Vladimir Panajotović, Wine Cellar Panajotović

Finding The Right Wine For Everyone

Wine Cellar Panajotović produces wines from superior grape varieties sourced from Serbia’s most renowned vineyards – from Smederevo, Erdevik and Velika Drenova, to Banoštor on Fruška Gora – and produces them according to a traditional ancestral recipe that’s perfected with modern technologies and scientific discoveries

Wine tourism is on the rise and almost all wineries across the country organise wine tours, but our interlocutor, Mr Vladimir Panajotović, is the only winemaker who receives visitors in ancient cavern chambers located 10 metres underground, organises tastings of top wines and food at a constant temperature of 12°C.

Over the course of almost an entire century, four generations of the Panajotović family have sought to provide their wine with enough love and expertise to make it the best it could possibly be. What represented the starting point? Was it Grandfather Toma’s vision that you are still pursuing?

That somehow came naturally, because our family’s winemaking tradition dates back to 1927, when my great-grandfather, Toma, produced the first quantities of wine, as one of the smaller producers in Kruševac, only for his operation to subsequently grow into serious production of approximately 200,000 litres of wine and 50,000 litres of rakija.

His cellar was taken from him after World War II, and that cellar operated as the Trstenica Cooperative until 1985. My grandfather continued producing small quantities of wine, around 2,000-3,000 litres purely for personal consumption, only for my father to relaunch wine production here in Belgrade back in 1994, with the first wine bottled as early as 1995. It was quite logical for me to continue pursuing my grandfather’s vision and my family tradition.

What is the secret to your success? Which wine is the most precious to you?

The secret is in persistence and in effort. Even when it seems as though we’ve hit a wall that has nothing beyond it, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

Over the past few years, the wine hasn’t been served by the best weather, but we somehow always manage to overcome the problems and turn out the best wines. My favourite wine is Victor Barrique.

What’s included in everything you offer the visitors who leave your winery feeling enchanted and delighted?

We leased our chamber, where we store our wines and hold tasting sessions, from Public Enterprise Skloništa Srbije [Serbian Shelters] more than 18 years ago, because it maintains a constant temperature of 12 degrees, which is excellent for storing wine. We’ve actually always been fascinated by the entire history of Belgrade’s subterranean world, especially the symbolism, because the caverns were created by the Romans in the 1st century AD, when they first started settling this region. It was also then that they brought vines, because wine was very important, in various aspects, for all civilisations of the ancient world. The caverns that we use were also used by the Nazis in World War II, because the station of the secret police was in the same street.

Our range of wines is designed to cater to all tastes, or rather we ensure that everyone can find something that suits their taste perfectly

Our range of wines is designed to cater to all tastes, or rather we ensure that everyone can find something that suits their taste perfectly. At our tastings, the wines are tried in a specific order, and that’s done for two reasons. Firstly, each subsequent wine is stronger than the previous one, and the tasting can also represent lunch, so we have an appetiser, a main course and a dessert. We do tastings in Serbian and English, with professional guides in a cavern that’s 10 metres underground. Local guests are extremely interested in the winemaking process, have plenty of questions about it and seek advice, while foreign tourists like to hear about the history and culture of the wine, about myths and legends. I like to think that we’ve covered all aspects.

Apart from winemaking and wine tourism, one branch of your company also handles consulting services. Which aspects of your operations does this segment encompass?

Alongside wine production and wine tourism, a branch of our company also deals with the providing of consulting services in the field of wine and rakija production, conducting complete laboratory analyses of wine, as well as designing and equipping wineries.

There are multiple different aspects of providing consulting services in the field of wine production. We have consultations in managing wine production from the initial stages – determining the right moment to harvest grapes, consultations during the grape harvest itself, during processing, fermentation, finalisation and, ultimately, clarification and bottling of the wine. We also provide standalone consultations at any stage during the wine production process, consultations on midcourse corrections aimed at improving a wine’s organoleptic properties, consultations on the production of fruit distillates in accordance with the fruit-to-bottle system.

And in addition to all of this, we can also provide a wine production service – clients send us grapes, and we send them top-quality wine in the bottle. This service implies the complete production of wine from the grapes that are submitted to us, and it has proven to be a wonderful opportunity for all vineyard owners who don’t have their own cellars, but want to try their hand at winemaking, as well as for great wine lovers who procure grapes from verified vineyards because they want to make top quality wines but lack the required material conditions.

Why do you insist on limited small batches?

To us, it is much more important that we produce high-quality wines than that we respect the year and capacity. If a year happens to be very bad for grape cultivation, and thus for wine production, we have to choose what we will produce in such a way that our quality doesn’t fall. As a wine lover, my collection includes wines aged over 10 years.

The best promoters of your wines are tourists who’ve had an opportunity to enter the chambers on Senjak?

That’s right! Alongside our own inhouse marketing team, the best marketing is always word of mouth. That is literally true in our case, because the wines are recommended precisely by those who’ve tried them. Thanks to the Wine Lovers Club of Panajotović Cellar and our online shop, our wines reach all parts of the world.

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