The Slava Diary #4: The Cat’s Shadow

On our final day in Serbia my mate’s brother, who still lives in Novi Sad, organised a trip to a local winery. Time for me to bore the crap out of everyone else with my questions! But also time for me to check out the international varieties and how they get on round here.

We turned up at the Mačkov Podrum winery, which directly translates as “Tom Cat” to be met by Sava, the manager and owner of the place. We had a quick look round the tanks and the cellar. I was actually surprised by the standard of the equipment. I know that sounds bad, but I’d been told by my mate to expect a really rustic effort. But having seen about 10 temperature controlled stainless steel vats (pretty expensive things but hugely important for getting a consistent quality year in year out), and an almighty hydraulic press (used to crush grapes very gently) I already knew that the wines we were about to try were most likely going to be pretty well produced.

The Tom Cat itself!
The Tom Cat itself!

We started the tasting with the whites. Welsch Rizling (not to be confused with German Riesling), Chardonnay, and a Gewürztraminer. I was really impressed with the fresh styles they’d managed to achieve with each of them. Sava told us the ethos behind the whites. He likes them fresh and easy to drink, so there we go, that’s what he produces. You can’t say fairer than that. Each wine had hints of the varietal charachters you’d expect, but they were wines you could easily sup on a sunday afternoon fairly happily. Dare I say it, they’d make pretty good ingredients for spritzers (don’t judge me!).

By the time the reds came out, the rest of the party were falling fast. I’d been grilling (in a nice way) the owner for so long, we’d lost track of time, so had to get our skates on before closing. We started with the Portugizer (Serbian spelling). I’ve only ever seen this before in my trips to Germany. I was really impressed with this one. They made it in the style of a “nouveau” wine. This is a wine that is bottled really soon after harvest, for release in the November a few weeks after. This is done famously in the Beaujolais region of France, but plenty of other areas in the world do something similar. It was light bodied, very fruity, and an excellent one I reckon, to have slightly chilled for lunch some time.

On sale at MOMA in New York apparently!
On sale at MOMA in New York apparently!

The final wine of the day (my fault entirely) was their Pinot Noir. Now I was a bit curious about this one. I spoke a bit about Pinot Noir in my pieces I did a while back on Burgundy. It loves medium temperatures. It’s ripens way too quickly or too slowly with just a slight nudge either side of perfect conditions. For anyone who doesn’t know, the Balkans are roasting hot in the summers (35-40 degrees), and freezing cold in the winter (as low as -10 degrees). Yes Fruška Gora is up high in the mountains, and the Danube isn’t far away, so you do get a bit of temperature moderation, but it clearly still gets plenty hot. The owner even had an out building whose Serbian name translated as the Cat’s Shadow, a play on the winery’s name and the need for some shade from the sun in the middle of summer.

The Pinot Noir was clearly from a hot region. It smelled like when you open a jar of strawberry or raspberry jam for your morning toast. Not exactly obnoxious, but anyone who was after a fresh and fruity Pinot Noir would have been a bit let down. Me? Well I think I’m fairly happy to go for all styles, as long as I know roughly what to expect. And this was. And I did enjoy it.

The other three reds (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and the blend of the two commonly known as a “Bordeaux” blend) would have to wait for another time. Our host had to nip off to the doctor’s, and the rest of our crew wanted to head back to town to get the afternoon food fest started. I was pretty impressed with the freshness of the whites, despite the heat of the summers, and the Portugizer was worth the visit on its own.

At £3 for a bottle, you can’t really moan that they’re ripping you off either. Now just got to work out how to pack a few of these bottles in the bag for the flight home.




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