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 from the late 1990's invested intensively in developing the grape growing and wine making. New wineries have been build while old ones have been restructured and the effort was with the establishment of the NGO Wines of Macedonia (WOM) in 2010 backed up. WOM provides strategic support to the Macedonian wine sector, advocating and 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, 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 souls (mineral, clay and limestone), the largest winery in Southeastern Europe, almost 225.000 ha within a total vineyard area of 33.500 representing 0,4% of the world's vineyard total and entering 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 www.winesofmacedonia.mk 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, practically all the producers we tasted Vranec from make wines overloaded wines with oak. This is too bad. I'm convinced that Vranec can do much more a bit more on its own and become much more elegant and high-quality segment competing internationally, if applied with more delicate wine making techniques. I am looking forward to follow Vranec on its journey. Primarily, 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 and an interesting diversity in others, particularly one; Dissan Barrique 2012 from Bovin Winery. The wine had stored six months in new Macedonian oak barrels and both nose and palate came through with doubts of faultiness from cork. However, it was not cork. The characteristic taste and smell of cork fault slowly disappeared. And left me something 'different' that I find 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 re 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 could have wished for. Vranec Terroir Grand Reserva 2012 from Chateau Kamnik. A heavily 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.
Macedonian wines have inspired me.