The Republic of North Macedonia is one of the regions included in the six Balkan countries alongside Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, and Kosovo. North Macedonia is considered one of Europe’s few undiscovered wine countries. The vineyards, mountains, lakes, and rivers are amid grand historic ruins and idyllic small villages that have remained relatively unchanged for centuries.
Macedonian wine production dates to the 13th century BC. Wine was made from grapes and mixed with honey, because sugar aided in preservation. Wine was stored in clay amphoras and topped with olive oil to prevent the wine from being exposed to oxygen, then it was buried in the ground where it was cool. This slowed down the aging of the wine.
Grapes are Macedonia’s second largest agricultural export, after tobacco. Vineyards cover about 82,780 acres of which 70% are wine grapes, with the remainder being table grapes. The country produces up to 31.7 million gallons of wine a year and is ranked the 25th country in terms of wine production in the world. Of the wine produced there, 40% is bottled and 60% is sold in bulk. Unlike many other countries, Macedonia sees up to 85% of its wine exported with only 15% sold in the domestic market.
The country is divided into three wine growing regions. The Pelagonija-Polog region is in the south and southwest areas of the country, and represents about 13% of the wine produced country-wide. The next region is the Vardar River Valley, which is in the center of the country and produces about 83% of the country’s wine. The last wine growing region is Pčinja-Osogovo which is to the east, on the border with Bulgaria. Here, the vines are grown on mountain slopes at altitudes of 1400 to 2800 feet.
The leading grape for white wine production in North Macedonia is Smederevka. Wines from this grape are fruity, aromatic, bright, low in alcohol and ready to drink. Other white wines in Macedonia are made from Welschriesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Temjanika (Muscat Blanc a Petit Grains), Zhilavka, and the up and comer Rkatsiteli, having been brought in from the Caucasus.
The most common red grape in North Macedonia is Vranec. Wines made from Vranec have aromas and flavors of red berries and fruit jams along with firm tannins. As the wines age, more complex aromas of cinnamon, chocolate, licorice, black fruit, and herbs appear. Red wines from this country are often made of Kratosija, Stanushina, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot.
This Saturday, August 3rd 2019, City Vino, will be tasting Jordanov Rkaciteli 2018 from North Macedonia. A fine example of this wine as expressed in North Macedonia is clean, crisp, and bright, with aromas of orchard and stone fruit and a hint of fresh linen. Pair this with some crab or shrimp on a warm, sunny afternoon.