Baranja is the mother of wine, and Zmajevac is the wine capital of Baranja. With around twenty cellars cherishing excellent wines, lined up in catholic and reformist roads and a wine store in Ružina Street displaying all the wines of the Baranja wine region, it definitely earned this title.
Along with traditional manifestation such as Vinceška and Martinje, wine culture is also promoted by new events such as Gator Fest and wine marathon. Main organisers of the marathon are the association of preservation of Hungarian customs Surduk and the Jožef Attila cultural society. In the beginning the wine marathon took part during the village day, but now it can be easily claimed the village day takes place as part of the wine marathon. A while ago the marathon grew out of its local boundaries and each year gathers an increasing number of wine lovers from various parts of Croatia and beyond. At last year’s marathon there were over 1500 competitors and several thousand visitors. This year those numbers grew by 20%.
The proclaimed goal is to tour in the shortest time all the wine cellars and in each drink a decilitre of wine, but the real goal is to socialize with a Baranja wine in hand and enjoy the rustic atmosphere of the Baranja cellars. Hence not many people actually complete the marathon as they simply feel bad about doing it mechanically and rushed. Usually people stop where the atmosphere is good and stay there. Everyone wants the wine magic to last longer and purposely delay or avoid the final points of the marathon. And the party with evergreen songs in one of the gators always lasts until the morning hours.
One cannot visit Zmajevac for an hour or two. Zmajevac pulls you into its fantastic network of picturesque vineyards on the slopes of Banovo Hill, old legends of red Marta, superior wines, ethnic and religious multiculturalism, rustic architecture and hospitable atmosphere.
The visit to Zmajevac lasts until after midnight or two days. And once you visit you keep coming back again and again, always uncovering some new detail you missed before. Or as an old song dedicated to wine goes: “Everyone is welcome in Zmajevac, no one fared poorly in Zmajevac.”
The 13th edition of the wine marathon in Zmajevac was not unlucky at all, this year’s wine marathon surpassed all previous records; record number of competitors (1.800 marathoners), record number of wine cellars – 25, and record number of visitors, and certain new content novelties were introduced such as the Wine Policemen.
To prevent all 1.800 marathoners from barging into the same wine cellar and to reduce bottlenecks, the marathon was divided into three sections - catholic road (red colour), reformist road (yellow colour) and Ružina Street (green colour), and marathoners into groups of 600 competitors who had various colour shirts.
The catholic road was populated by the wineries Szabó and Svijetli dvori from Karanac, Pinkert and Kolar from Suza, and Zmajevac wineries Čokot čarda, Josić, Tür, Kusić and Zajec where the marathon afterparty took place, aptly named “honour lap.”
At the beginning of the yellow path in the reformist road was also the new and perspective winery Vukoje from Zmajevac, then wineries Kovač, Đerfi, Pavlović, Martin, Kromer and Boni. At the end of the yellow path were wineries Kovats from Suza and Kalazić from Batina, and in the middle the Underground Wines winery – owned by partners from Split and Ireland.
The green path contained wineries Čočić, Guštin, Varga (the latter known to the public by a cuvee with an intriguing name – Zmajevac Viagra). Ethno House Martinov was next to last on the green path, and the last stop was the Gerštmajer winery, in my subjective opinion the best one in Zmajevac, known for somewhat later harvests and higher percentages of alcohol in wine.
Wine policemen who arrived from the Karašica Republic (a state uniting the physically intertwined, but administratively separate towns of Belišće and Valpovo, with a tendency of intensive territorial expansion). They kept order at the marathon and made sure no one had less than the allowed alcohol blood content! Otherwise they would issue a fine, and direct them expressly to drinking additional amounts of wine. Besides repression, the policemen also held educational presentations for competitors on the benefits for the organism and physical health stemming from regular wine consumption.
An ethno fair took place during the wine marathon, where visitors could by domestic ground paprika, handmade souvenirs and snack on various rural delicacies.
Buses were organised for marathoners from Osijek, Valpovo, Belišće and Beli Manastir. An excellent idea so the real police would not take your driving license (not all policemen are full of understanding such as the ones from Karašica Republic).
The reformist road saw the performances of Neki Novi Klinci – Balašević Tribute Band and DJ Boban, and the catholic one the Reflex Band. The real “Honour Lap” party took place in the Zajec cellar as usual, with tambouritza players and trumpeters. Dancing on tables, unintentionally spilled wine, the entire cellar in collective ecstasy… To illustrate the Zajec party I will cite a message published on their Facebook the day after: “Dear marathoners, whoever lost their phone, shirts, pants, underwear, report to the inbox!”
All in all, the wine marathon is the ultimate wine feast and manifestation progressively growing, in visitor numbers and content. A manifestation attracting new wine lovers and hedonists each year to Baranja and Zmajevac. And whoever comes to Zmajevac, keeps coming again and again…