Home / Red Variety / Prokupac / On the rise and rise of Prokupac, Serbia’s signature grape


This year’s Prokupac Day once again showcased the philosophies and approaches that are driving Serbia’s signature indigenous variety to unprecedented levels of refinement and finesse.

By Ian Bancroft

Each year Prokupac Day, celebrated on 14th October, reinforces the sense of excitement about the grape and its potential. Gatherings spark intense and vibrant deliberations about the style and identity of Serbia’s signature indigenous variety, and nuanced discussions about how to harness the richness of its signature characteristics; cherry, strawberry, black pepper, and violet.

There is greater talk about finesse and refinement. Take just one example – that of Vinarija Aleksandrović in Topola, Sumadija. In their pursuit of a more Pinot Noir-like Prokupac, 30% of their 2018 Prokupac, itself a relatively new entrant to the market, spent six months in French oak, with the remaining 70% in 4,000-litre Slavonian oak barrels, in which they are ultimately merged together for a further six months (before spending six months in the bottle before release). For 2019, only 20% spent time in French oak. It is a dedicated and refined pursuit; one with outstanding results.

Prokupac has clearly shaken off the tendencies that besmirched its reputation; tendencies born of an overt focus on quantity. Unripe tannins, insufficient acidity, poor concentration – they are all traits now firmly confined to the past. Prokupac is now defined by modern winemaking and even more modern styles, delivering consistently high quality across the varying price points.

The number of producers present at the Prokupac salon has roughly tripled in the last five years according to one of Prokupac Day’s founders, Tomislav Ivanović. Old established players mingle with relatively new producers, with many of the latter already earning international recognition. For example, Vinarija Matijašević won gold at the 2021 Balkans International Wine Competition for its Čukundeda 2019 (alongside Braća Rajković 33 2018), with its striking fruit characteristics of ripe cherries, raspberries, and blackberries.

Vinarija Grabak, from Vrnjačka Banja, meanwhile was recently awarded gold and 95 points by Decanter in its World Wine Awards for its Vivak Prokupac 2017, described as ‘Youthful black and red fruit aromas with a spicy hint of autumn leaves and coffee. Satisfying intensity of red fruit with lively freshness and long length.’

Prokupac (also known as Kameničanka) is increasingly being planted across Serbia. Out in the east, Vinarija Matalj has launched Bukovski Cuvee, comprised of 70% Prokupac and 30% Začinska. Prokupac is arguably encouraging the revitalisation of other indigenous varieties, some of which are – or had been – on the verge of extinction.

Blends are an increasing part of the mix; whether the addition of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah to add more weight, or vice-versa; the addition of Prokupac to provide softness and subtlety. Vinarija Ivanovic’s No. 1/2 – 50% Prokupac, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot – epitomizes the full potential of Prokupac-driven cuvées.

Interest in Prokupac has expanded beyond the narrow confines of the Serbian wine world. Chefs are consulting their sommeliers to develop ideal food pairings. Consumers can enjoy Prokupac by the glass during a week of activities and promotions, allowing them to compare and contrast its various manifestations. Winemakers are not only forced to become more responsive but benefit from the feedback from an increasingly aware market. Serbia’s balance of wine trade with the rest of the world will inevitably benefit.

Much can still be learned, however, from the renaissance of other wine varieties and regions. Blaufränkisch, for one, that native Austrian red grape, has enjoyed a global surge in popularity; albeit one shadowed by that of Grüner Veltliner. A focus on producing wines with finesse as opposed to power has propelled it onto wine lists of leading restaurants and bars. How long, indeed, before producers in the colder climbs of the New World begin to explore Prokupac’s potential in their own backyard, as they have done with the likes of Blaufränkisch and others?

Whether from trellised vines or old bushes that are Župa’s signature, Prokupac remains authentic to its roots, yet cognizant of the damage wrought by the legacies of state-owned co-operatives. Its evolution is accelerating, with new plantings and approaches. Prokupac is quickly making up for lost time and demonstrating the importance of native varieties for the development of Serbia’s wine culture. Long may it continue.

Ian Bancroft is a writer based in the Balkans.

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