The art of wine-making in the north of Kosovo

The tradition of wine growing is being rekindled in Leposavic. Hectares of vines in the vineyards of Jevremovic and Lakicevic adorn the north of Kosovo. Inspired by the work and results of their more experienced colleagues, the up and coming winemakers are joining this tradition. The harvest is in progress, and the scenes from the slopes of Kopaonik and Rogozna fill your soul, and in a few months – wine glasses.

Winemaking in this area began modestly, but boldly, more than a decade ago. At first, the vines stretched to only a couple of dozen acres, at their own initiative and without support, today dozens of hectares of different grape varieties are a breathtaking sight to behold.

The largest orchards are located in the village of Kutnje at the Lakicevic winery. Our team was welcomed by a young winemaker Luka Lakicevic. Although finishing his studies in Italy and France, Lakicevic is perfecting his wine-growing skills in Austria, putting all of his acquired knowledge into the family winery. About 30 varieties of red and white grapes are grown on 12 ha of land on the slopes of Rogozna on the left bank of the Ibar, 10.5 ha of which are used for the production of about 30,000 liters of wine, and varieties that are tested for their suitability to be grown in this region stretch over a hectare and a half of land.

„We grow about 10 black grape varieties and 20 white ones, but our most common white varieties are chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling, and solaris. As for the black varieties, they are mostly bordeaux blends,“ said Luka.

The family, as the largest producer in the area, has a great responsibility to its region and market.

„It is not difficult to be the largest producer when there are few winegrowers. But joking aside, it is a great responsibility, because we actually represent our region and through our wine, we show people what our region is like. People drinking our wine imagine what it looks like,” said Slavisa Lakicevic, who started his own vineyard and later included his son Luka, who takes care of the quality of the wine, in the business.

Luka got his bachelor’s degree in agricultural sciences in Bolzano, Italy. He holds a master’s degree in viticulture and enology from France and Italy (Montpellier, Bordeaux, and Udine).

He is currently studying at the Austrian Wine Academy. In addition to working in the vineyard, he is also a consultant to other Serbian and Kosovan wineries, as well as wineries in Italy and Hungary.

At the same time, he is engaged in farming on a property near Vrsac.

You can find more details about the Lakicevic winery on their website

This winery entered the market for the first time this year. The first contingent has already been exported to Switzerland, another is being prepared for Russia, and the wines made in this vinery can already be found on the menu of several local restaurants.

„We came out this year with three wines. A red wine and two white wines. Our red wine is called merula – merula is the Latin term for the blackbird,“ explained Luka.

All Lakicevic wines are named after birds that are characteristic of the Kosovo region. The logo of this family winery is an eagle carrying a snake.

„This can be seen here in Leposavic. It kind of resembles the flag of the Mexican state, we only found that out later, but it is a small anecdote as far as we are concerned,“ he added.

The winery also has several wines in reserve, which it plans to place on the market the next season. This family winery also plans to expand by at least one hectare each season.

Large orchards require more than ten full-time employees, while additional workers are hired during the harvest.

„The risk is high, the responsibility is very great, not only because of whether the investment will succeed or fail but also because we have more workers. We have a responsibility toward them so that they have continuity in business,“ the young winegrower said.

Although the winery used to employ more workers, some of them eventually left.

„Those who stayed have been there from the beginning. They love this work, they are satisfied, they restored dignity to their family as they can count on receiving a salary every month, knowing what they are working for, and in the end, when a bottle of wine is opened you can see the effort and the results of the work. For me, that is the greatest thing in our business,“ said Slavisa.

The rekindling of viticulture started more than ten years ago from the village of Ulija, on a hill above the town and the slope of Kopaonik.

Milija Jevremovic was the first one to initiate more serious wine production. Before him, in the largest municipality in Kosovo, no one was professionally engaged in viticulture.

Although much smaller than the Lakicevic winery, Jevremovic’s vineyard triumphs with its organized layout, which also reveals the great love and work invested in the vines.

Lakicevic gave recognition to his older colleague, Milija Jevremovic.

„We have a colleague and friend who first started a more serious winery and initiative regarding the consumption of wine through his restaurant, and based on his reputation and through our ideas and interpretations, we started this story back in 2013.“

We found Milija in his vineyard, finishing up the last preparations before the harvest, which is late in his vineyard as well.

„It was difficult to sustain the vineyard at all, and not to use systematic fungicides – but to use only healthy food. That means that you had to be present in the vineyard all the time,“ said Milija.

„It is hard work, but it was done. We are running late by around 15 days, we are entering autumn and now face the issue of autumn frosts, the question is being raised whether we will carry out the process to the end. We have to wait and have patience,“ he added.

The Jevremovic family plans to finish the harvest in their vineyard this week, as they scrutinize the sky and clouds with apprehension. The grapes are ready, but now it all depends on whether it will rain.

„The grapes have been uncovered, ventilated, there are no diseases and we have to monitor it every day, to monitor its maturity,“ Milija explained.

Local wines are widely popular in northern Kosovo. Jevremovic’s wines are popular with local wine connoisseurs. From white chardonnay, muscadines, through red cabernet sauvignon, merlot to Izabela organic wine.

„The main thing is that people trust you and urge you to produce better wines every year and to fulfill what you promised, and that is what we and others here are doing, so we have healthy grapes from healthy food. We make healthy wines.”

Milija’s vineyards inspired others as well.

„My heart is full. For me, this stemmed from a love of viticulture. When I started planting, I didn’t know much about it, and then I went to school and with all that work I put into it I made it interesting for people, to believe in it, and even today new vineyards are sprouting. One must be exultant about it.“

The newest vineyard located at the highest point of the slopes of Kopaonik belongs to the Antonijevic family. It was built last year in the village of Majdevo.

„The idea appeared a couple of years ago when the Jevremovic and Lakicevic families started planting vines in Leposavic. The idea came to me to plant a family vineyard in the area of ​​Majdeva, not a commercial one,“ said Prvoslav Antonijevic.

In cooperation with experts from the Faculty of Agriculture in Lesak and his more experienced colleagues, Antonijevic began searching for a variety that can thrive at this altitude – the paradise Riesling.

Antonijevic has only words of praise for his colleagues from the Lakicevic and Jevremovic wineries, whom he sees not only as his advisors and older colleagues who selflessly helped him, but friends as well.

The first wine from the Antonijevic estate is expected in two years. Prvoslav also reveals that they plan to form an association of winegrowers.

„For us, small producers, it means a lot,“ he added.

„It’s very enjoyable when you have vineyards next to your house. I think that this is the future not only of this area but of the whole of Serbia and that there is a great opportunity in agriculture,“ this wine-growing novice said.

The year was bad for viticulture, with heavy rains and less sunny days. However, the winegrowers from the north are satisfied. September helped them out, they say. Although the vegetation was late, and therefore the harvest as well, the Lakicevic vineyard had a good harvest, while Jevremovic is set to start harvest soon.

„The struggle lasts for 364 days and the harvest takes one day. Today is the day. The grapes are excellent, very healthy,“ said Slavisa Lakicevic.

There will be fewer grapes, but of better quality, added Milija Jevremovic.

Blood, tears, sweat – but they all fit into one glass. Wine accompanies a person from birth to death.

„Because all this, the land, the sun, the rain, the water, the everyday work, the sweat… all of that is poured together in one glass when the bottle is finally opened. If it is good, then everything else is forgotten,“ concluded Slavisa Lakicevic.

We can expect to enjoy the 2020 harvest in our homes or restaurants somewhere at the beginning of next year.

Watch our reportage, prepared by Ivan Vuckovic.

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