When I first visited North Macedonia in May 2022, I was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. I have a few friends from there, but most of my traveller friends had never visited this country. In addition to the sights and food, another surprising discovery was the variety of wine. In Skopje, I visited the wonderful wine shop Wine Berry run by Jadranka. She introduced me to many unusual varieties of North Macedonian wine. In fact, I had never heard of many of the grape varieties. I liked them so much that I briefly researched how I might import them into the United Kingdom. It seems complicated so I gave up on doing it myself. However, I have found a few retailers in the UK (Tikves UK, Bonjour Wines and more) and and US (Wine Exchange) who sell a limited selection of North Macedonian wine.
Within North Macedonia, there are three main wine regions, which cover most of the country. These are Povardarie (middle), Pelagonija-Polog (south) and Pčinja-Osogovo (north). The Povardarie region produces the most wine and located within it is the famous Tikveš district along the Vardar river. So far, my favourite wines from the tastings have come from Tikveš. In fact, that is why I decided to stay there in Kavadarci for a week in October 2022. It’s a beautiful area with rivers, lakes, hills and vineyards. At that time of year, the land was brown and dry following the harvest.
Vranec is a common red wine variety which is bold and fruity. It is so strong that some people find the need to drink it with food rather than on its own. Another red variety is Stanušina Crna, which can be used to make red or rose wine. In addition to the unique native grapes, there are also some more well-known ones such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel.
As for the white wines, my favourite is a native grape called Temjanika. Žilavka and Bistera are other local white varieties. And the more common white grape varieties available include Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer.
By far, the largest winery in North Macedonia is Tikveš winery located in Kavadarci. They welcome visitors for a tour of the cellars, and there is also a restaurant. I had the tasting menu for lunch at the restaurant. The food was excellent and I tried five wines with my four courses. Another fairly large winery nearby is Stobi Winery, named after the nearby area including a beautiful archaeological site. The winery is interesting to visit for a tour, and there is a restaurant for food and wine tasting.
In addition to the larger wineries, there are many smaller wineries, and these are often family-run. I can’t name them all but I suggest that you ask around or visit the local wine museums to find some local contacts. I visited the wine museum in Kavadarci, and they were very friendly and informative. They also had sample bottles and the cards of a number of wine producers in the area. That is where I found Badi wines, and set up a tasting one evening. The owner was very welcoming and friendly. I enjoyed an evening of tasting the wines and snacking. My favourites were the Bistera white wine and, not surprisingly, the Vranec.
One of my favourite wineries is Wine Cellar Popovi in Kavardarci. I had the pleasure of staying in their hotel with friendly company and excellent breakfasts. I chose to stay there because I had previously tried the Dark Horse Vranec at Wine Berry, and I loved that wine. When I arrived, the owners told me that they were sold out of Dark Horse bottles but had some in the tank. Luckily, they bottled the wine just before I left so I was able to take a couple of bottles back to the UK. They also make Cabernet Sauvignon, Temjanika, and Stanušina rose.
Next time, I hope to visit a few more wineries. In the meantime, I hope this post sparks some interest in North Macedonian wine. If you look for it, then you will hopefully be able to find at least a few varieties to try in your country. Of course, you can also make a visit to North Macedonia, which I also recommend!