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The Spirit of Serbia: Exploring the Rich Tradition of Rakija at Wine Vision

Wine Vision Fair, a celebration of wine and culinary excellence, is not just about the finest wines but also pays homage to the culinary arts and distilleries, with a special emphasis on brandies. One cannot delve into the world of brandy without recognizing Serbia’s profound connection to this exquisite spirit. At the heart of this tradition is Milan Zaric, the face of Zaric Distillery, one of Serbia’s most renowned distilleries, known not only within the country but also internationally.

Distillates, particularly brandies and rakija, hold a special place in Serbian and Balkan culture. These fine spirits are more than just drinks; they are a part of the nation’s identity. Rakija, in particular, stands as a testament to this cultural heritage, dating back over 500 years. It is not merely a beverage; it is a way of life. It is a symbol of celebration, an embodiment of national pride, and a crucial aspect of Serbian culture.

The Zaric family’s roots are deeply intertwined with the village of Zarici in western Serbia, a region blessed with a beautiful climate and home to old autochthonous varieties of plums. The family legacy began with Milan’s grandfather, who inherited the family property and embarked on plum production. He always had a substantial quantity of aged brandy on hand, which not only served as a valuable asset but also protected the village during challenging times.

The family’s brand was born from this rich heritage, and Milan Zaric has taken up the mantle to restore the old spirit and preserve the village. Today, they work with 150 farms to produce 150,000 l of brandy annually, with plums making up the majority of their production.

Many of these plums grow at high altitudes and are resistant to various diseases. The Association of Brandy Producers plays a pivotal role in safeguarding these varieties and strengthening knowledge and infrastructure. Notably, they are working to revive the Institute of Agriculture, focusing on grafts and seedlings, similar to the one in Čačak.

While rakija holds a special place in Serbian culture, it also has the potential for international recognition. Serbian brandies are exported to countries like the United States, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, and Britain. Educating consumers worldwide about the Balkans, its climate, and the gastronomic harmony with brandy is crucial. Quality is now the focus, especially after the pandemic, and there is a growing interest in Serbian brandies.

As we explore Wine Vision Fair, it’s evident that the spirit of Serbia lies not only in its wines but also in its beloved rakija. This traditional Serbian brandy, with its rich history and cultural significance, deserves a special place in the modern world. It’s not just a drink; it’s a symbol of identity, celebration, and pride. As Serbia continues to export its heritage, rakija stands as a testament to the nation’s resilience, traditions, and its dedication to quality and excellence. So, raise a glass of rakija to Serbia’s spirit, and let it be known that this brandy is more than a drink; it’s a piece of the Serbian soul.