Sanja Radonjić: In the winemaking you are dependent on nature

Continuing our celebration of exceptional women in the wine industry, today we spotlight Sanja Radonjić, Director of the Development Sector at 13. Jul Plantaže a.d. 

Sanja’s journey in winemaking is a testament to dedication and expertise, guiding her team with innovation and a deep respect for nature’s influence on viticulture. Dive deeper into her story and insights—inspiration guaranteed!


What is wine for you?

Wine to me is the symbol of the sun, nature, soil, tradition, culture, history, hard work, and love. Wine is the bridge between the nature and people, i.e. the essence of the land where the grapes is grown and the passion of the viticulturist and winemaker as well. It has the power to open people hearts, spark them, evoke the emotions and to create the memorable experience.


How did you enter the wine industry?

After completing my basic studies as engineer of technology at the University of Belgrade, I returned to my homeland Montenegro and started to search employment.  Fortunately, I crossed paths with Prof. Dr. Vesna Maraš, who was working at winery 13. Jul Plantaže at the time. Recognizing my analytical approach and dedication, she offered me the opportunity to start an internship at 13. Jul Plantaže.

At the company 13 Jul Plantaže, I have been working for 14 years, since 2010 when I began my internship in the Development Department, which I have been managing since this year. I am a chemical engineer, but driven by the desire for new knowledge, in the same year, I enrolled in doctoral studies in the Department of enology at the Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana, where I also obtained my PhD.  After six years in R&D I am happy to have had the opportunity to lead wine production in one of our company’s cellars, where I gained invaluable experience. Managing the cellar, caring for the wines produced there is something that is difficult to achieve without love for what you do. The job of a technologist is dynamic, challenging, requires high concentration and focus. The harvest period requires round-the-clock work, but the feeling is magical when you get the final product into which you have invested so much of yourself, effort, and love. In the 2023 I got opportunity to lead the R&D sector in 13. Jul Plantaže again, thus in a way completing the circle that I started and finished in the Development Department, to which I obviously belong.


What is your philosophy in making wine, and how is it reflected in your product?

In my opinion, it is crucial for everyone involved in winemaking, whether viticulturists, winemakers, lab staff, maintenance personnel, or sales teams, to understand that each of us represents a vital link in the chain leading to the final product. This understanding foster appreciation for the influence of nature and the efforts of those managing the vineyard and making the wine. From this philosophy stems respect for the land, nature, and a commitment to excellence, transforming how people perceive wine in their glass.


How important do you consider education and training in the wine industry, and are there any special programs for women?

Continuous education and trainings are crucial for the success in the wine industry. From understanding the grape varieties, basic principles of growing grapes, to winemaking techniques, continuous learning is essential for growth and innovation. In our country there are no special programs for woman, but there is one small advantage in the number of women engaged in this profession in Montenegro.


What advice would you give to young women who want to enter the wine business?

My advice would be to fearlessly put themselves within all aspects of the industry, from vineyard work, managing cellar to marketing and sales. To listen and learn and to always remember that in the winemaking you are dependent on nature. It is also important to prepare yourself that winemaking is tough work, it requires knowledge, patience, dedication, teamwork, and a bit of luck. No matter on the role, young woman should be prepared to manage several tasks that will likely require physical and mental strength and adaptability to different situations on order to overcome challenges and to help colleagues in completing tasks promptly. Never take anything for granted, and be prepared to work twice as hard as the guys regardless of your talent and skill level. Last but not the least, always practice and taste, taste, taste a lot of wines, pay attention to aromas of the flowers, food… training these skills should become your habit.