Vranec Wine, Macedonia

Vranec Wine, Macedonia (Hiking the Balkans)

The wine world landscape is pretty well laid out at this point: There’s the Old World and the New World, and while new wineries are popping up daily, the countries from which quality wines come are well established. Sure, there are esoteric winemaking countries like Slovenia and Croatia thrown in there, thanks to a new crop of young, hipster somms, but there aren’t any new winemaking countries just popping up out of nowhere, right? Wrong.

Just when you thought there were no new wine countries to discover, influences such as climate change, new energy and investments, and changing political conditions are throwing new regions into the mix. From the Middle East to Africa to South America, these seven unexpected winemaking countries are just a few offering new discoveries to spice up your wine drinking. And best of all,  you’ll seem seriously wine-savvy when you bring a bottle to the next wine and cheese night. Feel free to take all of the credit — we won’t tell.

The Republic of Macedonia — not to be confused with the region of Macedonia in northern Greece — is still struggling to find its winemaking identity after gaining independence in 1991. Unlike Slovenia and Croatia, which were also part of the former Yugoslavia and have emerged as up-and-coming winemaking countries in the past five to 10 years, the Republic of Macedonia is just now starting to garner attention for its wine, partially due to new investments in the country. The landlocked country has the benefit of abundant sunshine, both Mediterranean and continental breezes, and rocky soil, so most families make some sort of wine at home (of varying quality, of course).

The most important region of the Republic of Macedonia is Povardarje, which is located centrally around the country’s capital, and while international grapes are grown, the country has adopted the red Vranec as its signature grape. Vranec, which is also found in neighboring Montenegro, Serbia, and Croatia, is like a cross between Nebbiolo and Zinfandel: powerful and intensely colored, with smack-you-in-the-face tannins, but married with quite a bit of plush black fruit. As the Republic of Macedonia continues to find its style, winemakers have a tendency to heavily oak their Vranec wines, creating a more “international” style, but the potential of the grape is huge. It’s worth checking out the Republic of Macedonia’s wines while they’re still fairly unknown and watching them evolve vintage by vintage.

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