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It took us nearly two years to track down the wines from Francuska Vinarija. These wines are made by a French couple, Estelle & Cyrille Bongiraud, in eastern Serbia. The Bonigraud’s were in search of a great, lost terroir when they stumbled upon the village of Rogljevo in the Negotin region.
We too stumbled upon this town when we first visited Serbia a few years ago. The towns of Rogljevo, Smedovac, and Rajac are tucked away in the hills and are home to hundreds of abandoned cellars. The locals here were once prosperous from the wine trade. Today, most of the cellars are abandoned and all of the young people left the villages for work. Visited the region is a beautiful and spooky experience as you can see in the video below.
We first arrived at the village of Rajac in the Spring of 2016. At the time, we were unaware of the presence of Estelle & Cyrille. We only found out about Francuska Vinarija about one month after our visit. It was unfortunate because this region is quite a ways from Belgrade and Francuska Vinarija wines are not available in Serbia.
While revisiting Serbia in the Fall of 2017, we mentioned to a friend about these wines. He smiled and said, “I can help you get these wines.” Just like that, we had the wines at our table.
The Promise: When Dreams Wake Up Reality
The story of Cyrille and Estelle Bongiraud is told in a documentary The Promise. It is a film by Optimistic Film/See TV and was written by Željko Mirković and produced by Dušan Gajič. Since its release in 2016, it has garnered eight awards in international film festivals. We originally found out about the winery from watching the trailer below on YouTube.
Around the same time we obtained the wines, our friend connected us with Željko, who was nice enough to let us view the film. Most of The Promise takes place in the village of Rogljevo in the Negotina area of East Serbia – a small portion of the film also takes place in France. The film is in Serbian and French with English subtitles. It is gorgeously shot which draws you into the story.
We really enjoyed the dialogue of the locals. Many were suspicious of the French coming in, while a few were supportive of it. The film interviews both the locals and the Bongirauds, which highlights the clash of cultures. Another strong aspect of the film is depicting how difficult it is to market and sell fine wines – especially those from exotic countries. Despite the high quality and praise that these wines receive, the Bongirauds constantly run into obstacles when trying to sell the wines.
The film ends on a somber note and leaves the future of the winery in doubt. Hopefully, there is a happy ending because these wines are stellar. It’s an entertaining film nonetheless, it’s not only about wine, it’s an inside look at a clash of cultures.
Francuska Vinarija Wines Tasted
(You can find out more about our scoring system on the START HERE page.)
- Francuska Vinarija Istina White 2009
The Francuska Vinarija Istina White consists of Riesling from old vines. Flavors include petrol, white flower, apple, and apricot. The wine is very honeyed in color. It’s bright on the front palate and the acidic core stretches the flavor through the palate. The wine is wrapped up in slate and mineral goodness. This is lighter in body than other great Rieslings but still of outstanding quality. 4.2/5
- Francuska Vinarija Poema 2010
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The Francuska Vinarija Poema is a blend of Riesling, Tamjanika, and Graševina that spent 18 months on the lees. Petrol, flint, apple, white tea, and a touch of wood are the dominant flavors. This is a very earthy white wine. The initial attack is bright and delicious but the finish is a little shorter I would like. 3.8/5
- Francuska Vinarija Obećanje 2009
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Obećanje translates to “The Promise.” The Francuska Vinarija Obećanje is made with Gamay from old vines. Beautiful nose of lavender, cherry, exotic spice, and a touch of leather. Light garnet color with tawny edges on the rim. It is medium bodied with multi-layered texture, lots of complexity, and a long finish with white pepper. This could easily pass for an excellent Cru Beaujolais, it’s undeniably French in style.
This wine left quite the impression on us and was among our favorite wines of 2017. 4.4/5
- Francuska Vinarija Tajna Red 2010
The Francuska Vinarija Tajna Red is a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon wine aged for two years in French oak and two years in the bottle before release. Deep ruby color with some tawny edges. Black cherry, tar, soy sauce, carried wood, and capsicum nose. The flavors are very complex and rich. It’s big-bodied with a smooth mouthfeel and sandy tannins. The flavor intensity isn’t as strong as I would like on the finish. This can be overlooked because the nose and mouthfeel are so outstanding. 4.2/5
The opinions expressed in this article are unsolicited and have not been paid for in any way by governmental bodies, enterprises, or individuals.