Posts Tagged Vino et Spiritus

An Earthy Red From Serbia

17 December 2013
Chateau Damjanovic 2009

Chateau Damjanović 2009

A bottle from Serbia sparked this blog, and so I’ll always have a soft spot for wines from this landlocked country in the center of the Balkans. Wines from this country can be hard to find, but I keep running into them here in Chicago largely due to the efforts of Goran Sevic, owner of the import company Vino et Spiritus. His import philosophy is exciting: ”There are plenty of commodity Serbian wines produced in large co-ops that retail in the $7 and under category that are OK, but I really have no interest in importing them.  What I look for are artisanal wines with expression of place, varietal and vintage; terroir.”

I tasted through his portfolio a couple of years ago, and delighted in the Tamjanika, Prokupac, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Blaufränkisch and Vranac he served me. But at that time, he hadn’t yet started to import the Chateau Damjanović Dry Red Wine, a Bordeaux-style blend of 60% Cabernet and 40% Merlot. When I saw a bottle of it on the shelf at In Fine Spirits, and noticed it was imported by Vino et Spiritus, I felt certain it would be a winner and snapped it up.

Chateau Damjanović  comes from Zapadna Morava (south of Belgrade), which used to be the site of imperial vineyards, according to Vinopedia. Further encouragement about the wine came from The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia, which suggests that “the best potential [in Serbia] is for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot when grown in Južna Morava,” the wine region immediately to the south of Zapadna Morava. The World Atlas of Wine agrees, arguing that “Cabernet and Merlot with intriguing potential can also be ripened, notably [in the Južna Morava region] in the south.” It also sounded promising that Chateau Damjanović has only 7.41 acres of vineyards, according to the Vino et Spiritus website, meaning that the winery certainly doesn’t fall into the mediocre large co-op category.

Chateau Damjanovic 2010

Chateau Damjanović 2010

The Chateau Damjanović sounded better and better. Unfortunately, when I have a wine I’m particularly excited about, it sometimes paradoxically stays in my wine rack much longer than I might like. It’s all too easy to leave it unopened, waiting for just the right occasion. I left my bottle of 2009 Chateau Damjanović for about year, so it seems, because I discovered the 2010 vintage at Binny’s just a few weeks ago. I bought it too, and decided it was high  time for a mini Damjanović vertical tasting.

2010 Chateau Damjanović Dry Red Wine: I tasted this vintage first, while baking up some smoked gouda and rosemary bread. This Cabernet/Merlot blend had a dark, earthy and slightly funky aroma, which seemed promising. It had a rustic feel to it, with tightly wound red fruit and notes of iron and tobacco. Though the acids were big and rowdy, the tannins were relatively soft, and at the very end the wine finished with a bit of vanilla. It was lively and fun, and spicier when paired with a warm slice of the bread.

2009 Chateau Damjanović Dry Red Wine: I opened this bottle while decorating the Christmas tree on a very cold Sunday afternoon, when something hearty was in order. The aroma of this wine was even more intensely earthy, with strong notes of iron and clay in addition to some red fruit. It tasted spicy, meaty and smokey, making me yearn for some smoked sausage to go with it. Though this wine was a year older, the fruit remained tightly wound, loosening a bit when paired with some Bolognese. It finished with a pronounced metallic note, rather than the vanilla of the 2010.

The Vino et Spiritus website recommends drinking this wine young. Certainly the 2010 is ready to drink now, but the 2009 was equally as good, if not better. Priced at about $13 — a very fine value — it’s an inexpensive risk to buy an extra bottle or two to lay down and see what happens. In the meantime, because the 2010 has such zesty acids, it’s well-suited to the hearty food of the holiday season.

Find It: I purchased the 2009 vintage at In Fine Spirits, and the 2010 vintage at Binny’s.

A New Frontier – Part 4

17 June 2011

Our explorations of Serbian drink were not confined to wine. Mr. Goran Sevic of importer Vino et Spiritus brings a number of spirits into the United States, including loza (Serbian grappa), brandy and slivovitz. (You can read a previous post about slivovitz here.)

I briefly felt concerned that hard alcohol might not agree with my stomach, still recovering from a bout of food poisoning, but after tasting six wines, some sremska sausage and a stalk of green garlic, I decided to just go for it.

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A New Frontier – Part 3

14 June 2011

In addition to the wines from Ivanović and Botunjac, which come from the Zapadna Morava region of Serbia, we tried two wines from the town of Vršac in Banat. This northeastern wine region (once the largest in Europe) has produced wine since at least the 15th Century, and likely much longer. Vineyards decorate the town’s 1804 coat of arms, as does a sword flinging a bleeding, severed head. Clearly this is a wine region to be reckoned with.

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A New Frontier – Part 1

9 June 2011

Since the 2007 Jović Vranac currently stands as the highest-rated wine on this (newish) blog, I was delighted when the importer, Goran Sevic of Vino et Spiritus, invited me to taste more of his Serbian wine portfolio. It’s rare to find even one bottle of Serbian wine — wine regions like Banat, Timok and Zapadna Morava don’t leap readily to the tongue — let alone have the opportunity to taste several all together. Fortunately the food poisoning I’d experienced the day before the tasting abated, and I paid Mr. Sevic a visit.

We couldn’t be expected to taste all this wine on an empty stomach, a most hospitable Mr. Sevic declared, and he produced a beautiful board of Serbian sremska sausage, Serbian pancetta, Italian sausage, Jarlsberg cheese and slices of baguette. Unsure how my almost entirely empty stomach would respond, I started with a bit of baguette. Reassured by my gastric non-reaction, I sampled the first wine.

We started with a 2009 Ivanović Tamianika from Zapadna Morava in southern Serbia. My research yielded little about this Serbian variety (more commonly spelled “Tamjanika”), other than that it’s a relative of Muscat. Mr. Sevic, and the wine’s label, for that matter, confirmed this fact. Wikipedia asserts it came from southern France to Serbia 500 years ago, but it cites no source for this information.

A blog I found notes that some people find it smells like incense, and indeed, tamjan is the Serbian word for incense, according Google Translate.

I didn’t detect incense in the nose of the pale yellow Tamianika (actually a blend of 85% Tamianika and 15% Riesling); I got a wonderful whiff of ripe pineapple and wet stone. Flavors of apple transformed into something spicy. Incense? Perhaps, but to me the spiciness tasted almost like ginger. The Tamianika finished with some bracing minerals, completing a wonderful ride.

The Ivanović winery had stagnated under communism, but vintner Dragoslav Ivanović found his grandfather’s old winemaking notes and rejuvenated the family business, creating small-batch, organic wines sourced from nine tiny vineyards in Zapadna Morava, each under an acre. (The wines are not certified organic, incidentally, because Mr. Ivanović would “rather buy his wife a new dress than pay for certification,” according to Mr. Sevic.) Mr. Ivanović’s care clearly shows; his expressive Tamianika tasted delicious.

We tasted another wine produced by Ivanović, the 2008 Prokupac, a blend of 85% Prokupac, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot sourced from just 5.6 acres in the same area. This chewy, tannic, dark red wine featured a heady nose of leather and brandied cherries, and flavors of red meat, tobacco and ripe raspberries. It tasted even bigger when paired with the smoky Serbian sremska sausage. Prokupac clearly warranted some additional investigation.

Wine Searcher offers precious little about the Prokupac grape, and Wikipedia and the Oxford Companion to Wine (via Wine Pros) offer little more. Vino et Spiritus writes that Prokupac is an indigenous Serbian variety, which, according to Wikipedia, dates back to the Middle Ages. Though almost entirely unknown outside its homeland, I hope we’ll see more of this variety on the market in years to come.

Up Next: What Serbia can do with Riesling, Blaufränkisch, Vranac and the ever-fickle Pinot Noir.

SUMMARY:

2009 Ivanović Tamianika: An aromatic, complex delight with flavors of apple, ginger and stone. Chill, and remove from the refrigerator 5-10 minutes before serving.

Grade: A-

2008 Ivanović Prokupac: A chewy, hearty, meaty red, tasty with smoked sausage and surely also with steak or pork. Chill in the refrigerator about 10 minutes before serving.

Grade: B

Find It: The wines of Vino et Spiritus imports can be found for sale at City Fresh, Adriatic Café Restaurant, Theater Café, Beograd Café, Boem Restaurant and Zupa Restaurant.