by: PhD Vesna Maraš
Paraphrasing famous rethoric question of Ivo Andrić, from his essay ’Wine’- ’Who does not owe something to wine?’, we could ask ourselves in this text: ’Who does not owe something to Vranac?’ If you think over it, we believe that you will also make a conclusion that the first wine or one of the first wines that you have tasted in your life was just-Vranac. Of course, if you were born in these areas where Vranac had been for centuries one of the most remarkable wines and in the previous fifty years, since the foundation of Montenegrin Plantaže , it has been the greatest wine brand, too.
In the lack of the written history(unfortunately-not only concerning the wine), the people in these areas have been dealing with history, making it the same as the literature. We tend to fill the holes in the history with the legends, fairy tales, anecdotes as well as the different, mere tales that survive because there is no evidence that it was different, so everything turns out to be both possible and impossible at the same time.
It was similar with Vranac. It had been implied for centuries that Vranac is an autochtonous Montenegrin variety as well as that it originates from Crmnica, but, generally, there are a very few, available documents or written data on it, so that story also seemed as if we learn the history from the folk poetry.
And it was exactly what has begun to change a few years ago. And it was exactly, thanks to Plantaže which as a mark of respect to its main variety and its main brand, began its serious, scientific research for the roots of Vranac, joining the projects of main, world institutions that have dealt with the origin of the grapevine varieties.
The first results of those research works, in which I took part and that include the Montenegrin varieties Vranac and Kratošija, resulted in very unexpected dicoveries.
The greatest of them was that the Montenegrin autochtonous variety Kratošija is the American variety Zinfandel. It was also determined that the Croatian variety Plavac Mali-the Italian Primitivo- is not the same as the American Zinfandel.
The other discovery is that in the autumn in 2011, the colleagues from Croatia, in Kastel, found the last, rare grapevines of the variety Crljenak Kaštelanski that confirmed that it has the same genetic profile as Zinfandel.After that, it was determined that Crljenak Kaštelanski (Zinfandel) is one of the parents of Plavac Mali and the other parent is the variety Dobričić.
And, there was the third discovery: that American Zinfandel, Italian Primitivo, Crljenak Kaštelanski and Montenegrin Kratošija are genetically completely the same varieties. And, finally, to make the things more interesting: it was determined that Kratošija and Vranac are close kins!
VRANAC AND KRATOŠIJA- THE CLOSEST KINS
By a recent DNA analysis, it was determined that Vranac is in a very close kinship with Kratošija and that there is even the first-degree relation between these two varieties. Therefore, in the closest possible relation: parent-sibling and it has not still known which variety is a parent and which one a sibling.
THE ORIGIN OF VRANAC
The wine, made of the variety Vranac, has become the national brand and, at the same time, the most recognizable and best product of the company 13.jul-Plantaže which promoted Montenegro as a remarkable wine destination.It was in 1891, in the magazine Glas Crnogorca that Maksim Plamenac gave the descriptions of the Montenegrin varieties Vranac and Kratošija, grown in Crmnica.
However, the first published, remarkable descriptions of Vranac and Kratošija were made by Petar Plamenac in the Ampelography Viale and Vermonela (1910).
Later, many authors: Stojanović, 1929; Bulić, 1949; Ulićević, 1959 i 1966. stated that the Montenegrin autochtonous variety Vranac is present in Montenegro only. Ulićević (1959) stated in the publication „Supplement to the Rayonization of Viticulture in Montenegro“ the following: „… a characteristic variety of Crmnica viticultural area is Vranac, covering cc 40% of all the varieties. As a matter of fact, it is the only viticultural area in which it dominates and the only one in which it has been present to a considerable extent. It is, in the real sense, ’grapevariety from Crmnica“. Nastev (1967) claimed that vranac is a Montenegrin, autochtonous variety, grown mostly in Crmnica, but it has also been spread in the Montenegrin seaside. This Macedonian ampelographer stated that Vranac was transferred to the trial field Butel in Macedonia in 1950 and later it spread throughout Macedonia and in the territories of ex -Yugoslavia.
And other numerous authors: Pejović 1988, Burić 1995, Cindrić 2000, Savić 2003, Božinovik 2006, Milosavljević 2008, Maraš 2010 wrote about Vranac as the Montenegrin autochtonous variety and emphasized its quality.The group of experts of the Milan weekly ’Il Mondo’ classified the wine Vranac in 1991 among Top 100 best red wines of Europe.
As the result of co-operation between Plantaže and the Italian partner (Instituto sperimentale per la viticulture Susegana-Conegliano) the genetic identification of the Montenegrin autochtonous grape varieties was done. The varieties: Vranac, Krstač and Žižak confirmed their originality. By DNA analysis, it was determined that the Montenegrin autochtonous grape variety Kratošija has the identic, genetic profile as Zinfandel from California, Primitivo from Italy and Crljenak Kaštelanski from Croatia.
Upon confirmation of the genetic profile of Kratošija as Zinfandel, based on the sent sample from Montenegro, we sent other five samples of Kratošija from different viticultural areas from Montenegro: three samples from Ćemovsko polje, the sample of Kratošija from Gluhi dol (Crmnica) and the sample from Beri. All those samples confirmed the indentical profile as the variety Zinfandel-Primitivo.
In the same work, by DNA analysis,it was determined that Vranac was in the very close relation with Kratošija (zinfandel-primitivo), and that there exists the first-grade relation between those two varieties. Therefore, in the closest possible relation: parent-sibling, and it has not still known which variety is a parent and which one a sibling. A part of the results from that project was published in 2008,as the joint work in the American magazine “Society for Enology and Viticulture”.
The work on the determination of the origin of Vranac has been done through numerous international projects in which our company has been taking part.
THE BEST GRAPEVINE SEEDLINGS OF VRANAC
It is since 2004, that in the company Plantaže, there has been done research work on the project ’Clonal Selection of the Autochtonous Varieties of Grapevine’ in order to improve agro-biological and industrial-technological characteristics of the Monteengrin autochtonous varieties. The selection of some grapevines, standing out for their properties within the varietal population was made and the selected grapevines were multiplied and planted. A pre-base and base mother-plot of the potential clones were established and in 2012, Plantaže began the official production of the certified grapevine planting material of the variety Vranac.
SELECTION OF VRANAC
Bearing in mind the importance of the autochtonous varieties both for Montenegrin viticulture and wine making and for our company which based its production on the autochtonous varieties, there has been done research work on the project ’Clonal Selection of the Autochtonous Varieties of Grapevine ’ in the company Plantaže since 2004.This project has been done in order to improve the agro-biological and industrial-technological properties of our autochtonous grape varieties. As the result of the activities, done so far and conducted visual supervision during the vegetation,the selection of some grapevines, standing out for their properties within the varietal population, was made. Their sanitary control was done and the selected grapevines, which were sanitary sound, were multiplied and planted.
A pre-base and base mother-plot of the potential clones were established.Upon getting the bearing potential in the period 2009-2011,agro-biological and industrial-technological characteristics of the potential clones were followed, compared to the population of the varieties in order to recognize them.
Grape processing and the production of wine of the potential clones were made in the cellar for the microvinification in the premises of the company 13.jul-Plantaže. Produced wines were analyzed and their sensory evaluation was conducted. They were superior by their quality to the wines of the basic population of the variety and that is why we expect soon the recognition of the selected clones. Within the scope of work on this project and establishment of the mother-plots of pre-base and base category of the potential clones of the variety Vranac, it was for the first time in Montenegro and in the company 13.jul-Plantaže that in 2012 , the production of the certified grapevine planting material of the variety Vranac began.
100 TRIAL VINIFICATIONS ANNUALLY
In the microvinification plant of Plantaže, about 100 microvinifications have been done in order to determine the greatest extent of the enological potential of autochtonous and international varieties of the grapevine from Ćemovsko polje. A particular emphasis is placed on the experimental blend of Vranac with the in etrnational varieties, among which some of them stood out by their extraordinary, aromatic fullness and total complex of wine.
The first special lots of such wines which will be enjoyed even by the most subtle wine lovers, should be expected very soon.
VRANAC IN BLENDS
In the microvinification plant of Plantaže, about 100 microvinifications have been done annually, both with the grapes of the introduced (international) varieties and the grapes of the autochtonous varieties during which we research their enological potential by different processing techniques,and the use of different enological agents etc.
Among the international varieties and good results, both in the vineyard and wine cellar, the French varieties Marselan and Petit Verdot stood out. By special vinification techniques, we produced those wines of the superb quality that integrated perfectly with Vranac in the blends. However, other interesting blends with Vranac, i.e. with some clones of Cabernet and Merlot, destined for long aging and tending, should be emphasized. These are excellent, full-bodied wines with rich aromatic complex.
In the next period we will work more on the crafting and production of small, special lots of wines in order to satisfy even the most subtle wine lovers and connoisseurs. They will have the opportunity to enjoy the new wines this year, as well. We owe this to them because they have been loyal consumeres of our wines in the long history of our company which celebrated last year its 50th anniversary and on that occasion, we gave them as the gifts the new wines : Luča and Vladika.