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Aleksandar Todorović is one of a vanguard of producers in Serbia dedicated to natural wines. With his commitment to grapes such as Grašac, Zupljanka, and Prokupac, Todorović is also part of an expanding movement exploring the full potential of the country’s native varieties.

By Ian Bancroft

Aleksandar Todorović, at only twenty-five years of age, is one of a new vanguard of producers in Serbia dedicated to natural wines. In his words, he makes wines ‘in a natural way, without filtration, without clarification, without the addition of sulphur or with small amounts of sulphur’. ‘My philosophy is simple’, he adds, and it revolves around ‘maximum respect for nature and preservation of natural habitat’.

His small plot of three hectares is found in the village of Lipovac, near the town of Aleksinac, in the southeast corner of Serbia. The vineyards are in three different localities – Trševine, Kačarnica, and Ciglana. The first is primarily composed of heavy vertisol (or smonica, which has high clay content), the second limestone, and the third a mix of limestone and vertisol.

A selection of Todorović’s range was offered by Organski Podrum in Belgrade, which stocks only natural, organic wines from Serbia – including the likes of Oskar Maurer, Erne Sagmeister, Vinarija Vujić, and Vinarija Kostić.

My favourite wine of the tasting was the limited edition Zero, made from 50% Grašac and 50% Zupljanka – a most harmonious duo. It is macerated for four days, before being stored in large glass containers. Grašac provides acidity, whilst Zupljanka – whose parents are Prokupac and Pinot Noir – gives the wine its tannic backbone.

Rose 2019 (12% alcohol) is made from 97% Prokupac, manually harvested in the second part of September. It is macerated for only two to three hours, before spontaneous fermentation using wild yeasts from his own vineyard. It then spends twelve months in a tank without temperature control.

Todorović’s 333 2019 (12.5% alcohol) – the name refers to its composition – is made of 33% Grašac, 33% Zupljanka and 33% Sauvignon Blanc. It is macerated for four days before being aged for eighteen months in oak barrels (twelve months sur lie and six months in Serbian oak) and an additional three months in bottles. The wine is amber in colour, with a medium, complex nose of cooked apple, quince and honey. On the palate, the tannins are soft and there is noticeable vanilla from the oak. This is a wine that will pique the interest of sommeliers in fine dining restaurants.

Though many remain sceptical about natural wines, there are other reasons to closely follow the progress of Todorović et al. The first is their dedication to indigenous grape varieties. Todorović is exploring the potential of Grašac and Zupljanka – both on their own and blended with others, and has plans to expand production and experimentation with both.

The second reason is a commitment to experimentation, despite his relatively small production (currently at around 6,000 bottles per year). Various lengths of maceration and means of maturation, combined with different blends, are yielding exciting results. Todorović is one of the few producers to use Acacia barrels of 500 litres to age his Ibis beli 2019. Made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc, the wine spends twelve months sur lie in oak barrels.

Despite their popularity elsewhere in Europe natural wines have only recently started to enjoy recognition by Serbia’s leading restaurants – Homa in Belgrade, for instance, offers Todorović’s wines as part of its excellent list. Though broader acceptance and appreciation by consumers will take longer to earn, Todorović and Co. are making good headway. And by innovating with varieties that are a fundamental part of Serbia’s wine history, producers like Todorović are an integral part of the exciting future that awaits.

Ian Bancroft is a writer based in the Balkans.

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