Ask the Pros: 2017 Balkan Vintage Report

What a rollecoaster of weather conditions 2017 has been. From spring frost to extreme temperatures to heavy rain, this was truly the survival of the fittest. Only the most competent viticulturists got their grapes out of this alive and well and have passed the torch to their winemakers. Talking to some of the most skillful people in the Balkan region, I can conclude that the 2017 vintage will bring bottled magic to our tables. We just have to WAIT. Will it be worth it? Read on and find out.

This year’s harvest was one of the most complex we experienced taking into consideration the techniques and technology used in the whole process from vineyard to fermentation. Low temperatures led to partial bud freezing and, although that’s not good for some, it suited us because we reduce buds and yields every year to get higher quality grapes. To compensate for the frost damage, many Macedonian viticulturists benefited by the grape race, in which Albania, Serbia, Bulgaria and others took grapes from here, resulting in prices of the fruit going through the roof. Several heat strokes followed with temperatures above 40°C. This combination led to a quality that rarely occurs in nature without human intervention, so all in all, we are extremely satisfied. ~ Boris Necev (Bovin)

#seasonstarted #bovinwine #bovinwinery

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This year was very dry, but we overcame the lack of rainfall with vineyard irrigation. Grapes entered veraison in phenomenal condition. Of course, grapes for sparkling wine (Pinot Noir, Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay) were harvested first on 17th August. Now, after the fermentation, I can say that this will be an excellent sparkling wine. What followed was a nerve-racking experience due to September rain, but thanks to my team, we were able to complete the harvest successfully. All the whites will be excellent. The reds are also on the level of Meneghetti’s reliable quality, but it’s still too early to talk about the aging potential. We will check the input parameters after fermentation. ~ Damir Bosek (Meneghetti)

Thank you for reaching out, inquisitive about the 2017 harvest. As you may know, Negotinska Krajina is the warmest part of Serbia and this year was the hottest in the last 10 years. This resulted in average white grapes and top-quality blacks. A great drought already hit in early spring which resulted in poor fertilization and reduced yields. Because of this, early-ripening white varieties such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc quickly burned out. On the other hand, late-ripening varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon reached phenomenal sugar levels while retaining extract, acidity and tannins. EXCELLENT. The wines of the harvest are definitely Kremen and Kremen Kamen. These wines are massive and will need to be aged a little longer before they hit the market. Potential is 10+ years. ~ Nikola Mladenović Matalj (Matalj)

Berba Kabernea 2017.

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This year in the Knjaževac wine region was characterized by exceptionally high temperatures between 35 and 40°C and very little rain. This affected the grapes’ metabolism resulting in a great pH and lower sugar levels of white grapes (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling). The yields were reduced by 10-20% depending on the variety. We achieved the desired abv – white and rosé wines will have 12,5-13%, while reds will have between 13,5 and 14%. Winery Jović is a “boutique” winery which concentrates on quality, so the yield reduction did not affect us. This philosophy led to six of our labels falling into the category of “premium wine” (of 22 altogether in Serbia). ~Saša Jović (Winery Jović)

Budimo se…😀🍇🍇🍇

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Our harvest is slowly reaching the final stage. We’re sorting the clusters for our Selekcija and Rezerva wines, which are showing hints of becoming very good. We benefited from a cooler September that led to a perfect phenolic ripeness of Vranac and Merlot. Cabernet Sauvignon is still to be picked, but we also expect fruit for big wines. We’ve finished the fermentation of white grapes (except for the selections) and I am very happy with the results! The freshness was preserved regardless of high temperatures, but we had to work 20% harder in the vineyard for this. We expect that the 2017 wines will be tremendous regardless of difficulties initially created by spring frost and lower yields. ~ Radovan Vukoje (Vukoje)

At Verus, this year’s vintage began on 30th August and finished on 27th September. The ripening of fruit was very fast, which is usually not the best, but we had rain in June that luckily gave the vines enough water for development. Another favorable fact is that the night temperatures in August were unusually low (12-15°C). Such conditions enabled the pleasant development and preservation of aromas and acidity. Weather conditions at the beginning of the harvest were excellent, but at the end became unfavorable due to abundant rain. We had to hurry to separate the spoiled grapes from the healthy ones, but fortunately, this was not a difficult tasks. All in all, we are very pleased with this vintage and I think that all our wines will shine. ~ Danilo Šnajder (Verus)

The 2017 vintage proved to be exceptional for Aleksandrović, especially for white and rosé wines. The yields were lower this year, but the fruit quality may well be the best in our history. We surely underline the quality of our main brands – Trijumf Selection and Trijumf Gold. When it comes to black grape varieties, we are very pleased with Merlot and Cabernet Franc, while Cabernet Sauvignon is still on the vines. The weather was ideal and the vintage is likely to be remembered. Regent Reserve and Rodoslov Grand Reserve are the red highlights we are looking forward to. As far as harvesting is concerned, yields were lower for white varieties because we had a small problem with hail in our Chardonnay vineyard, but this will not affect the quality in any way. Rain was evenly distributed throughout the year, so this leads us to a conclusion that we will hopefully be celebrating 2017 as one of our best vintages of the last decade. ~ Vladan Nikolić (Aleksandrović)

We had extreme drought in Croatia and in much of Europe as well. As a result, our best south-facing positions were affected – Dingač and Postup. The yields here were decreased by 50-60%, but the quality of the fruit, considering all these factors, was surprisingly good. The optimal balance between sugars and acids was achieved, so lovers of massive and concentrated wines – this is the vintage for you. Look out for Dingač 2017, it’s going to be monumental. ~Mateo Vicelić (Boutique Winery Vicelić)

We managed to harvest grapes from Stranice and Ostri Vrh vineyards already (8th-20th September). The heavy rain in September changed our expectations from excellent to good, so the wines of 2017 won’t be strong in structure, but could surprise with their aromatics. All in all, our expectations are the highest for wines from grapes we picked before the rain – Burja Noir (Pinot Noir) and Burja Bela (Malvazija). Surprises could happen, wine always needs time… ~ Primož Lavrenčič (Wine Estate Burja)

We are not an exception to yield reduction, the whole harvest was significantly smaller (around 50% in comparison to 2016). Poor pollination and drought in some parts of the peninsula have made their effect known. White grape varieties have slightly lower acidity levels due to drought which burned out the acid and aromatics. On the other hand, we have extremely healthy Plavac Mali crops and are looking forward to good quality. When we sum up everything with a focus on quality, we can be happy with this vintage. ~ Damir Štimac (Winery Rizman)

Prepared by Aleksandar Draganić.

I’m a WSET certified grape juice drinker, and yes, I’m that 1% of people that love their job. I drink wine, write about it, preach about it, even take pictures of it. Find me at @grapenomad

 

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