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On how Marcus Aurelius Probus brought wine to Syrmia

The wine brings us back to pristine life, to paradise, and shows us where we will arrive at the end of the world’s feast (Bela Hamvas)

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If we start from the West towards the East, the wine Syrmia begins in Vukovar, and ends in Surduk, which in this case is not (only) a name for deeply carved and steep path in the loess mountain, but a village in Vojvodina municipality of Stara Pazova. Fruška Gora, which lies some eighty kilometres along the Danube is the scenery of Syrmian wine story, and it starts with the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus, who was born in Srijemska Mitrovica, and it is generally thought that he was the one who brought or at least popularized wine growing in Syrmia and in the rest of the Danube region.

He was not born a king, he fought for the position. He became famous for „defence of Germany against the Germans“. Namely, he defended the then Roman province Germania (Germany = English name for today’s Germany) from Alemans (Allemagne = French name for today’s Germany).

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After the death of the emperor Tacitus, the army enunciated him the emperor, which is a sign of his popularity among the Roman legions. He came to power by force, and he ended it by force; the same army which enunciated him killed him later. Because of wine!

Namely, he forced the obligation upon the soldiers to perform civil duties as well, among other things to plant vineyards, which was not something they accepted with delight. Despite that, Probus managed to root the culture of grapevine, which is typical for the Mediterranean, to the northern regions as well. This culture remained one of the main physical features of this region until today.

From Goldschimidt to Radoš

The winegrowing house Goldschmidt is decorated in rustic style, it has the capacity of one hundred sitting places and it is ideal for tasting Vupik wines and it is a great base for getting to know the wine dimension of Syrmia. One should not forget the winery in old Vukovar baroque core, which was opened a couple of years ago, where the wines of vintners gathered in co-operative “Vukovarska vina” (Vukovar wines) which comprises of seven small wine-growers – OPG (family agricultural economy) Brigita Vodopić, OPG Burčak, OPG Mirjana Milanković, OPG Slavko Belović, OPG Shmidt, wine cellars Krešić and agricultural trade Sovar are represented.

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On the way from Vukovar to Ilok the first inhabited settlement on the bank of the Danube is Šarengrad, where you can find the wine cellars Krešić. At the entrance to Šarengrad you are welcomed with a table with the lines “Where the Danube meets the Sky”, and the winery Krešić is on the bank of the Danube. Dario Krešić, once Croatian football representative, started this wine story and he has been doing it successfully for more than ten years, together with his parents Franjo and Irenka. You can find a German bunker from the World War II in his tasting room, and it has been so skilfully incorporated that you can hardly notice it, but its acoustics, which is different from the rest of the room, gives it away.

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On the way from Vukovar to Ilok the first inhabited settlement on the bank of the Danube is Šarengrad, where you can find the wine cellars Krešić. At the entrance to Šarengrad you are welcomed with a table with the lines “Where the Danube meets the Sky”, and the winery Krešić is on the bank of the Danube. Dario Krešić, once Croatian football representative, started this wine story and he has been doing it successfully for more than ten years, together with his parents Franjo and Irenka. You can find a German bunker from the World War II in his tasting room, and it has been so skilfully incorporated that you can hardly notice it, but its acoustics, which is different from the rest of the room, gives it away.

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You do not have to love wine to enjoy the wineries on the Ilok wine route. One of them is located in Radoš, the easternmost wine-growing area in Ilok. At night from Radoš you can see the lights of Novi Sad. The winery Papak was opened in 2014, and its annual wine production is 60.000 litres of wine. More than a third of production is Riesling, but there is also Traminac, Rhine Riesling and Chardonnay of white wine sorts, and Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc of red wine sorts.

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The winery TRS sprung from the merge of family agricultural economies Bošnjak and Faletar, and its Riesling Dekan and Rose Franka, made on a base of Franc are really impressive. They successfully manage to combine wine growing and tourism, and the credit goes to their tasting room which is in the vineyard.

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Domagoj Buhač is extremely self-effacing, but he makes premium wines. Among other things, he is famous for the freshest Riesling in Ilok. The wine for the Riesling comes from the locality of Široka šuma. The secret lies in the soil, which is much heavier than in the rest of the wine-growing soils in Ilok and its surrounding. There is much more clay and the soil is mildly sour in Široka šuma, whereas in other parts the soil is mildly alkaline.

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The Ilok wine cellars are famous for its Traminac, which was served at the coronation of the English queen Elisabeth. They offer five sorts of predicate wines: late harvest, selected berry harvest, selected harvest of slightly dried berries and ice wine harvest. The tasting in the country estate Principovac, where you can also play golf, is a special experience. They are famous for their red wine sort Kapistran; blend of Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. This cuveé is named after Saint John of Capistrano who was buried in Ilok. For initial introduction to Ilok wines one should definitely visit the manifestation of Ilok grape harvest which has a tradition of more than a half century. Advanced course includes the individual tour of all the named wine cellars. The cellar climate has beneficial effect, it cools you in summertime, and keeps you warm during the winter. For those with restless spirit I recommend the tour of Ilok wine route by bike, with obligatory stop at the belvedere Vukovo.

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