Make Slavonia Great Again: Oak Barrel Production Returns to Croatia

Total Croatia News

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October 21, 2019 – Slavonian oak is among the best in the world and particularly sought after by the wine industry. And now Slavonian oak barrels are being made once more in Croatia. 

The first time I heard about Slavonia was back in 1996. I had no idea that it was in Croatia, and my introduction to the region was due to one of its finest products – Slavonian oak. In my new job as a wine merchant almost 25 years ago, I learned that the three most highly prized types of oak for ageing wines came from France, the United States, and Slavonia. 

Time passed, and I moved to Croatia and eventually visited Slavonia, the region with the famous oak. These boys sure knew how to build a wine barrel – the lead photo is of the 53,000 litre barrel in Kutjevo. 


Below, one of 9,000 litres in Ilockli Podrum, scene of our weekend visit, and currently the largest barrel in the Ilok cellars. It used to be one of the smallest, but all the big ones were destroyed during the war. And it was during my tour of Ilok that I learned the most incredible thing. While the winery continued to use Slavonian oak for the ageing of its wines, some of which were served at the Royal weddings of both William and Harry, as well as the Queen’s coronation back in 1953, until very recently, it was impossible to order these barrels in Croatia. 

For there was nobody in Croatia making Slavonian oak barrels for the Croatian wine industry or any other. They continued to make Slavonian oak, but the barrels were ordered from coopers in Italy or France. Slavonian oak quality going to Slavonian wine quality via a foreign country’s expertise. Crazy. 

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The biggest wine barrel ever made from Slavonian oak, some 75,000 litres and still in use today in Erdut. And this very same barrel is linked to the rebirth of the Slavonian oak barrel industry… 

Let’s go back 40 years or so to days when life was simpler in Djurdjenovac and Slavonian oak barrels were produced locally.

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A 56,000 litre barrel? Why not bigger? Enter the monster 75,000 litre barrel now in Erdut, above.

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At the end of 2017, the latest chapter of Slavonian oak production was written. Master cooper Julijo Pepelko and his son Hrvoje teamed up to start Pepel Co, once more making barrels from Slavonian oak. And not only that, but some of the oak barrels were put to use to make an entirely new and totally unique product – Croatia’s very first whisky, PEPEL No. 1. 

We have yet to try it, but it is on the TCN list. In the meantime, let’s celebrate a little bit of Slavonian quality which has come home. 

Learn more about the oak barrels and whisky of Pepel Co from the official website


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