StoryCafe Magazine April 2015: Serbian Wine Adventures by a British Bodyguard!

Livening up the local wine scene recently is quite an unusual participant, Don Makalok (Don McCulloch) who once worked for the British Royal family came to Fruska Gora, Serbia, after his retirement to make organic wine!

For connoisseurs of local wine, the biggest surprise of the last "Big test", where most foreign experts assess the quality of Serbian wines, were the gold and silver medals won by a red wine Coupage, from the Fruska Gora mountains whose owner was this Scottish man with his "McC Wines".

It is Makalok Don (Don McCulloch), that is not only the first winemaker from Great Britain who started making wine in Serbia, but this man can also say that he has made the first fully organic and biodynamic wines in Serbia and thus opens a new chapter in a future history of the local wines. And to make things extra interesting, before he became a winemaker in Serbia, Makalok spent most of his professional career 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 a stressful career, he welcomed the benefits and the achievement of a long-standing dream to peacefully grow grapes and make wine. And out of all the wine-growing regions of the world, he chose - Fruska Gora!

Why 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, particularly Fruska Gora and their history of winemaking that goes back to the Roman Emperor Probus. For me, that fact alone was good enough, since the Romans had never bad choices in  their choice of terrains and their cultivation of wine.

"I believe in using specific methods in the production process, which include experiences from three major world wine regions - Bordeaux, Ribera del Duero and New Zealand. These methods are significantly different from how wine is produced in Serbia " says Makalok.

You bought a house in Erdevik
I immediately fell in love with the village and the surrounding landscape. I learned that there existed a large winery, at that time closed, but it suggested to me that there must be people with experience in winemaking around there.

What was your previous experience of making wine?
All my previous experience until 2011, when we had the first ever harvest here, was what I got from New Zealand. My good friend of the which is the largest local wine producer there, with 65 million litres produced per year. There I learnt the technologies of making wine, especially in biodynamic production from several local winemakers.

What you Englishmen usually ask when you say you're making wine in Serbia?
Most of them out there thinks I'm crazy as I ever embarked on this adventure! Why would someone from England, which do not speak Serbian, went to make wine outside the European Union? Indeed, obstacles, legal and all other, were numerous. But as soon as he tasted the wine, they became clearer. In a world more and more people who are looking for some unknown wine them and I was particularly pleased to be able to meet them with Serbian wines.

What do Englishmen usually think when you say you're making wine in Serbia?
Most of them think I'm crazy as I ever for embarking on this adventure! Why would someone from England, who does not speak Serbian, want to make wine outside the European Union? Indeed, obstacles, legal and all other, are numerous. But as soon as they taste the wine, they become clearer. In this world more and more people are looking for some unknown wine and so I am particularly pleased to be able to introduce them to Serbian wines.

What are your future plans?
It's still early, the winery practically only started in 2011, but due to the fact that our wines were warmly welcomed from the start and we've already won three important awards, we have a big incentive to continue. In fact, I'm still at the stage of improving the production process, and the final goal is to spread the wine as far as possible so more people will enjoy them.

What Serbian wine do you like?
Honestly, I enjoy most of them. 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 tastes of Triumph Gold winery "Alexandrovich", it is wonderfully made wine. But, honestly, in Serbia there are many excellent wine producers, so it is difficult to single out just one.

What are the favorite wines of the Royal family?
It is difficult to say, because the Royal cellar is so diverse. I think they have more than 1,000 different wines! Many of the wines they drink are from Australia and New Zealand for obvious reasons, and of course French wine and German wines too.

Do they show a special interest in wine?
For the royal family wine is an integral part of the meal and served with every meal, so that everyone can drink. But not the way we do, say, we were to drink one whole bottle of wine together. Wine is simply something that is served with dishes like salt and pepper on the table.

McC Golden red blend Coupage 
"McC Wines" produces about 15,000 bottles of wine per year, and all exported to the UK. The portfolio consists of six labels - red McC Coupage, McC Merlot Malbec, Cabernet Franc McC-Caber- net Sauvignon and Pinot Noir McC and white McC Gewurztraminer and Riesling Riesling McC.

Red wine McC Coupage 2012, gold medal winner at the "big test 2014", made from Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, matured for 12 months in oak barrels of Serbian and then another 14 months in bottles.

It is obtained exclusively from grapes grown from a biodynamic vineyard, without the use of fertilisers, pesticides, insecticides or herbicides.