Wines of Macedonia NYC 2014

OK, indulge me for a moment:

Do the names Temjanika, Stanushina, or Vranec ring a bell?

HINT: No, they are not Eastern European tennis players 😉

The three grape varietals Temjanika, Stanushina, and Vranec from Macedonia, along with Zilavska, do, however, score big when it comes to delivering unique and interesting wines.

Photo Credit: Peter Doyle Photograpy
Photo Credit: Peter Doyle Photograpy
At a recent Master Class and guided tasting for the Wines of Macedonia presentation held at Tocqueville Restaurant in New York City, I had an opportunity to explore some real gems from this still rather quiet wine region.

Although winemaking tradition in the area goes back to Roman times, it is only since the breakup of former Yugoslavia that that there has been a move toward privatization and incoming investment dollars enough to support expansion of wine production in Macedonia. Local bulk wine tradition of the 1950’s has been these days left behind for innovation and serious thinking about the making of world class wines.

Temjanika (synonym Muscat) wines I tasted showed elegant perfumes, some with floral / herb notes or hints of tangerine, orange peel, apricot, arousing muskiness, passion fruit or pineapple. All drank with good acidity and freshness, nicely balanced wines finishing with good persistence. Recommended with hot or cold appetizers, first courses, fish, dessert (Temjanika can be dry, semi-dry, or dessert wine).

The Vranec wines – the word Vranec (pronounced Vran-etch) means strong and powerful horse – were well-structured, communicating supple power, plump and expressive, with firm tannins. As a group, the wines offered rich, intense sensations of red and black fruit, some with impressions of jam, sun, smoke. Depending on wood treatment, notes of cocoa, herb, toasty oak. Finishes were with satisfying with lingering aftertastes. Enjoy Vranec with red meats, game, stews or aged cheeses.

From a purely market perspective, I appreciate that producers I spoke with are not keen to simply recreate a Cabernet or Merlot experience (international varietals grow happily in the region). Rather, producers are focused on expressing the uniqueness of Macedonia’s grape varietals and its terroir, aware that Macedonia can introduce wine lovers to varietals not to be had anywhere else.

Photo Credit: Peter Doyle Photography
Photo Credit: Peter Doyle Photography
Take, for example, Stanushina, a uniquely Macedonian vine little known outside of Macedonia and found, I’m told, nowhere else in the world. I tasted both Stanushina Barrique and Stanushina Rose from producer POPOVA KULA, both were astonishingly good. Pale in color and lighter bodied, both wines showed intense berry aromatics, notes of dried herb, rich flavors on the palate and drank in wonderfully fresh style.

Overall, I found the wines of Macedonia to be sensuous and smooth, with somewhat modern personalities in some cases, immensely drinkable and offering excellent value for money.

Perhaps as importantly as having arrived at a positive impression of the wines, I came away from the day’s presentation with the distinct feeling that healthy food, good wine and gracious hospitality are to be had by travelers to Macedonia’s wine country.

Wines Tasted / Recommended Producers:


BOVIN Temjanika 2013
CHATEAU KAMNIK Temjanika 2013
POPOVA KULA Temjanika 2013
SKOVIN Temjanika 2013
STOBI Zilavka 2013
TIVKES Temjanika 2013


TIKVES Barova 2011
SKOVIN Markov Manastir Vranec 2010
POPOVA KULA Vranec Perfect Choice 2012
POPOVA KULA Stanishina Barrique 2009, Stanishina Rose 2013
BOVIN Dissan Barrique 2011
CHATEAU KAMNIK Vranec Terroir 2011
STOBI Vranec Veritas 2011

Kudos to Melanie Young and David Ransom of The Connected Table for especially thoughtful coordination of this well-done event.

Chateau Lilian Ladouys 2009 Bordeaux-St. Estephe

It’s not particularly difficult to remember the beautiful things one comes by on equally beautiful, rainy fall days, when the city looks monochromatic against the grey drizzle.

lilian-ladouys-2009But, I am struck by the fact that I am still thinking about the Chateau Lilian Ladouys 2009 which I had tasted on just such a day during a recent and rather lovely tasting of Bordeaux wines held in an intimate space at Beautique on Manhattan’s west side.

With history dating back to 1654 when it was named Chateau La Doys, ownership of the St. Estephe property known today as Chateau Lilian Ladouys passed during the 18th century to the Barre family before being purchased in recent years by French businessman Jacky Lorenzetti, who also owns full or significant stakes in several other Chateau in the Medoc.

Host Hortense Bernard, Millesima USA
Host Hortense Bernard, Millesima USA
This elegant Bordeaux is produced from the property’s 47 hectare vineyard planted to 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc in a gravely, clay, limestone soil mix typical of St. Estephe. Average age of vines is 40 years.

Vinification is carried out in stainless steel, malolactic fermentation done in barrel on 10% of the fruit, 90% in tank. The wine rests in 40% new French oak for 14-16 months.

Tasting Notes:

Dense, velvety palate full of ripe red and black fruit, notes of pencil lead, earth, tobacco and spice. Harmonic, with well-integrated wood toast. Good grippy tannins and a finish that goes on for miles.

Tasting hosted by Millesima USA.

Event coordinated by Vigneto Communications, great job as always, a pleasure to taste in a venue whose character so well fit the personality of the wines.

The Enigmatic, Beating Heart of Carignano del Sulcis

NOTE: I traveled as a guest of Consorzio Carignano del Sulcis on an educational press trip to experience the Carignano wines of Sardegna’s Sulcis region.

The following is first in a series of planned articles featuring the region of Carignano del Sulcis, its producers and wines:

You might think that to understand Carignano del Sulcis wines one might simply pour some into a glass.

But, you’d be wrong.

Tasting alone doesn’t capture it.

sardegna-carignano-del-sulcis-mesa-1aTo experience something that extends beyond taste, to feel the enigmatic, beating heart of Carignano del Sulcis, is to understand the appellation in the context of four words:

Sun. Sand. Salt. Scirocco.

One doesn’t need to travel far or long in the region before concluding that the Sulcis sun is both tireless and intense. Light-colored, sandy soils reflect the already strong sunlight back at Carigano vines for intensified effect. It is the amount and quality of Sulcis sunlight that is perhaps the most influencing factor to the zone’s Carignano clusters reaching optimal ripeness as they do, contributing to the high quality and richness of flavor achieved by Carignano wines produced in the region.

sardegna-carignano-del-sulcis-mesa-2a Adding to the region’s heat are Scirocco winds that blow from Africa and across the Mediterranean Sea into Sardegna’s southwest corner where the Sulcis area is located. Here, winds also act as important protectors of vine health, providing all important drying to counter moisture and humidity that, if left unchecked, could lead Carignano’s tight clusters to disease.

Presence of the surrounding sea is announced by a seemingly ever-present scent of saline hanging in the Sulcis air – sometimes mixed with the perfume of Mediterranean herbs growing wild on hillsides – providing unforgettable sensorial information that can be detected in Sulcis Carignano. The sea, a powerful moderator of the region’s heat, plays no small role in bringing a special and unique equilibrium to Sulcis climatic conditions.

sardegna-carignano-del-sulcis-sardus-pater-1aBut, it is the sandy, Sulcis soil which allows ungrafted Carignano vines an opportunity to grow old and safe from phylloxera, a grapevine pest (phylloxera, I’m told, cannot crawl well in the loose, sandy soil.) In fact, Carignano vines trained in the bush or alberello style – a training technique employed to deal with the area’s extreme climatic conditions – can reach to 50, 80, even 100 plus years old in Sardegna’s Sulcis. As poor, sandy soils induce a state of restricted vigor in the vines and old vines have naturally reduced yields, vine nutritional energies are directed to fewer grapes resulting in fruit quality (improved flavor concentration, nuance, etc.) that is astonishingly high.

While traveling in the region, I found Carignano del Sulcis wines I tasted to be wines of harmony showing a remarkable richness of flavor, well-structured wines capable of smoothness, finesse and elegance. Anyone who appreciates the craftsmanship of Burgundy, aromatics and flavors that recall wines of southern France, the intensity of Super Tuscans or the power of California Cab, will find something to love about Carignano del Sulcis.

sardegna-carignano-del-sulcis-sardus-pater-2aAnd I might add to that, anyone who appreciates value: Carignano del Sulcis brings to the market one of the best quality to price ratios in Italian wine today.

It must be said, though, that Carignano del Sulcis is not simply a metaphor for wines of more famous appellations. Like the landscape from which it comes, there is something mysterious, a wildness about Carignano del Sulcis that thrills, an element of personality that is uniquely, deliciously, Sardinian.

Most of the Carignano del Sulcis wines I tasted on this tour would typically best be enjoyed in the short to middle term, say, within five years of vintage. However, there was an impressive example or two of older Carignano del Sulcis wines reaching back eight or ten years that were drinking superbly.

You don’t need to travel to Sardegna to enjoy Carignano del Sulcis. But, understanding something of Carignano del Sulcis in the context of the zone’s incredibly unique terroir and the unique influences of sun, sand, salt and scirocco upon the wines, you are fully prepared – from the rim of your wine glass – to gain a deeper appreciation for the unique expression of Carignano from Sardegna’s Sulcis and its ability to convey nuances of the absolutely fascinating Sulcis terroir.

Recommended Producers Whose Wines Exemplify Sulcis Terroir:

Sardus Pater

Look for more about Carignano del Sulcis, specific wines, their producers and food pairings on Vintrospective in the weeks and months to come.

Related Article, Sardinian Passion