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Serbian famous šljivovica deserves more recognition and better production

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Serbian šljivovica was included in the list of UNESCO’s intangible heritage, which experts consider to be excellent news. However, it is necessary to better brand it, as well as to introduce order into its production.

“Putting Serbian plums on the UNESCO list of intangible heritage is great news for our country. It was not at all easy to get on that list, on which Serbian šljivovica is currently the only strong alcoholic drink,” says Ninoslav Nikićević, a professor at the Faculty of Agriculture in Belgrade, the biggest domestic expert on brandy, for Business and Finance.

However, he adds that the aforementioned recognition will not mean much to us if we do not protect the technological process of brandy production and the geographical origin of šljivovica (plum brandy)

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Serbia is among the top five producers of plums in the world for a reason, because the local climate and the varieties of plums grown there produce a product of excellent quality and aroma. Proper processing of such plums produces brandy that can rival the most famous strong alcoholic beverages in the world.

One step in that direction has already been made by entering it into the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. With the introduction of order in this area, drinks mixed with other spirits could no longer be called šljivovica.

Thus, producers would be forced to produce brandy only from the fruit whose name it bears, and customers would be sure of what they are buying, which would also affect the sale of our national drink.

“The export of fruit brandies reached a value of ten million euros in the first nine months of last year alone. I am convinced that it could be much bigger if we protected the entire process of its production, starting with the picking of plums, through fermentation, distillation, and all the way to the maturation of brandy,” says Nikićević.

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According to him, it is not just a wish list, because abroad there is great interest in quality plum brandy. This interest is not recent, because throughout history, brandy has occupied an important place in our exports:

At the end of the 19th century, Serbia sold plums and plums worth 37.5 million dollars to California and Chicago, thereby paying off the entire foreign currency debt.

Nikićević notes that plum brandy is not only produced in the Balkans, but also in the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine and other European countries. However, Serbian plum wine is something special, because its specificity lies in the favorable climate for growing plums, but also in the varieties we use. The same varieties in other areas do not give nearly as good an aroma as in Serbia.

“When everything is combined – the composition of the soil, the climatic conditions, the varieties of plums, and also the type of oak from which the barrels for the aging and aging of brandy are produced – a unique plum brandy of extraordinary quality is obtained,” Nikićević assesses.

Branko Popović from the Institute of Fruit Growing Čačak explains this statement of his former mentor in more detail. Our country is among the top five producers of plums in the world for a good reason. First of all, because those in Serbia can be grown on the entire territory of the country, which means that we produce a large amount of this fruit – on average about 500,000 tons per year.

Another, but no less important, reason is the quality of those plums. According to Popović, we managed to preserve old varieties such as red ranka, which were used both for food and in the production of brandy, but also to import and create new varieties of equal quality.

“In the middle of the 19th century, we started importing požegaca, a generous variety that gives good yields and is very grateful for the production of brandy and prunes.” In that period, our economic power, along with pig farming of course, rested on plum production,” says Popović.

However, in the twenties of the last century, an infectious disease “plum hinge” appeared, which began to attack the plum tree, for which no cure has been found to date. Because of it, the plum orchards with the then most dominant type of plum began to dry up, so a new solution had to be found. “That’s how we started to create new varieties,” adds Popović.

From then until today, the Čačak Fruit Growing Institute has created 18 varieties of plum, and the first generation are Čačak native, Čačak beauty, Čačak best, Čačak early and Čačak sugar.

Of these varieties, the Čačan native and the Čačan beauty stood out as being of exceptional quality for the production of brandy. Popović does not hide his pride that because of them the name Čačak is pronounced in all the plum countries of the world.


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