About the Golden Valley
Just like Romans used to call the wine growing Banovo Brdo in Baranja Mons Aureus – golden hill, so they named the area of modern-day Požega Valis Aurea – golden valley. The importance of wine for the Romans needs no emphasis. In the end vines defined the limits of the Roman Empire and the cult of Dionysus was widespread and respected. The Golden Valley is bordered by Dilj Mountain, Psunj, Ravna Gora, Požega Mountain, Papuk and Krndija. The best known wine positions are the south slopes of Papuk and Krndija. They have a unique terroir. Climate, soil and terrain are intertwined in harmony. As for the terrain, mild slopes of the southern side are ideal for the production of high quality wines, the soil is characterised by ideal biological and physical-chemical properties, while all more significant characteristics of the climate such as wind, rainfall, warmth and sunlight contribute to that situation. The veteran of Croatian meteorology mr.sc. Milan Sijerković wrote and published in 2006 the book Climate with a Taste of Wine – Meteorological History, Weather and Climate of Požega and Požega Valley and eight years later published the book Kutjevo Wine Growing Area – Weather and Climate of the Golden Valley. The Golden Valley has many more or less known wine riches. My mission is to point out the latter, hidden from media exposure and not adequately presented (but deserving!).
Vetovo is a town which in administrative sense belongs to Kutjevo, one of the more significant wine growing centres of the Republic of Croatia. It is the largest suburb of Kutjevo and between Vetovo and Kutjevo there are four smaller villages known for its wine growing positions and tourism content: Lukač, Hrnjevac, Venje and Mitrovac. Lukač is known for the restaurant Fishing House, Hrnjevac by the same name Adžić Premium Graševina, Venje by the famous coupage of Ivan Enjingi and Mitrovac by the Graševina of Ivica Perak and Vlado Krauthaker. In Vetovo is the famous restaurant Schön Blick known for the house specialty – drunk carp.
In a way, until recently Vetovo was in the shade of Kutjevo, but with the establishment of the Wine Growers, Winemakers and Fruit Grower Association Veteri Castri, some three and a half years ago the situation began to change and Vetovo managed to brand itself as an independent winemaking destination, attracting a larger number of visitors through various manifestations. Up until Veteri Castri was established, the Vetovo winemakers were members of similar associations in Kutjevo and Kaptol and decided the time has come to better affirm their interests and needs. The name comes from the Templar convent from the 13th century, from which the current Vetovo town developed. It brings together around forty winemakers, wine growers and fruit growers (and individuals associated with wine) who cultivate 170 hectares of vineyards in Vetovo and Lukač, presided currently by renowned Vetovo winemaker Branko Jakobović. Out of all the members, it can be said 6 of them have more significant commercial capacity, meaning sufficient quantities (and quality) of wine to make a difference on the market. These are wineries Jakobović, Pavić, Ivanović, Šipura, Mandić and Soldo.
It was the Soldo winery that I chose to visit during my travel through the Golden Valley, mainly due to the fact it was the absolute winner of the recent rating of Vetovo wines. Winemakers rated each other based on blind tasting. The winner in the category of white wines among 18 samples was Soldo’s Graševina and in red wines Soldo’s cuvee. Enough reason to visit the Soldo winery and talk to the owner – Gojko Soldo.
“Last year in Kutjevo I was also champion at the Graševina Festival where the competition was much fiercer – 150 samples were rated.”
Gojko Soldo has been in winemaking commercially since 2011, but before that he produced for his own needs, so the tradition of wine growing and winemaking is much longer. He owns 8 hectares of his own vineyards and processes another seven leased. Other than Croatia, they are also present on the market in Germany and Switzerland. Every year in Germany they sell around 7-8 thousand bottles of wine.
“I do everything on my own, within the family, from the pruning in the vineyard to the bottling so I can say without false modesty that my wines are an indigenous product. The product of my work and knowledge and unique terroir where the grapes ripen.”
Along with standard varieties such as Graševina, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, scented Traminac, Pinot Nero and Merlot, Soldo has some lesser known varieties for our region such as Manzoni and the forgotten Rizvanac. Manzoni is a cross-breed of Rhine Riesling and Pinot Blanc, named after its creator, the Italian professor who created it in 1930. As for Rizvanac the common opinion is that it was created by breeding Rhine Riesling and Green Silvaner. But the truth is it was created at the end of the 19th century from Rhine Riesling and Madeleine Royale. Rizvanac is known in the world as Muller-Thurgau.
The most recent award for the Soldo winery came from the neighbouring Kaptol. At the 10th wine rating of Požega-Slavonia County Vino Kap held on May 5 in Kaptol, Soldo wines were given three awards for the Sauvignon, scented Traminac and Manzoni.
A specific characteristic of wines by Gojko Soldo is the unusually low level of sulphur.
“Some wines such as superior Chardonnay have a sulphur concentration of 73, while the legal limit is 200. An average concentration is 150. Due to the low concentration of sulphur my wines can age very long. As a result, they never give you a headache.”
I would add, they not only avoid headaches, they cure existing ones! Soldo wines are a pleasant surprise and definitely one of the wine pearls of the Golden Valley.