Wine is an unparalleled avenue for exploring the world. For me, at least, food and language are limiting factors in relating to other cultures. I can’t or don’t eat a lot of things, and speak only two languages.
Fortunately, fermented grape juice makes common cause with places and people that might otherwise feel hard to access.
Case in point, a generous, delightful colleague brought to work three wines from her native North Macedonia. Hands up, I’d never heard of the country until I met her; couldn’t pin it on a map.
The Wines of Macedonia website offers a historical overview of the land:
“The Republic of Macedonia is an ancient biblical country, geographically situated in the central part of the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe. Even though Macedonia is a young state which became independent in 1991, its roots run deep in the history. The name “Macedonia” is in fact the oldest surviving name of a country in the continent of Europe. Archaeological evidence shows that old European civilization flourished in Macedonia between 7000 and 3500 BC. Macedonia is located in the center of the Southern Balkans, north of ancient Greece, east of Illyria, and west of Thrace. The ancient Macedonians were a distinct nation, ethnically, linguistically, and culturally different from their neighbors. The origins of the Macedonians are in the ancient Brygian substratum which occupied the whole of Macedonian territory and in Indo-European superstratum, which settled here at the end of the 2nd millennium.“
WOM proceeds to outline the nation’s unique wine-growing charms, including a dry, warm climate; varied terrain; distinctive local grape varieties and large lakes. Click here for more on its three main wine regions.
My colleague brought a 2021 Chardonnay-Riesling blend (12.5%), Alexandria, from Tikves Winery. They say: “Semi-dry white wine with a greenish-yellow color, a distinctive scent of honey and freshness from citrus fruit aromas and complex floral flavor.”
We said: easy-drinking, refreshingly acidic floral white with pointed notes of roast pear and lemon peel.
The next bottle was also from Tkives, a T’Ga Za Jug (2019). This 13% red made from the local Vranec grape was medium in body, acidity and tannins. Dark fruit on the nose (currant, mostly) gave way to cranberry and red and black currants on the palate.
Our final taste was of a 2019 Stobi Merlot that came in at 14%. Stobi describes it as, “Dark red ruby color with elegant aroma of raspberry, blackberry, red currant. Dense, concentrated, harmonious, soft wine with a long finish.”
We said, black currant, blackberry, plum and a hint of rosemary, with a medium finish.
To accompany these delights, my colleague brought her mother’s homemade quince jam, which we piled by the spoonful onto slices of brie and Camembert cheese.
As with any wine tasting, the most important moments were the one’s when wine led us into other ideas, conversations, exchanges. The most artful wine is only as memorable as the memories it helps create.