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The wines of Ilok, in the easternmost part of Croatia, have long enjoyed recognition beyond the region; its Traminac apparently being served during the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Its main autochthonous sorts – Graševina and Traminac – are now key to restoring some of this past prestige.

Ilok nestles on the right bank of the river Danube, at the easternmost part of Croatia, on a narrow strip of land jutting into Serbia. The town has long been at the heart of a proud wine growing region – renowned for a number of autochthonous sorts, particularly Graševina and Traminac – with its main landmark, the Odescalchi Castle, housing Ilok’s famous old wine cellars, some of which are believed to date back to the 15th century.

Ilok_OdescalchiCastle

The Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius Probus, born in Sirmium (today known as Sremska Mitrovica) in neighbouring Serbia, is credited with planting large swathes of vineyard throughout this part of Europe; a passion and pursuit resentment of which lead to his execution. Part of the fertile Pannonian Plain (‘Panonska nizina’), the environmental and climactic traits of Syrmia (or ‘Srem’ in Serbian) are extremely favourable to the cultivation of several white varieties.

The wines of Ilok have long enjoyed recognition beyond the region itself; its Traminac apparently being served during the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Though the war of the nineties damaged many of Ilok’s vineyards, a period of prolonged peace has provided the foundations for their recovery. Indeed, nearly every street in Ilok has its very own wine cellar, each producing various quantities and qualities.

Ilok (2) (380x253)

Aside from Traminac and Graševina, Ilok also produces other commendable whites such as Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Silvanac (also known as Sylvaner), a white variety that is primarily grown in Alsace and Germany (where it is officially known as Grüner Silvaner). Whilst such white varieties take precedence, Ilok also produces Pinot Noir, Frankovka and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ilok_Traminac (380x379)

The best known winemaker is ‘Stari Iločki Podrumi’ (‘The old Ilok cellars’) or Iločki Podrumi (as it is more commonly referred to) whose cellars were constructed in the 17th century by Prince Livio Odescalchi – to whom Ilok was conferred by Leopald, the Austrian emperor, to acknowledge his role in the 1638 defence of Vienna. Prince Odescalchi desired to reaffirm Ilok’s status as an important wine growing region; a position further reinforced by the founding of the Royal School of Viticulture in 1899.

Iločki Podrumi currently owns some 1,100,000 vines, but has ambitious plans to expand production to 1,460,000 vines. Its finest vineyards are to be found on the Principovac estate, close to the center of Ilok; a former summer retreat of Prince Odescalchi, offering views of Srijem, Ilok and Bačka in Vojvodina.

Ilok_StariPodrum (380x221)

The estate gives its name to a special range of wines that rank amongst Iločki Podrumi’s best.  Its Principovac Traminac (2009), for instance, is a rich, deep golden amber colour; albeit slightly hazy. It has a sweet, perfumed nose of honey and perfume, of medium intensity. On the palate one encounters extremely ripe peaches and preserved fruits, complemented by cloves, almonds, nutmeg and muscat nuts. Medium-bodied, with a velvety texture, it possesses a long, consistent finish, with a noticeable tingle of alcohol.

Ilok is, however, not only about Stari Iločki Podrumi; though it remains the most renowned producer in this part of Croatia. A variety of other winemakers – whether companies (such as Agro-Ilok, PZ Lovas and Vupik), small family wineries (such as Buhač, Kraljević, Stipetić, Dragun, Knezović, Đerić, Bošnjak and Čobanković) or the higher school for wine growers – are all capable of producing excellent wines, including Traminac.

Whilst Stari Iločki Podrumi remains Ilok’s prize possession, helping realise the potential of some of its smaller producers will go a long-way to determining the region’s future vitality and the extent to which it can recover the prestige that it once enjoyed.

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