I had my first Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonian (FYRM) wine last week at a restaurant I like in New York City called Balkanika. The food is a mixture of Eastern European cuisines and a perfect spot for a meal after my tango class with my teacher from Montenegro.
The former Yugoslavian republics are a fascinating mix of people, cultures and foods. The memory of the Balkan wars has receded in many people’s minds and things have improved according to the waitress at the restaurant. I was in graduate school during that war and one of my professors had been the last US Ambassador to Yugoslavia. I will never forget how haunted he was by what had happened there.
I had the wine in the picture above called T’ga za Jug” which is the name of a poem by the most famous Macedonian poet, Konstantin Miladinov. Loosely translated it means longing for the south. The poet was from the southern part of the country and found himself in Moscow when he wrote the poem.
The wine itself was semi-sweet and not exceptional but I liked the story behind it, the poem and discovering a new indigenous grape variety – Vranec which is apparently the most widely grown grape in Macedonia, a tiny nation in the Balkans, landlocked between Greece, Serbia, Albania, Bulgaria and Kosovo.
According to this website I found, Tivkes, the producer of this particular wine, is the largest winery in Macedonia.
Macedonia may be landlocked but it has numerous water sources and lakes which provide interesting micro-climates. Apparently it has some of the world’s most elevated lakes, a result of the shift in the tectonic plates that lie below the surface. A mountainous region, the climate is apparently a mixture of Continental to Mediterranean, as you move from North to South. I also found this interesting piece on about wines from Macedonia and a chat with the sommelier at Ai Fiori, a lovely man.
I look forward to trying more of these wines. For that, one place where I can certainly find them is a great importer called Blue Danube. I met the owner about five years ago at a Society of Wine Educators conference in New Orleans. I see their business has greatly expanded and that they now have a New York presence as well.