Vranec, Bovin and the Wines of Macedonia

Sep 28, 2010

While giving a public tour at the winery I work at, I met three Macedonians. They were friendly and asked me  if I knew anything about Macedonian wine. I said I had little if no knowledge of Macedonian wine, admitting  to some familiarity with the history of Alexander the Great and Aristotle.

"Of course," the young woman said.

Thinking for a moment, hoping not to appear too uncultured I said, "I know the language is similar to Greek.... Actually, my step-brother married a Macedonian."

The male in the group rolled his eyes and said sarcastically, "My condolences..."

"Well... he's divorced."

To which he replied, "I'm not surprised." 

Strangely, the two ladies in his company then gave him a solemn, as if knowing glance, seemingly acknowledging some hidden truth in his sardonic response.

Aside from male and female relations in Macedonia, let's take a peek at the history.

For those who sat through Alexander by famed filmmaker, Oliver Stone, or listened to lectures in Ancient History class in high school, you may remember Macedonia as once being the head of a vast empire. Philip II, Alexander's father took control of the Greek city states in the mid 4th century B.C. After his death, his son Alexander extended the kingdom's borders. Taking his armies eastward, Alexander gained control of Persia, Egypt and lands bordering India. Unfortunately, he died at the age of 32  in  323 B.C. but his legacy continued to influence such military leaders as Ceasar, Marcus Aurelius and Bismarck.

By 167 BC, Macedonia's political power had substantially waned and like many Greek cities, fell under the sway of the growing Roman Empire. It is said that the members of the Macedonian royal family were heavy wine drinkers (perhaps as a result of their fall from world power. That... or something to do with male-female relations... which might explain why my step-brother loves - needs? - to drink).

Today, there is the Republic of Macedonia, a landlocked country bordered by Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Albania and the region of Macedonia in the country of Greece (where the original royal cities of Alexander's fame lie).

The Republic of Macedonia is hot (a climate ranging from Mediterranean to Continental), mountainous and prone to earthquakes. Overall, the conditions are very favourable for growing both table and wine grapes.

Presently there is an estimated 55,330 acres/22,400 ha of land devoted to growing such popular international varieties as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Laski Rizling (AKA Welschriesling), with some Chardonnay and  Sauvignon Blanc as well as the indigenous grapes of Vranac, Kratosija and Zilavka

There are three main wine-growing regions. The most important is the Povardarie (or Povardarje) region around Skopje (Скопје) followed by Pcinja-Osogova region on the Bulgarian border and Pelagonija-Polog surrounding Lake Ohrid on the Albanian border. 

One can find the Bovin winery in the Tikvesh District of the Povardarie Region in the town of Negotino (Неготино). 

Established in 1998, Bovin is regarded as the first privately owned winery in Macedonia. Presently they own 60 hectares of land in Tikvesh. The winery uses environmentally friendly practices in their vineyard along with the most modern of production equipment for fermentation and maturation.

Along with the many international varieties, Bovin grows the Vranec grape, easily the most popular and important in the country. Indigenous to both Montenegro and Macedonia, Vranec produces a rich wine with intense red and black berry fruit. For those who love their Primitivo from Puglia or their California Zinfandel, DNA profiling has recently revealed that Vranec may be related to the Italian variety from across the Adriatic.

The 2007 Vranec from Bovin is incredibly rich with lush blackberry fruit and a hint of earthy licorice. If you've grown tired of Malbec, this is a nice change. A wonderful value and available at the LCBO for $13.95.

Robinson, Jancis (ed.), The Oxford Companion to Wine. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 2006.
Johnson, Hugh and Jancis Robinson, World Atlas of Wine. Mitchell Beazley, London, 2001.



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My focus is mainly on wine culture, history and education. I love the stories behind wine - the people, places and the regional personalities of the wine-countries around the world.

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