In the very north of Serbia, or more precisely: in the autonomous province of Vojvodina, there is a not big but rich in delightful architecture town of Subotica. Its closeness to Hungary is not only geographical (around 10 km) – 35% of the inhabitants are Hungarian, and you might be approached on the street, and especially on the farmers’ market, in either Serbian or Magyar. The style of wines produced on this sandy soil, part of the flat Pannonian lowlands, is also not far from the Hungarian one. This is of course logical – not least because of the similarity in terroir.
Just a few kilometers from the art nouveau center of Subotica, there are two lakes: Palić and Ludaš. At the latter one, there is a village of Hajdukovo, where the winery of “Vinski Dvor” (Wine Court/Palace) is situated. Since I stayed at the more touristic Palić Lake, known for its mineral water springs, I took a cab to Hajdukovo. On the way, the driver fed my imagination with pictures of a real castle, and so I was expecting a smart residence of some Hungarian landowner from the far past. The court proved to be by far younger than me, a product of Eastern European transformation tastes. However, its owner is well prepared for tourists – there is a tasting room, hotel, restaurant, quite a spacious parking, and a playground for kids. This is still a rare thing in Serbia, which enjoys more and more visitors every year, but remains one of the least touristic countries in Europe.
And here are my two favorites from the offer of the “Vinski Dvor”…
In the very first moment, it was like a déjà vu. A wine of almost white color, floral, spicy, beautifully fragrant – I wanted to scream “Bagrina”. Then just another sniff and the aroma proved to be much more intensive, alluring… indeed like in Hungarian Olaszrizlings (Welschriesling). It smells sweet, even though it’s high in acidity too, which makes the wine very refreshing. In summer, it certainly fits well the searing heat of Pannonian sands (referred to as peščara). I imagine this wine at the Palić Lake, in the shadow of its old trees, or maybe on the porch of some salaš, covered with vine. Salaš is a typical old-style farm of Vojvodina, with romantic rural architecture and traditional cuisine, not unlike the Italian agriturismi.
The somehow weaker side of the wine is the flatness of its aroma. It immediately releases its splendid floral character, caress your palate with delicate acidity, but then nothing follows and there is only the warmth of alcohol in your stomach. And the wine contains only 11,6% of it.
Don Oliver 2011
Made from Irsai Olivér and Cserszegi fűszeres grapes, it is hinting even more at the proximity of Hungary and its winemaking traditions. The character of this wine is dominated by Muscat notes and minerality. This is the minerality of the Pannonian sands, which I find also in Muskat Krokan and Vojvodinian Italian Rieslings. It promises something very floral and rich, but this is a bone-dry wine, much in contrast to its smell. In this aspect, it is not unlike many Tamjanikas. Still, something bitter and greenish troubles me.
The spiciness typical for both varieties used for this wine might match very well the subtly piquant food of Hungary and Vojvodina, for instance, chicken paprikash (paprikás csirke in Hungarian, or just paprikaš in Serbian). And this you can find in almost every salaš.
According to the Serbian denomination system, which will be redefined the following years, it is merely a table wine: “stono vino”. This should not make you worried about quality of “Don Oliver” 🙂