Last week I had the privilege of sitting through a Master Class on Macedonian wines, held by Wine Journalist Darrel Joseph from the Decanter. I was up for some quite interesting informations on the lands wine history as well as on the core quality of some of the wines from what may be referred to as the country’s best producers. ‘Best producers’ seen from a, wonderfully, very enthusiastic Wine Journalist’s point of view (Darrel), as well as some internationally heavy tongues such as Robert Parker/Wine Advocate.
First of all, I knew absolutely nothing about macedonian wines and I have to admit, that I hadn’t even tasted some until this joined Master Class and tasting. I don’t know how many out there are like me, but considering that Macedonia until recently was practically only known within Macedonia itself and Yugoslavia (until the breakup of the state in 1990) for its big volumes of bulk production with high yields and no investments in quality and/or branding, it’s possible that the wines from this country might also be very new, if not unknown, to you as well. If so, this is where you are in for some great news.
Macedonian wines have a lot to offer. Leading producers and wine makers have invested intensively in developing the grape growing and wine making from the late 1990’s. New wineries have been build while old ones have been restructured. This effort has with the establishment of the NGO Wines of Macedonia (WOM) in 2010 been backed up. WOM provides strategic support to the Macedonian wine sector, they do advocating and they do branding. Macedonian wines have a great and growing potential but unfortunately – at least for now – a much too heavy use of wood. I truly hope that Macedonian producers will soon realise this. The country, a landlocked republic in the heart of the Balkans, situated with an altitude of 110-650 meters above sea level. It borders Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, Bulgaria and Greece and has a population of 2 million people, an annual harvest of up to 300.000 tons of grapes and 120 million liters of wine production. 3 wine regions and 16 districts within, a few handfuls of indigenous grapes (28; 50% red and 50% white), the country’s second biggest agricultural export product right after tobacco, a transitional climate (mediterranean to continental), 270 sunny days, rich alluvial soils (mineral, clay and limestone). And the largest winery in Southeastern Europe with almost 225.000 ha within a total vineyard area of 33.500 representing 0,4% of the world’s vineyard total. Macedonia enters as the 25th country in world wine production. 60% is still sold in bulk and the remaining 40% in bottles.
We had 10 different wines, one rosé and nine reds, almost all reds made on the country’s #1 grape pride; Vranec. No whites. I didn’t have time to do the open wine tasting that followed the seminar with Darrel, so while still there I never found out why there were no whites at the Master Class. In the meantime I’ve passed by the homepage http://www.winesofmacedonia.mk to try to get wiser. Out of the approximately 14 indigenous green grape varieties Macedonia is blessed with, three of them are explained on winesofmacedonia.mk. The first; “Smederevka” (which again is supposed to originate from Serbia) should give high yield and wines with fruity aromas & low alcohol to be drunk young. The other two listed in there; “Zhilavka” and “Temjanika” on the other hand should leave top quality wines what goes for Zhilavka and for Temjanika, intense flavours of thymes and aromas of Muscat. Temjanika also comes in a dark, and rare edition, leaving top quality wines as the Zhilavka. I look forward to taste some of these ones and more in near future.
“Vranec” is the absolute king of grapes in Macedonia. I understand why. It has got a fantastic potential. Unfortunately, from practically all the producers we tasted it the wines were overloaded with oak. That’s to bad. I’m convinced that Vranec can do much more ‘on its own’ and become much more elegant and by default much more high-quality segment and thus with what it takes to compete internationally. IF applied with more delicate wine making techniques. Looking forward to follow Vranec on its journey. When it comes to the characteristics, aroma and flavours of red and black berries were very intense and very pleasant in most of the wines we had. A bit to much jammyness in some but an interesting diversity in others, particularly one; Dissan Barrique 2012 from Bovin Winery. The wine had stored six months on new Macedonian oak barrels and both nose and palate left me with doubts of faultiness due to cork. However, it was not cork. The characteristic taste and smell of cork fault slowly disappeared. It left me something ‘different’ that I find very difficult to explain.
The best Vranic-based wine we had at this tasting was with no doubt the : Vranec Barrique 2011 from Ezimit Vino. A ruby red with pronounced aromas of red berries, sweet spices, wet leaves, savoury elements and an intense well structured body with pronounced flavours of oak, vanilla, red and black berries, chocolate, floral notes and a pleasantly long finish. 13,5% abv. Great glass.
Vranec Veritas 2011 from Stoby Winery. A purple youngster with intense aromas of red and black berries and sweet spices, in particular cinnamon. On the palate; full bodied and pronounced flavours of red berries, oak, vanilla, sweet spices and bitter chocolate. Long finish.
N. 3 left me thinking. A wine with a lot to say. And yet not as balanced as you’d expect. Vranec Terroir Grand Reserva 2012 from Chateau Kamnik. A heavy purple fellow with intense aromas of red fruits, sweet spices, vanilla, oak, coco and … volatile acidity (nail varnish remover). Which is normally judged as an aroma fault. However, on the palate it didn’t show. Instead it had high levels of tannins, burning alcohol (too much), pronounced flavours of coco, red fruits, oak, vanilla, chocolate, sweet spices and resinous. Long finish and purchasable at Skovgaardvine.dk in Denmark at 650 dkk. Interesting in it’s own way.
Macedonian wines have inspired me with their story and potential.