Gamay, Traian, and Sauvignon Blanc by Dajić, Negotin, Serbia

From a good friend of mine I’ve learned that Japanese cuisine often puts more stress on structure and texture of ingredients than taste itself. Especially combing of products that are very different in texture and thus creating a contrast is allegedly highly valued. Could such a philosophy apply also to wine?

Nihil novi sub sole: I wasn’t the first to think of wine beauty in these categories. Lawrence Osborne cites in his brilliant book “The Accidental Connosseur” Chalone’s wine maker Don Karlsen, in whose opinion “aromas are not what matter. It’s texture that matters. Texture is all…” (2004, p. 97).

Last Friday, I was invited via Facebook to a wine tasting. Long life to social media! It turned out to be a very cozy and cheerful event, organized by the small but very professional wine bar “Mala Toskana” (Little Tuscany) in Belgrade. And there was live music too, provided by the “Trio Tajna” (tajna means ‘secret’ in Serbian). The deep, warm and very erotic voice of Vesna Dimić somehow becomes particularly beautiful when she sings in Russian, although I love also her French repertoire, mostly Édith Piaf’s songs. I had already opportunity to hear her as the trio sometimes performs in good restaurants. She made my evening singing “Hava Nagila”, a song which always makes me dance, may it be only in my soul.

The wines tasted were all from the Dajić Winery from Negotin in Eastern Serbia. The whole region of Negotin (Negotinska krajina) produces exceptional wines and has long traditions, whose silent witnesses are old complexes of pimnice, wine cellars (on the picture), in Rajac and other villages of this area. They are candidates for the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Mr. Dajić presented three of his wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay, and Traian, which is a cuvee from Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay and Prokupac. The white was intensely mineral, almost fizzy. The producer managed to provide a very dry wine, preserving that fresh aroma so typical for Sauvignon. So good and flawless example of its variety it was, so little is to be told about its character: Just another enjoyable Sauv.

The Gamay was quite a different thing! It was my favorite that evening and in Serbia it has an opinion to be the best wine of this variety in the whole country. I’m not able to confirm it as it’s also the only one I have ever tasted. One is sure: I loved it so much that it made me dancing not less than “Hava Nagila”. Gamay is not particularly popular here but the region of Negotin might be a right terroir for it. As a matter of fact, Cyrille and Estelle Bongiraud from Burgundy started to produce their wines here, convinced that the area is one of the best suitable for wine production in Europe. Gamay is one of the varieties they chose to grow, and it’s the main element in their red organic ‘Obećanje’ (Promise).

Freshly poured, Dajić’s Gamay releases aroma of red fruit, not unusual for this variety. There are the strawberries warmed by strong sun of June, some dried plums and black cherries… in chocolate. Then the structure starts to seduce: It’s virtually dancing on the palate, splitting into two like the Red Sea in front of Moses, caressing the edges of the tongue and flowing down on sides of the gullet, leaving a feeling of cool emptiness in the middle. There is a spicy note, subtly burning, but more like chili than alcohol. A warm wine as it could be expected from the moderately warm area of Negotin protected by the huge body of Danube. The color resembles black cherries too, not to mention the delicate bitterness of their stones bringing to mind almonds. I found in this wine some satin character, softness, but my glass could profit from some air, preferably fresh summer air on some veranda under one of Negotin’s lindens 🙂 Very probably, we have to do with a wine which is as exciting as easy to be loved: it’s not shocking through any disharmonious element. Cherry- and satin-like, easily pleasing and all this meant as a compliment.

The more air enters the glass, the more sunny and honey the wine becomes. The ‘cherry-ness’ gains the upper hand and finally dominates the taste. But the structure remains tender and subtly erotic. I don’t feel that I’m truly exploring this wine, but rather that it’s exploring me. Is it flirting? No, it goes much further and touches all those sensitive spots of wine lover, in order to playfully seduce.

Then the cuvee comes. ‘Traian’ is both heavier and more intense in its aroma. I would describe it as ‘denser’ – more tannins, more extract. There are violets, or generally a whole meadow exploding from the glass. I find it difficult to specify this flowery-vegetal character. It starts with spring and jumps into humid colorful leaves, shiny in the autumnal sun. There is a note of grated carrot or red beet, or maybe something more like lowest undergrowth full of moss… Every time I immerse my nose in the glass, the wine seems to change its character. Also here the structure is beautiful, but I often fail in falling in love with stronger, greater reds, even if elegant. The exciting aspect of this wine is its ability to express two Serbias – the modern, pro-European one, and that ‘oriental’, traditional: Cabernet and Prokupac.

Dajić’s reds are wines of exciting and seducing texture and this makes them really worth of trying! Cheers, or even better: Živeli!

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