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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Category Archives: Serbia

Francuska Vinarija Obećanje

Serbia (Krajina Negotinska)

gamay, and native varietals

This bottle came my way from the organic shelves of Lavinia in Paris. I am generally not a fan of mega-wine shops, but, once in the neighbourhood, I couldn’t resist venturing inside. An organic wine from Serbia — when would I get the chance again?

I knew nothing of this winery, but a quick search on the web revealed that the name of this particular bottling, Obećanje, means ‘promise.’ And all that I read subsequently was indeed promising. So here it stands — an unexpected find, ready to reveal itself.

The story of Francuska Vinarija starts  with a French couple steeped in the traditions of winemaking — Estelle Germain and Cyrille Bongiraud. Estelle is the daughter of a distinguished Burgundy vignernon, the owner of Domaine de Château-de-Chorey. Cyrille is a specialist in vineyard soils, and has been a consultant to as many as 200 French wine properties. In 2007 they landed in the village of Rogljevo in eastern Serbia, not far from its borders with Romania and Bulgaria.

It was in many ways a village set back in time, with the remnants of a glorious distant era of winemaking, as seen in the profusion of old stone wine cellars. Cyrille immediately recognized something special in the limestone soils. In combination with the temperate continental climate, it was seen as close to ideal for winemaking.

In fact wine had been made in the region for centuries, back to the time of the Romans. In the late 1800s the wines of Rogljevo were to be found at exhibitions in Bordeaux and Paris. They were especially highly prized during the 20-year period between the time the phylloxera epidemic hit France and the time it reached Serbia. With the advent of Communism, independent winemaking was banned. The interest in it fell away, although some of the older residents attempted to maintain the traditions.

With the arrival of Estelle and Cyrille new life has been bred into the properties. Working hand-in-hand with the local people, whose vineyards had always been cultivated without the use of pesticides, the couple has been able to produce six different bottlings, both red and white, with an annual production of 25,000 bottles.

The grapes are hand harvested and delivered in 20 kg wooden boxes. The best grapes find their way into large wooden vats, where fermentation takes place using the naturally occurring yeasts. Eventually the wine spends 8-14 months in Burgundian barrels, before being bottled without filtration.

The spirit and honesty of the venture can perhaps best be summed up in the noon lunchtimes on any working day, when the owners and other workers gather at a table prepared by a 70-year-old friend and ‘baba’ in the village — a meal of ‘kajmak’ cheese and marinated red peppers, smoked meat and freshly-baked bread, consumed in an atmosphere of laughter and robust conversation.

I’ve not been there to experience it, but I believe I can taste its rustic good cheer in the wine.

Francuska Vinarija Obećanje 2008

An assertive nose, fresh and indeed very pleasantly rustic. Medium bodied, yet with substantial presence on the palate. Lively fruit with good acidic balance. The principal grape here is a variety of gamay (referred to as “gamay manchot petits grains”). There is a refreshing character to this wine, and it’s entirely food friendly. Worked wonderfully well with artisanal cheese and grilled lamb! To that I can attest.  $


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