American's Bosnia wine investment a leap of faith

Tue Sep 22, 2009 7:01am EDT
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By Adam Tanner

TREBINJE, Bosnia (Reuters Life!) - In stubbornly unstable Bosnia, Alex Kostovic's investment in vineyards requires a leap of faith, which is just as well because his minority partner is the Serbian Orthodox Church.

"I really don't see anywhere in Europe a better place than ex-Yugoslavia for investment," the Serbian American said of his several million euro, 2003 purchase of 200 hectares of vineyards in Trebinje, the country's southernmost town.

"With all the things that have happened with stocks and bonds, this was the best possible investment."

Kostovic now sells his Merlot, Cabernet and local Vranac red grapes to regional vintners, but dreams of leaving a legacy by making wine and building a tourist center.

His Californian wife and daughters think he is crazy.

"My wife blames me for that. I was never attracted for money alone, it was always a goal to accomplish something," Kostovic said. "In a sense to me it is almost like early pioneers in America... (but) I didn't prove yet that I am right."

In much of the world, buying land cheaply near the town center of an area known for wine might be a sure bet. Yet Bosnia remains deeply divided following its 1992-95 war, in political deadlock between its Serbian and Muslim-Croat halves.

Just 28 km (17 miles) from the Croatian medieval walled city of Dubrovnik, Trebinje is known for good grapes. Kostovic's partner, the Serbian Orthodox Church's Tvrdos Monastery, has a long history with wine. Costs and labor are a fraction of those in the European Union Bosnia aspires one day to join.   Continued...