Croatian Winemakers: Josić in Zmajevac, Baranja

Total Croatia News

Some of the Croatian wineries we’ve been writing about take pride in the long family tradition of winemaking. Other really good wineries don’t have the long winemaking tradition to brag about, and winery Josić in Zmajevac, Baranja is one of them. Damir Josić, the owner, had several jobs before becoming a full-time winemaker: he was a tailor, dog trainer and a pizzeria owner, but then in 1999 decided with his wife to buy a vineyard and a “gator” in Baranja.

Gator is a word that even most Croatians aren’t sure what it means; it’s a very local term to Baranja, meaning the wine cellar not dug vertically, deep in the soil, but rather horizontally into the Banova kosa (the only hill in Baranja that has been growing wines and famous for it since the Roman times). And now they have five such cellars, inter-connected, and around 20 hectares of the premium vineyards in Baranja, where they grow over 10 wine varieties and are one of the largest wine producers in Eastern Croatia.

And one of the things they did is a revolution of a sort: they have shown that red wines from Baranja can be excellent, wonderfully complex and balanced, and previously Baranja was mostly known as white-wine region (Podrumi Belje, admittedly, also participated in that revolution with some of their premium wines). Josić’s Ciconia Nigra (the black stork, a bird that lives in Baranja) is a blend of three varieties, cabernet franc, carbernet sauvignon and pinota noir, and is probably the most awarded wine made in Baranja, receiving awards almost wherever it appeared. If you get a chance, have it with some game or other dark meat or a strong cheese, you’ll thank us for the recommendation. The other well known red blend is Baranjski šiler (also named after a bird), blended frankovka and carbernet sauvignon, and the winery also bottles their cabernet sauvignon as a varietal wine.

They produce a lovely rose wine from their pinot noir, and the rest of their offer is varietal white wines: graševina, sauvignon (appropriately named Ciconia Bianca!) and pinot gris. So, if you ever see a wine with a lovely bird on the label, it’s probably one of Josić’s wines, and you won’t be making a mistake if you buy it. And, if you find yourself near Baranja, go visit their beautiful cellars, old-fashioned but very modern and their restaurant, and taste the wines the only hill in Baranja created.




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