Latest Magazine Interview with Don McCulloch

After awarding McC Wines with a Gold and Silver last year, Magazine wanted to know more, naturally, about McC McCulloch Wines

Don Mek Kaloh (Don McCulloch): Serbian organic wines with a Scottish signature

If not the greatest, then certainly the most pleasant surprise of the Great test 2014 Awards were Gold and Silver medals for two new wines from FRUŠKO GORSKA winery McC , whose owner – Scotch!  It is Don Mek Kaloh ( Don McCulloch ) , " Serbian -law " that not only the first winemaker from the UK who started making wine in Serbia , but the man can be said to have done the first fully organic biodynamic wine in Serbia , and thus opened a new chapter in a future history of the local wine production.

McCulloch was born in 1956 in London, and before he became a winemaker in Serbia most of his professional career was spent as personal security to the British Royal family and then as a detective in the special unit of Scotland Yard for Counter-Terrorism.  After 30 years of stressful service, he achieved his of long-standing dream to peacefully grow grapes and make wine. From of all the wine-growing areas of the world, he chose a big mountain to climb! 

Why in Serbia and why Fruska Gora? - For me it was an easy choice because my wife was born in Novi Sad. Also, I am familiar with the wine tradition of the region , especially Fruska Gora and the history there of winemaking that goes back to the Roman Emperor, Probus. For me, this was sufficient, since the Romans had never made mistake when it comes to a choice of terrain for growing grapes.

You bought a house in Erdevik ... - After the first visit to Erdevik, I immediately fell in love with the village and the surrounding landscape. I noticed that Erdevik has a large winery, at although that time it was closed, it suggested that it was a substantial wine area and so around it, it certainly has people with experience in winemaking .  

What was your previous experience with making wine? - All my previous experience until 2011, when we had the first harvest here, was taken from learning in New Zealand in the Marlborough region, well-known for its wine production. I was also lucky that my good friend there was also the largest producer of NZ’s wine , producing 65 million litres per year! This experience was useful with the technological side, and gave me the opportunity to get to know the methods of biodynamic production of several local producers there, where I experienced all aspects of this production during the three completed harvests.

Who helps with your wines and how is it influenced? - I'm truly involved in all stages of production, right from harvest to bottling. Of course, I have oenologist and the people with whom I work in the winery . I have special methods of production , which include experiences from three global wine regions - Bordeaux , Ribera del Duero and New Zealand. These methods are essentially different from how the wine is produced in Serbia. 

Coupage red blend
McC Wines produces about 15,000 bottles of wine per year . The portfolio consists of six labels – in reds McC Coupage , McC Merlot - Malbec , McC Cabernet Franc - Cabernet Sauvignon and McC Pinot Noir and in whites McC Gewurztraminer and McC Riesling Rhine . The Red wine McC Coupage 2012 won Gold at the Great test 2014 Awards, which made rom Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon , matured for 12 months in Serbian oak barrels of and then another 14 months in bottles. McC Coupage 2012 received a Silver in 2014 and a Bronze medal at Decanter,the World's Most Admired wine competition. 

Other grape varieties from which the McC label are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir , Riesling , Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc. It is obtained exclusively from grapes grown the biodynamic vineyard , without the use of artificial fertilisers , pesticides , insecticides or herbicides.

How complicated was it to start your vineyard in Serbia? - It was difficult at first, because the vineyard land was divided into a multitude of different pitches owners , some of whom do not live in Serbia .  

What do most Englishmen ask when you say you're making wine in Serbia and and what do they think about the wines? - Most people in the UK thought I was crazy to even embark on the adventure of wine production in Serbia! Why would someone from England, who at the same time does not speak Serbian want to make wine outside the European Union? Indeed, there are obstacles , legal and all other , numerous problems . But as soon as people taste the wines they see why I wanted to do this. More and more people are looking for an interesting wine these days and I’m particularly pleased to be able to introduce them to Serbian wines. At the same time, some of the leading experts such as Jamie Goode , Julia Harding , who is a Master of Wine , or Monty Waldin , expert in biodynamic wine , gave excellent reviews of my wines , to which I am very proud.

In which markets are your wines so far? - All the wines are exported to the UK and also the Serbian market is absolutely my focus. I sent samples to New Zealand for evaluation, where the wines are also well received, and there are several requests from many the European countries, but in small quantities, so slowly growing.

What are your future plans? - It's still early, the winery practically only started since 2011. Although, given the fact that our wine was immediately warmly welcomed and that we have already won three important awards , makes it feel like we’ve already been in the business long. In essence , I'm still at the stage of improving the production process , and the final goal is to get the wine enjoyed by as many people as possible.

What Serbian wines do you particularly like? - Honestly, I enjoy so many. They have authentic character and an enviable quality that has not been sufficiently recognized in the wine world. I especially enjoy the gorgeous aromas and taste of Triumph Gold winery Alexandrovich, which I think are all wonderfully-made ines . Also I enjoy the wines the winery Vinum, Belo Brdo , Temet and Jelic . But, truly, in Serbia there are many excellent wine producers , so it is difficult to decide on a favourite.  

And in general what are your favourite wines? - It's hard to single out a favourite wine because I see a lot of good points in many different types of wines, varieties , production methods etc. Especially since I started to produce wine, and now understand the difficulties in the production first hand. However, I really do enjoy some of the superb Sauvignon Blanc wines from the Marlborough region in New Zealand , particularly from the winery TWR.