Wine Cellar’s ID
Love for wine is in itself enough for the creation of a successful wine business and, judging from the Josić family winery in Baranya, at least as important as tradition. Damir Josić and his wife Vlatka bought their first vineyard in 1999. Today, just 11 years later, they have a model estate with twenty hectares of vineyards, a modern cellar for the primary processing of the vintage, and old underground Baranya cellars for the ageing of the wine, a lovely tasting room and a nicely arranged restaurant with an excellent bill of fare. We were in the food and hospitality business up to 1999 in Osijek. I always found Baranya delightful and we took the chance to move as fast as we could, right after the peaceful reintegration. Baranya is an Istria in little, there is something magic in it. In this job we brought together love for Baranya and passion for wine, says Damir Josić with pride; after all, he is not without roots in the winemaking trade. His mother Ivka comes from Daruvar, from the vineyard owning Koloušek family of the place.
Vineyards and varieties
About a half of the Josić vineyards, ten hectares then, are planted on famed Banovo brdo or Banska kosa [Ban’s hill or spur], a twenty-kilometre long elevation that rises above the Baranya flatland from the Danube off towards the Drava or from north east to south west. He has planted the remaining ten hectares at the foot of the same hill, which two thousand years ago the Romans had called Mons Aureus, Golden Hill, from these same golden wines. The vineyards are insolated from the south and protected from the cold winds from the north, and the grapes easily attain a maximum state of ripeness. And Baranya, which in Hungarian means wine mother, probably got its name from the healthy grapes and fine wines. Josić has in his vineyards mostly Italian Riesling, about 50%. As for other whites, he has planted Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris; reds are present with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Frankovka (known in Hungary and Austria as Kékfrankos / Blaufränkisch, respectively). He has, he claims, enough whites and intends to go on extending his red selection.
Cellar, technology, wines
Josić started the production of wine in an original old but nicely refurbished gator [local term], a 42 metre long underground cellar of 1935. He bought four more gators, put them in order and connected them up. Today they contain a restaurant and tasting room, and here the wines age. Primary processing of the grapes goes on in a new and contemporarily equipped plant over the gators. Josić has made a name for himself with Ciconia Nigra, a cuvée of the red varieties Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. He has another red blend, Baranjski Šiler, of Frankovka and Cabernet Sauvignon. The last named variety is also bottled by itself for, says Josić, it has proved outstanding in Baranya, and from Pinot Noir he also makes a rosé. His white wines are all varietal. He has Italian Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, in two lines. The better are called Superior and are full bodied, strong wines with complex aromas, aged in wooden barrels. He produces about 100,000 litres a year. His wines have won gold medals at numerous judged shows throughout Croatia, and he is regularly also commended for the tasteful bottles and labels on which he promotes the natural heritage of nearby Kopački rit.
Man and wife Damir and Vlatka started the business 11 years ago, and today they are helped by their eldest son, sixteen-year-old Ivan, when his duties in Osijek high school permit. Younger son Petar is only three. As the planted area expanded, so the family estate grew into a real business. After last year’s opening of a restaurant and the lucky rounding off of the whole business from cultivation and production to sale, the estate now employs thirty people. The work is demanding, says Damir Josić, but love pays him back with love. He is bothered most by his being able to depend least on himself and his own work. There are too many factors involved I can’t affect. We are satisfied, but I am not sure I will be happy if my sons go on with the business. Anyway, it’s up to me to put them through school and then they themselves will have to decide what they will commit to, says Damir, and you can hear in his voice the regret that he is afraid to recommend to his heirs the job he likes so much.
I want to produce luxurious, extract-full, lavish, aged and above all generous white and red wines. Strong, with higher percentages of alcohol, from 13.5% to 15%. These kinds of wines are the best in our Baranya, avers Josić, on whose whole estate you can see dedication to the region in which he works. As if he wanted to give back to wine mother Baranya at least a part of what he takes from her with the grapes and with the fish and game that prevail in his restaurant. He calls his Italian Riesling Terra Pannonium, thanking the terroir, the influence of the land and climate that are easily discernible in his wines as well as on the bottles. On the labels he has the protected birds of the region. The Italian Riesling has the black-winged stilt, while on the Sauvignon is the white stork, and the lapwing on the Pinot. The red wines are graced by the black stork. In the souvenir shop onto the restaurant and wine tasting room they sell indigenous Baranya souvenirs like paprika in especially designed packaging, straw sculptures of straw by the recognised sculptor Nikola Faller, ceramic Baranya cottages and other souvenirs that all have in common the promotion of Kopački rit nature park.
It’s likely that they’ll plant more black grapes, above all the Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and a bit of Cabernet Franc. The rest, says Josić, depends on the recession. Our primary plan is to survive, for times are very, very hard. Guests from the whole of Croatia and from Serbia and Hungary come into the restaurant and tasting room, and we do all we can to make sure they go away more and more satisfied and come back as soon as they can. And pass our name on. If the state in the country gets stable and the recession ends I would like to extend the current plant for primary processing so that this is not all it contains. Our long term plan is to provide accommodation facilities, that’s being increasingly sought in Baranya. But at the moment I daren’t take out a loan for such a large capital investment.