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.
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.
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.