It is best to start the visit of Baranja, whose name in Hungarian means “mother of wine”, and Vina Belje by strolling along the wine road that winds through the grapevines and leads to the viewpoint on Banovo brdo (hill). Surrounded by millions of grapevines, the viewpoint is the right place to take a break and enjoy the view of the fertile vineyards and the Croatian Danube Region. The road then continues inwards to a new winery located in the heart of 650 hectares of Belje vineyards. The Vina Belje wine complex is one of the most advanced wine complexes in Europe where manual harvesting from one’s own vineyards and state-of-the-art technology are combined in the vineyard areas in Baranja where the grapevine cultivation has been known for centuries. The production of wine in the Croatian Danube Region is thus first mentioned in the 3rdcentury A.D. with the name of the Roman emperor Probus who improved the entire region by planting grapevines.
Belje Cellar, where there is a tasting room and a wine shop,was first mentioned back in 1526 in the descriptions of the Battle of Mohacs. It is dug into the hill in the very centre of Kneževi Vinogradi vineyards and is the most impressive cellar not only in Baranja but in the whole region. On two strata divisions in the cellar, Premium and Goldberg wines age in wooden barrels before setting off into the world or at least to Restaurant Kormoranin nearby Kopački rit Nature Park.
Gastro delicacies in preserved nature
The charming restaurant offers an unforgettable atmosphere in completely a preserved natural ambience with a top offer of Baranja gastro specialties prepared on open fires and in food cooking kettles. In Kormoran one can taste carp, catfish and pike-perch specialties from the Drave and Danube rivers and their branches,then čobanac and venison dishes that go perfectly well with Belje wines.
Wine and food
The most significant wine sort is, by all means,Graševina recognized in the world as a Central European sort, but numerous wine connoisseurs, among which are Jancis Robinson and Steven Spurrier, consider the homeland of Graševina to be the Croatian Danube Region. According to the words of Steven Spurrier, the organizer of the cult Judgement of Paris and the editor of the most important wine magazine Decanter, Vina Belje are the benchmark for Graševina in the world. The exceptional quality ofVina Belje Graševina is connected to the specific characteristics of the Baranja terroir and the special care given to the vineyards.
This sumptuous and rich white wine, with layered scents of ripe apples, apricots and citrus fruit and a fine note of flowers blends well with good pasta in sauce, the best white fish – bass, bream, catfish, carp, sole, smoked carp – and various mushrooms, as well as chosen cur meat products such as kulen from Baranja.
The red wines – Merlot, Frankovka, Cabernet Sauvignon and red Pinot –2008 vintagehaving won gold medals and regional trophies at the Decanter, has taken a significant position among the producers of red wine in the continental part of Croatia. Vina Belje Merlot has an odour of ripe cherries, blackberries and plums with a fine chocolate tone whose character and rich odour is contributed by aging in big wooden barrels made from Slavonian oak. It is ideal with veal and lamb under the baking lid, venison stews and beef steaks, roasted duck and goose.
Besides enjoying the food, wine and magnificent nature, Baranja abounds in numerous interesting events. The Gator fest takes place in June and is focused on wine, culture and art with a flair of gastronomy, history and good entertainment. The festival acquired its name from the name of the cellars dug into the earth (gatori) which is specific for this region. It lasts two days at various venues in the municipality of Kneževi Vinogradi, and the programme foresees wine cellars visits, art exhibitionsand the pleasure of enjoying traditional live music and rich gastro offer.