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Why are there more and more vineyards for sale in Serbia?

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Vineyard for sale near Sremski Karlovac.” It was planted in 2012 and is in full bloom. Two varieties of grapes were planted on it – Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot, totaling around 7,500 vines. It has a fantastic view of the Danube.”

This is just one of the more recent ads in a fairly wide online offer of vineyards currently for sale in Serbia. It is notable that there are most of them in Vojvodina, around Inđija, Zrenjanin, as well as in the Slankamenac vineyards…

Which is why the ads are full of photos of fantastic, often top-quality vine plantings that can currently be bought at bargain prices. This mostly depends on the location and how urgent the seller is to reach a deal.

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At the same time, the number of wineries that produce top quality wine is growing and the results in this sector are getting better. According to recently published data, the area under native vineyards in Serbia is about 22,000 hectares. The number of registered wineries increased by 55 percent. In 2016, there were 295, and currently there are 457. According to recently published data, since 2016, 1,025 new grape producers, 4,720 vineyard plots and 1,163.7 hectares of vineyards have been registered in the vineyard register. Of the total amount of wine produced – 15.9 million liters are from domestic grapes, while 13.6 million liters are from imported raw materials, mostly from North Macedonia.

Why then do some, mostly small producers, give up this business?

When you look at Serbia, says oenologist Vladan Nikolić for “Politika”, we have extremely little land under vineyards compared to some other countries that are even smaller in area than us – Somewhere around 7,800 hectares under vineyards in Serbia are considered suitable for wine production. Macedonia, for example, has close to 30,000 hectares, and Slovenia about 20,000 – says Nikolić.

According to him, the state has given great incentives for building wineries with a capacity of up to 20,000 liters. The producers received the money in advance, all expenses were covered. The problem, however, is that most of those who entered this business were not from the industry, they did not know what was waiting for them. They expected a quick profit and this is a very complex business.

– It requires a lot of knowledge in viticulture, technology and later in sales, marketing. Capital turnover is very slow. People expect to start making money as soon as they appear on the market. Of course that’s not the case – explains our interlocutor, who is also a consultant in seven countries of Southeastern Europe.

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Another problem, he adds, is the lack of manpower. In addition to all the mechanization, the vineyard requires a certain amount of manual work, a quality workforce, and in that segment it is getting worse, it is extremely difficult to find those who will work, and the prices of daily wages are going up. On the other hand, he emphasizes, we have incredibly high land prices, especially in Vojvodina but also in Šumadija. In some places in Sremski Karlovci, some people are asking for 100,000 to 150,000 euros per hectare, which they consider to be an extremely unrealistic price.

According to him, when a vineyard is planted, the first harvest is expected from the third year. It becomes functional from the fourth year, but only from the tenth year does the vineyard begin to produce real quality grapes.

– That is why some now, who have smaller areas, use the opportunity to sell land and even vineyards. That could be one of the reasons. People want to monetize the land because the price has never been higher – says Nikolić. He notes that today, the wine business is mainly entered by those who have a good basic job and from that position are able to finance it more easily for the next five or ten years. He believes that the one who enters the business through loans and if that is the only thing he does, can hardly succeed.

A large number of wineries have opened, thanks to state incentives, which is certainly a positive thing. But wineries that grow vineyards are rare. We have a small production of grapes and a large number of wineries. In such a situation, we are forced to import grapes – says Vladan Nikolić.

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