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Sonja and Nataša Vrkatić, owners of the Verkat Winery

Verkat Wine Oasis

Verkat is a small family winery located in the village of Čerević, on the northern side of Mount Fruška Gora, in the close proximity to its own vineyards. It emerged out of a unique, unusual plantation of Istrian Malvasia, which is also why Verkat wines are unique and unusual

The Verkat winery is run by two sisters who every year carefully select hand-picked grapes for production in order to develop specific aromas and flavours. Their assortment is somewhat unusual, as is their desire to remain in the segment of small wineries, but that makes Verkat authentic.

There can be no wine without passion and love, whether you produce it or truly enjoy its taste. What’s the source of your passion for wine?

Wine has always occupied an important place in our lives, both privately and as a family, but also as part of the culture of the area from which we hail. Viticulture and winemaking occupy an extremely important place in the history of the private life of the region of Srem, in the culture, customs and rituals, and even in the annual calendar that follows the rhythm of vineyard cultivation. The vineyard is a place that seems close to you when you grow up in Srem, and it is a given that wine is an important part of all stories and events. In that specific context, respect and love for wine were not strange to us, and they are certainly part of the reason why we started our own wine story.

On the other hand, our father started a small production of Malvasia in Čerević, based on his personal passion for wine, so private winemaking has always been part of our lives, and the vineyard is a place of very fond memories of our upbringing. In a way, Verkat is the realisation of a desire that we’ve had for many years.

The history of your winery is connected to a Malvasia plantation from 1957, which was found on Fruška Gora by your father Lazar. How come he opted for this Mediterranean grape variety in Vojvodina? How did those vines lead to you establishing Verkat?

Malvasia somehow just happened to find its way to Fruška Gora. Connected to its journey are stories from the village that explain how this strange thing happened. Cuttings arrived by train from Istria and the cooperative planted them in the place where we found them. Due to a combination of circumstances or the experience of Banoštor winegrowers, Malvasia was planted in a place that turned out to be perfect, in a mild high valley that protected it from winds and frost. Here this variety not only succeeded in taking root, but also to thrive and bear fruit throughout all these years. Our father founded his vineyard there, which later became the backbone of our winery.

Making our wine from our own grapes is extremely important to us, as it enables us to control the entire production

And while we’re mentioning the name Verkat, how did it come about? Is the name of the winery somehow associated with your surname?

Our surname comes from Berksovo, a village near Šid. We believe that Verkat is the root of our surname from the German language, which was given a Slavic adaptation over time. In the Austro-Hungarian administrations censuses from the end of the 18th century, which we found, one Verkat appears and then later disappears, only to become Vrkatić. It is also interesting that the first Vrkatić paid his ten per cent tax in wine.

You make all your wines exclusively from grapes grown in your own plantations. Do you plan to gradually increase production while remaining in the segment of small wineries?

Making our wine from our own grapes is extremely important to us. This gives us an opportunity to control the entire production and we are able to develop a special quality and aroma related to the region from which the wines come. We currently have more plantations than required for our annual wine production, but we are increasing production slightly every year. In addition to their annual capacity, small wineries are characterised by their approach to wine production. It is primarily orientated towards and related to the locality where we are situated, responsible processing and care for the vineyard, developing the local quality of wine, aromatics, but also the possibilities brought by smaller production for experimentation and smaller series that can yield exceptional results. Regardless, we would like to always remain a small winery.

You have decided to advance step-by-step, to conquer the market with quality. Is that why you’ve limited yourself to two white wines and one rosé? Would one variety of red grape round off your authentic story?

The production of white wine is closer to us privately, so that’s what we’ve primarily concentrated on. We also wanted to make an interesting story and exceptional wines from three varieties that are traditionally some kind of house wines, Malvasia in Istria, Grašac and Muscat Hamburg in Srem, without planting large international varieties. When it comes to red wine, we would also like that to be something interesting and local. The plan is to raise plantations that would round off our offer. Considering that our assortment is perhaps slightly unusual, the search for a variety that would complete it taking quite a long time. We hope this search will be completed soon and that we’ll be able to offer a very interesting red wine.

Apart from better-supplied wine shops in Belgrade and Novi Sad, you can always find and taste our wines at our wine house in Čerević

Wines with the Verkat label are available in better-supplied wine shops and selected restaurants. Where else can they be found?

Apart from better-supplied wine shops in Belgrade and Novi Sad, you can always try our wines at our wine house in Čerević. We are lucky that our winery is housed in an old building dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, with a beautiful yard that complements the experience of wine tasting for our visitors in the best possible way. We would hereby like to invite everyone to visit our oasis of wine.

The winery is run by the two of you as sisters, while your chief oenologist is also a woman. Are we approaching a time when ladies will be increasingly present in this business?

This question is often mentioned, given that it is rare for women to be the owners of vineyards and wineries, but they are actually very much present. We always note that taking care of vineyards was traditionally a woman’s job and that the female workforce remains extremely important in that segment. The number of women on our wine scene, as technologists and winegrowers, is not negligible, nor is their contribution to improving the quality of Serbian wines. On the contrary! Their contribution is great, but they lack visibility, so we also hope that this will change. The Wine Talks series, about ladies in the wine world, should also contribute to this and can be watched by anyone who is interested in this topic.

The experience, knowledge and number of ladies on the wine scene in Serbia is large, and that’s perhaps surprising at first glance, but is certainly commendable.

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