The wine story of Osijek

Photo by: Horizont Solutions d.o.o./Mario Đurkić

Prof. dr. sc. Zlata Živaković-Kerže

“Wine makes one feel joyful, invigorated, and intoxicated. As a part of the material and spiritual heritage, drinking wine has always been, and still is, among the fundamental identity determinants of the city of Osijek, a non-agrarian center, which for almost two millennia has been developing in between the most important wine-growing and wine-producing regions of the Republic of Croatia.”

Damir Zrno, sommelier

“Enjoying wine is becoming one of the most important niches of the gastronomic offer in Croatia. This is precisely why the vineyards of Baranya and Erdut are experiencing a renaissance of viticulture and winemaking since the beginning of this century. Engineers, doctors, managers, and people from different professions have embarked, following the legacy of their ancestors, on exciting wine journeys. The link between some of them is the fact that they have a home in Osijek, which is why we call them "Osijek winemakers". Just like them, choose Osijek as your urban base and starting point for visiting their boutique wineries and enjoying the gastronomic offer of the region."

Željko Garmaz, Vinske Priče (Wine Stories)

“Rarely can a city claim that it has earned the status of a wine center without a single vine on its territory. But Osijek can! Well, some purists will say that a few vines were planted in the yards of a few houses in the city a long time ago, but those vines were only a nostalgic act of a family that arrived once upon a time from Dalmatia or Herzegovina.

Rarely can a city claim that it has produced many winemakers who, in practice, could not have acquired their wine education on their doorstep. But Osijek can! Jasna Antunović, the pride of the Erdut wine region, started a "One Woman Show" from her office, and Mladen Siber brought a meticulous attitude towards his vineyard from his dental office. Ivo Brzica started his artistic oasis in Erdut thanks to powerful John Deer machines. Slavko Kalazić created his Baranya wine empire with the help of the very same electricity that powered the gadgets he sold in electronic equipment stores. Damir Josić came to Baranya from pizzeria As, and lately, Zoltan Pinkert has been managing the vineyards in Suza from Osijek.

All of them, and many others, confirm that Osijek can indeed be declared the largest Croatian wine laboratory and a city that breaks stereotypes about the mandatory physical coexistence of winemakers and their vines. Cheers!“



The legend of bećarina, a tax on fun

Although it might seem impossible to utter the words taxes and fun in the same breath, Osijek once had a tax on nighttime adventures. When the old baroque Citadel was built, the city became an important military centre in the region, populated by officers, soldiers, and civilians. With the defeat of the Ottomans and their retreat from Osijek and Slavonia, military activity decreased, so soldiers and civilians started spending their long evenings in Citadel’s inns. At the time of the 18th century, public lighting was lit manually, and the expenses were paid from the wine surcharge per barrel of wine that arrived in the city (Weinaufschlag) and from the bećarina (Taxa vagabundorum). The bećarina tax was paid by anyone drunk or sober found on the streets of the Citadel late at night. It came as no surprise that many soldiers got the short end of the stick since they were the ones most eager to go out in the evening. It is telling that the very name of this tax is associated with the word bećar, which describes a cheerful and mischievous guy ready for a good drink and a bit of fun.

The story of the Wine Square, a place of a popular fair

When in the first half of the 18th century the baroque Citadel emerged on the site of the former Ottoman palanquin and earlier medieval town Eszeg (Osijek), it became an important military centre of the south-eastern part of the Habsburg Empire, later the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The military presence in the Citadel, a big factor in the large consumption of wine, also influenced the development of innkeeping, which is why in 1753 the Citadel had as many as 38 inns. The wine fair was held until the 1920s when, during autumn, wine merchants came to the main square with wagons of barrels full of wine and flooded the area around the Plague pillar. Although the Wine square changed its name and is now known as the Holy Trinity Square, the tradition of passionately enjoying a nightly cap has withstood the test of time, and the old Citadel was and remains a place of good fun.

Who are Osijek winemakers?

“Osijek winemakers” is a unique term that encompasses small and large producers who live in Osijek but whose vineyards and wine cellars can be found in Baranya and Erdut. Thanks to their tireless entrepreneurial spirit (and their own two hands), Osijek winemakers have successfully built recognizable brands in healthy competition and cooperation, with some of them continuing decades-long family traditions. Their personal stories are well known in the city, and the numerous awards they are proud of speak volumes about the quality of their varieties and the effort invested. Osijek winemakers are: Josić, Kusić, Kalazić, and Novački in Baranya, and Antunović, Siber, Brzica, Iuris, Borojević, and Pavić in Erdut.


Where are the Osijek winemakers?

Kalazić Winery: Planina 8, Zmajevac; 031 214 511

Winery Kusić: Planina 180, Zmajevac; 095 2977 111

Restaurant and winery Josić: Planina 194, Zmajevac; 099 7365945

Winery Svijetli Dvori: Kolodvorska 99a, Karanac; 091 1281 846

Winery Antunović: Braje Radić street 19, Dalj; 098 268 230

Winery Siber: Svetog Martina street, Erdut; 098 573 417

Winery Brzica: Erdutska planina 18, Erdut; 091 297 3410

Winery Iuris: Dalj planina, Kraljevo brdo; Farther; 098 1692 346

Erdut winery: Branka Hercega square 1, Erdut; 031 596 555

Royal Hill: Rudina Balinac 2, Aljmaš, 091 6030 352

Visits to wineries are possible with prior arrangements.

Other winemakers in Baranya: Alexandar, Belje, Gerstmajer, Jurković, Kočevar, Kolar, Kovats, Matijević, Pinkert, Szabo, Trojnaš, Underground, Vukoje, Zajec

Other Erdut winemakers: Danubio, Jakovac, Janečić, Magistra

How did wine get to Osijek?

Let us imagine every vineyard in the vicinity of Osijek as one vine branch. These vines spread by water and land routes and still spread until the present day to the city of Osijek, where they intertwine with the offer of the region, and sometimes continue on their way. Osijek is an urban and non-agrarian centre of the region. Like a magnet, it attracts all that is best from the surrounding area, and recently the romantic wine cellars of the region attract the people of Osijek, as well as numerous tourists, to enjoy wine at the place where the magic happens.

Did you know?

  • Baranja gators are unique wine cellars buried in the ground. In the village of Zmajevac, they are located along the Catholic and Reformation streets called surduks. Surduk is a road that was created by a watershed.
  • St. Vincent’s day on January 22 traditionally marks the beginning of the grape-growing and wine-making season in Slavonia and Baranya.
  • Osijek winemakers make up a colourful array of professions and interests. Among them, we find a dentist, a restaurateur, an astrological enthusiast, an agronomist, an economist...
  • Erdut winery has the largest wooden barrel in Europe still in use. The Erdut barrel is included in the Guinness Book of Records, and well-known local sculptors led by Mata Tijardović decorated it with rich wood carvings.

Wine stories from times long forgotten

  • At the beginning of the 18th century, the Osijek Citadel military authorities had to pay a bridge toll, port tax, and wine surcharge when crossing the Drava bridge to southern Hungary (Baranya).
  • The arrival of wine on the main square of the Citadel was highly anticipated by high school students who, to the astonishment of the Jesuits and Franciscans, would pierce the barrels with a drill and sip the wine through a straw.
  • There was once a vineyard in Osijek; The Capuchins maintained a large garden next to the church in the centre of town. Wine production was important for the Capuchins, and the last harvest in the monastery vineyard took place in 1940.
  • Since St. Vincent was considered a male saint, women were traditionally not allowed to be in the vineyard on his day. Therefore, on the St. Vincent celebration, women stayed home and mended torn clothes with large patches so that the grapes would be large the following season.
  • In the past centuries, the custom of preparing vineyard ćevap has become frequent in vineyards. The ćevap was prepared on an open fire in a precisely defined way from finely cut meat (pork and beef) with the addition of onions and bacon, wrapped in pork tissue, and impaled on a stick.