Wines of Macedonia
If you didn’t know, Macedonia is a small country nestled above Greece, in between Albania and Bulgaria, and was once part of Yugoslavia. When it was a part of Yugoslavia, the Republic of Macedonia produced both wine and vodka but now their focus is their 55,000 acres of vineyard.
The climate of Macedonia is relative to that perfect Mediterranean climate we constantly talk about: tons of sunshine (270 days a year, to be exact), which leads to sunny days and cool nights, with just a touch of humidity to help the grapes ripen.
There are three wine-growing regions in this little nation: Pelagonija-Polog (West Region), Vardar River Valley (Central Region), and Pchinja- Osogovo (East Region). Pelagonija-Polog is in the South-Southwestern part of the country and its six districts are responsible for about 13% of Macedonia’s total wine production. The landscape is full of mountains and hills so the vineyards are planted at higher altitudes, making for a slightly harsher climate. Both red and white grapes are grown including noble grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay but also some more local varieties such as Zhilavka and Prokupec.
The Vardar River Valley contributes about 83% of the country’s wine production and is home to 1 million people and hosts about 2 million tourists each year. The region enjoys 260 days a year of sunshine which is helpful for the vineyards which are planted on the sides of mountains and results in a balmy climate. Throughout the 21,000 hectares of vineyard, there are well- known grapes but this area focuses on the indigenous varieties such as Smederevka, Temjanika, and their famous red Vranec. The Vardar River Valley region produces 850,000 hectoliters of wine each year from their 69 registered wineries.
Pchinja- Osogovo, the smallest region with only 4% of Macedonia’s total wine production, is the northernmost region and is very mountainous and unlike the rest of the country, experiences a much drier climate. Although droughts aren’t common, there is much less moisture and sun here than the other regions which means colder, harsher temperatures and strong winds from the North. Because of the difference in climate, red wines dominate in this area, particularly Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir, and Vranec.
Tikves Winery, the oldest winery and largest winery in Southeastern Europe, is the crown jewel of Macedonia’s wine industry. It produces 50 different wines, each with their own flavor profiles and styles. In 2003, it was acquired by an investment group which has since made it a hub for scientific research and innovation for the entire wine industry.