Some near-forgotten traditions, such as Bermet of Sremski Karlovci, were revived. The country's economic recovery also contributed to increase of domestic consumption. Wine production in 2004 was 1,550,000 liters. Wine consumption per capita is 16 liters (2006). Still, only 5% of domestic production is exported (2004-2007 data), most of it into neighboring countries, and chiefly in bulk. High-quality and quality wines constitute about 35% of production.

Varieties

The eldest authentic grape sorts are considered to be Prokupac and Tamjanika. Prokupac is the sort of red wines and was known even in early Middle Ages, while Tamjanika is a Muscat sort originated from Southern France, known in Serbia for more than 500 years. Beside these sorts, today in Serbia are mostly raised Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Rhine or ‘Italian’ Riesling, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
White wines constitute about 64% of production, and red about 36%.

Regions

The most important Serbian vineyard areas are situated in Negotinska krajina (250 km in the east from Belgrade), in the area of Vršac (100 km on the north-east from Belgrade), on the slopes of Fruška Gora (80km on the north-west from Belgrade), in the Subotica area (200 km on the north from Belgrade), Šumadija (100 km on the south-west from Belgrade) and Župa (230 km on the south-east from Belgrade).

Long lasting tradition of Serbian wine growing in the last 10 years was renewed by numerous private producers that built contemporary cellars and already became well known out of the borders of Serbia.

According to a classification from 1970s, Serbia has nine winemaking regions, each with several sub-regions:

  1. Timok region, in eastern Central Serbia, around Timok river valley
    1. Krajina subregion, centered in Negotin
    2. Knjaževac subregion
       
  2. Nišava-South Morava region in southern Serbia, in valleys of eponymous rivers
    1. Aleksinac subregion
    2. Toplica subregion
    3. Niš subregion
    4. Nišava subregion
    5. Leskovac subregion
    6. Vranje subregion
       
  3. West Morava region in central Serbia, along the lower flow of the river
    1. Cacak subregion
    2. Kruševac subregion
       
  4. Šumadija-Great Morava region in central Serbia, the largest one by are
    1. Mlava subregion
    2. Jagodina subregion
    3. Belgrade subregion
    4. Oplenac subregion
       
  5. Pocerina region, in western Serbia, around the mountain of Cer
     
  6. Srem region, around Fruška Gora mountain in the province of Vojvodina
     
  7. Banat region, around Vršac Mountains in eastern Vojvodina
    1. South Banat subregion
    2. North Banat subregion
       
  8. Subotica-Horgoš region in northern Vojvodina
     
  9. Kosovo region, in central Kosovo

In light of revival of winemaking industry of Serbia, Serbian Ministry of Agriculture in 2008 launched an initiative for reform of Serbian laws on winemaking, and re-classification of wine regions.