Fruška gora

The history of winemaking and viticulture on the Fruška gora mountain

Cultivation of grapevine and wine production in Srem and on the Fruška gora mountain falls among the oldest ones in Europe. Ancient authors Strabo and Dio have recorded grapevine to be cultivated in the Pannonia lowlands already by Illyrians. Nevertheless, the flourishing of viticulture in these parts and beginnings of winemaking are tied to the ancient Romans. Emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus (232 – 282) has abolished the almost two centuries long prohibition of winegrowing in Roman provinces and has planted the first vines in the surrounding of villages of Divoš and Grgurevci, in the vicinity of Sirmium (today’s city of Sremska Mitrovica). Those places still treasure the remnants of buildings and wine cellars. Historical data indicate that such first vines were brought from the south of the Italian Peninsula, over 1,700 years ago.

During the 7th century, this region was settled by Slaves, who have gotten acquainted with the manners of winegrowing and the joys of winemaking. After the Kosovo Battle in 1389 and the invasion of Turks, the Serbian people have moved to the North. The people, noblemen and clergy who settled in Srem have brought their experience in winemaking. They are to be credited for the change of vine varieties on the Fruška gora mountain. Instead of the white ones, the red varieties brought from the South have become dominant.

Unfortunately, the Turkish invasion of this area in early 16th century has resulted in stagnation in growing of grapevine and winemaking. A Turkish travel writer, geographer and historian has recorded that the Srem Sanjak abounds with hills covered by noble vineyards.

Srem and Banat have entered the Hapsburg Monarchy pursuant to the Treaty of Karlowitz of 1699. Grapevine growing experienced a renaissance; areas under vineyards were increased and wines from the Fruška gora mountain have become esteemed in Europe, in particular Bermet and Ausbruch.

Zaharije Orfelin has published in Vienna in 1783 his book The Experienced Cellarer. This encyclopedia of winemaking has assembled the entire knowledge of the time on making of wines not only from Fruška gora, but also from France, Italy and Germany.

Archimandrite of the Rakovac Monastery, Prokopije Bolić, has published in Budim in 1816 his book A Perfect Winemaker (“Soveršen vinodelac”), which rose to preciousness because of its detailed description of 35 grapevine varieties that were grown at the time on the Fruška gora mountain. He has set out for each variety its people’s name, botanical description and economical and technical features. He has also systematized his personal experiences and knowledge acquired in monastic vineyards and wine cellars.

The epidemic of phylloxera, which devastated the vineyards of Europe, failed to pass Srem by. Here, phylloxera occurred in 1881 and by 1890 all old vineyards of Fruška gora were obliterated. The restoration and recuperation of vineyards has lasted for almost 30 years. Again, production of prevailingly red grape varieties was replaced by white ones, the most represented ones being white and red Slankamenka, Italian Riesling, red Dinka, Šasla, Frankovka etc. If Bermet and Ausbruch have had been the most recognizable vines of winemakers from Fruška gora in the 18th and 19th century, then Italian Riesling became that in the 20th century. Which wine will stand out in the 21st century, it remains yet to be found out.