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I’m Picking Grapes, I’m Choosing Tamjanika

I’m picking grapes, I’m choosing tamjanika

Tamjanika (or tamnjanika) is an almost epic paradigm of Serbian viticulture and winemaking. A variety that was almost forgotten and lost until just a quarter of a century ago. It was not in bottles, and it was found sporadically in the vineyards. Then, primarily through hard work and effort, first of all by small wineries and individuals, it came back again and now rules the Serbian white wine market in style. Its renaissance began in Župa, where there are currently the most plantings of this variety, and today it is planted all over Serbia. The return of tamjanika can be linked to the first quantities of wine from the Minić winery produced by Milorad – Mića Minić, and then to wines from the Spasić and Ivanović wineries. Today, we are witnessing the fact that Tamjanika is the best-selling white wine in Serbia, as well as the fact that a large number of wineries (certainly over 30) have wines with this label.

The new life of tamjanika is being seriously monitored by science. Thus, at last year’s invitation of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, the project of the Faculty of Technology in Leskovac (University of Nis) entitled “Development of the wine sector and popularization of white grape varieties with special emphasis on local varieties” was selected for funding. The main theme of this project is the tamjanika variety.

Current data indicate that the production of grapes and wine in Serbia is mainly focused on international grape varieties. On the other hand, indigenous, local and newly created wine varieties participate only with about 8%. In terms of varietal structure, based on the ratio of vineyard areas with white and red wine varieties that are kept in the Winery Register (5,763.43 ha of analyzed areas), white wine varieties are more prevalent and make up 58.46% of the total area. Graševina (Grašac), Chardonnay and Riesling are among the top five most represented wine varieties in Serbia based on the total area of vineyards. Smederevka, Tamjanika (Tamjanika group) and Slankamenka (Plovdina) are among the five most represented autochthonous and local varieties in terms of the area of wine-growing plots of white wine varieties. Tamjanika is mostly grown in the Tri Morava region (69.59 ha). Although the average area of commercial plantations with this grape variety is small (0.13 ha), this aromatic muscat variety has been cultivated in our area for a long time.

Tamjanika has fought for its position through many battles, and one of the biggest is the one in which its status as an autochthonous variety is defined. It is true that this variety is also grown in other countries where it is known under different names. Muscat frontignan and Muscat blanc (France), Muscato bianco and Moscato Canelli (Italy), Muskateller gelber (Germany), White Frontignan (USA), Tamaioasa (Romania), Muskat belii (Russia), and in Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia it is called Tamjanika. But, in addition to that, some research that is still in progress says that there are definitely differences at the level of clones that were created naturally, so it is safe to talk about “Serbian tamjanika”.

The specific goals of the project implemented by the Faculty of Technology are:

– Definition of standard quality parameters of sherry and wine of white grape varieties;
– Determination of the chemical composition and aromatic profile of wine of white grape varieties;
– Defining the characteristic sensory properties that correspond to the largest number of analyzed wines from white grape varieties;
– Defining the most suitable glass model for Tamjanika wine tasting in order to maximally express and emphasize the aroma and taste of this wine;
– Promotion and popularization of Serbian wines of white grape varieties.

All this with a special focus on local varieties, and in the first place on tamjanika as a distinct representative of domestic autochthonous white varieties.

Tamjanika develops a bush of great vegetative power. The top of the young shoot is light green with a bronze tint, and the mature shoot is medium thick and has medium long internodes. The leaf is medium-sized, five-parted, with green nerves and uneven pointed teeth. The flower is morphologically and functionally hermaphroditic. The sinus of the petiole is in the form of the Latin letter “V”, the petiole is of medium length, mostly without a mallet.

The berries of the white variety are medium-sized, round. The skin is yellow-green (with a brownish-copper shade on the sunny side), thicker, sprinkled with ash and dotted with small dots. The cluster is usually medium-sized, weighing from 100 to 200 grams, cylindrical or cylindrical-conical in shape, medium compact or compact.

Tamjanika is a late variety that ripens in the 3rd epoch. The variety is moderately productive, with yields varying from 10 to 15 tons/ha. The trellis method of cultivation is recommended on loose, moderately fertile to fertile, deep, calcareous soils, on southern and southeastern exposures. In relation to the most important diseases, Tamjanika is moderately sensitive to blight and powdery mildew, while it is slightly more sensitive to gray rot. It is moderately resistant to winter frosts – the leaves freeze at -20°C to -18°C. It thrives well on the rootstocks Berlandieri x Riparia Kober 5BB, Teleki 8 B, SO 4, Teleki 5C, etc.

The juice of this variety has a unique and unrepeatable nutmeg smell and taste. Sugar content ranges from 22 to 24% and acid from 5 to 7 g/l. The wines retain the distinctive muscat smell and taste, while the fruity and floral notes dominate over the milder citrus and spicy (incense, basil, cinnamon) notes.

Although mostly dry wines are produced from this variety in our country, you can find natural sweet late-harvest, semi-sweet, barrique, and even sparkling wines on the market.

All of the above only confirms the exceptional potential of this variety, as well as the fact that by applying modern technological methods of production, care and storage, high-quality, authentic wines with a pronounced local character can be produced.

Ultimately, the beauty of wine comes from the variety and terroir (the area or region the wine comes from). The authenticity of the grapes must be preserved in the final product – a bottle of wine. And precisely in this is the greatness of the task that is set before science. It should discover the right path, and then lead the Serbian wine producers along that path. This project of the Faculty of Technology is realized in that way.

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