Macedonia is a small country that offers some of the finest and least known wines in the world. These wines have big potential and already surprised many well-traveled wine experts with their exceptional quality and their unknown status in the wine circles, which is a shame because a drive towards quality in the last couple of decades has resulted in producing some exceptional wines that are waiting to be discovered. Here's our short course in the introduction of the Macedonian wines.
The Macedonian wine scene has been blooming recently in regards to raising the bar of domestic wine culture - lots of wine events and festivals are being held regularly, many newly wine shops has been open and the wine tourism is growing in order to please the visitor’s curiosity to explore the abundance of Macedonian indigenous grape varieties. But it was not always like this. For the past decade or so, the country has been recovering its wine history after a turbulent time under Yugoslavia, when the vineyards were taken over by the state and the development of a sophisticated wine industry was not possible.
At that time, emphasis was put on quantity rather than quality and all the wineries were just making wine in bulk with low quality. Today, the wineries don’t produce bulk wine any more since over 90% of the produced wine is bottled (wine production goes up to 120 million liters). The attitude of the winemakers also changed, who are now eager to learn and apply the newest techniques in their wine cellars. All leading producers and wine makers are committed on recreating the wine industry through intensive developments in grape growing, wine making and are focused to put Macedonia on the international wine map.
WINE GROWING REGIONS
There are three main wine regions in the country (Pelagonija-Polog, Pcinja-Osogovo and Povardarie), and each region is then divided into districts.
The Central Region or Povardarie, spreading along the Vardar river valley, accounts for nearly a half of the total vines and more than a half of total grape production in the country. It's the region where the most important Macedonian vineyard districts are situated and those are Tikves, Skopje, Veles, Gevgelija-Valandovo, Strumica, Ovcepolie and Kocani-Vinica wine lands. Tikves wine district is the most famous and top producing wine area that also yields the highest-quality wine products.
The Pelagonija-Polog Region is situated in the West and Southwest of the country and covers the Tetovo, Ohrid, Prespa, Prilep, Bitola and Kicevo wine districts. The wine yards in this region are grown surrounded by plateaus and small mountains and climate is characterized by hot and dry summers and cold and humid winters.
The third and smallest region is Pcinja-Osogovo on the Northeast part of the country and encompasses the Kumanovo, Kratovo and Pijanec wine districts. It's the most mountainous and the most arid region of all three with typically continental climate.
WINE GRAPE VARIETIES
Macedonia have very diverse terrain and together with its extremely favorable climate conditions is home of many indigenous varieties, varieties common to the Balkans and as well as some international varieties. Thanks to the 270 sun-drenched days per year, the influences of the Mediterranean and continental breezes and the richness of its soil with minerals, Macedonia proved to be ideal for the wine grapes to thrive in unique flavors, intense aromas and rich colors. On the oenological map, Macedonia is in the area together with regions like Spain, Mediterranean France and Southern Italy, regions that are perfect for viticulture of the best quality red grapes. So there is no surprise that that the country is proud on its red wines and especially Vranec (meaning ‘black stallion’ in Macedonian), regional red grape variety that has perfectly domesticated in Macedonia and become the country’s flag-bearer.
The most cultivated sorts of red grape are Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Plavec Mali and the popular local red wines like Vranec, Kartosija and Stanushina. Common white varieties include R’kaciteli, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and the local varieties Smederevka, Temjanika, Zilavka and Zupjanka.
The Macedonian winemakers put their emphasis mostly on local grape varieties such as Vranec - the country most common red variety, Stanushina - an incredibly exceptional red grape variety from the Vardar valley region or Temjanika - the delicate aromatic grape of mysterious origins. Other grape varieties that are successfully growing in Macedonia with its own characteristics are Smederevka - country's leading grape variety for production of white wines, Chardonnay - the world’s most famous white grape with its high aromatic complexity, and Pinot Noir - red grape variety that produce young wine of terrific elegance and complexity.
The majority of the Macedonian wineries are located in the Central Povardarie Region. The unique climate mix with many sunny days makes this region the most favorable for wine making.
The most well-known wine district in the country is Tikves, located in the south of Povardarie Region and covers two big centers-the cities of Kavadarci and Negotino. Here you will find Tikves winery - the oldest Macedonian winery, named after the Tikves wine district. Located in the city of Kavadarci, Tikves is the largest winery in Macedonia and the biggest in South-East Europe, with over 500 hectares of vineyards. Tikves winery has been crafting and producing premium wines since 1885 and their star wine is "T’ga za jug", semi-dry red wine produced in honour of Struga Poetry Evenings.
Other important winery from Tikves wine district is Stobi winery, located next to the ancient city of Stobi, from which it gets its name. Stobi winery is a relatively new and probably the most modernly designed Macedonian winery with more then 25 different labels currently produced, including their most famous Vranec Veritas and Zilavka.
In the same wine district in the city of Negotino, you'll find Bovin winery - the first family owned winery in the country that produce high quality wines which claimed many awards like their Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, and Dudin winery - family owned winery that produce the "Akrato" label of barriqued wines that aged 12 months in oak barrels. Another prestigious family owned winery located in the small vilage near Kavadarci is Popov winery and is the winery where you can find probably the best Temjanika in the country.
Close to the highway E-75 and west of the small town of Demir Kapija is where the Popova Kula winery is located, with vineyards that are modeled after those in California wine country. Popova Kula (meaning ''Priest's Tower'' in Macedonian) is the winery that manage to successfully resurrected the Stanushina, grape variety only found in the Tikves wine district of Macedonia, and is the winery with the nicest accommodations in the country.
The Skopje wine district on the north of the Povardarie Region is also offering great wineries where you can enjoy in high quality wines. At the eastern entrance of the capitol city you can visit the Chateau Kamnik winery, an ultra-modern winery and a true vineyard innovator. Kamnik is country’s most awarded vineyard and their signature Merlot is a true celebrity among the Kamnik wines. Next door to the winery is the Hunter’s Lodge Kamnik restaurant & hotel, place that is one of the best fine-dining restaurants in the city. Other winery from Skopje wine district that is worth to mention is Skovin winery, with their vineyards located on the mild slopes under the mountainside of Vodno. Skovin is one of the few big wineries in the country and their Muscat and Rosa Canina for sure will not gonna leave you indifferent.
There are many boutique wineries in the other regions that will surprise many wine lovers with their quality. For example, on the south of Skopje you can visit the Veles wine district and go for a tasting at the Chateau Sopot winery, which have excellent Cabernets or go to Ezemit winery, located in the city of Stip in the East Region, famous for its premium quality dry red wine Terra Makedonika.
Producing world-class wines takes decades and Macedonian winemakers have faced many challenges on the road to reach that level. Nowadays the wine industry it’s been gradually progressing but the biggest challenge is still the international recognition as a wine country, as Macedonian wine is only now becoming available in different countries around the world. The presence of Macedonian wines on the international wine scene is constantly growing as the wine cellars continue to expand their production and to take a sharp and decisive turn towards quality and distinction. As part of the national wine promotion the wineries have begun to embrace wine tourism in Macedonia, offering tours of their vineyards, wine tastings and accommodations for visitors. The wine tourism is showing great potential and the numbers of wine lovers and tourists who are coming to the country to discover the Macedonian wines is constantly increasing.
For more detail information about the country wine regions and wine grapes visit winesofmacedonia.mk