Exploring Ancient Grapes Prokup and Vranac At Kosovo’s Stone Castle

This month’s #WinePW group to writing about new varietals. Since indigenous varietals is one of the big topics of interest to me, I was excited. Because of the current invasion and destruction in Ukraine, I wanted to write about something I had tasted from countries that had had much conflict. I settled on a winery I have been meaning to write about for three years, Kosovo’s Stone Castle. Ukraine and Kosovo are of course completely different countries with their own histories, traditions, and populations but both have been through horrific conflict. I have no personal connection to Kosovo, just interest but my grandfather was born in Lviv, Ukraine when Lviv was Poland. My grandmother also came from that area which was called Galicia at the time. Most Eastern European Jews, such as my family, come from this area or have connections to this area.

This is a wine blog so I will get back to the wine but one can’t pretend a war isn’t happening around us with images of stranded babies, children, and young mothers on the move without talking about it. Anyway, I can’t, whether the conflict be in Europe, Africa, Central America, or the Middle East or anywhere in the world.

Looking on a map, one often doesn’t even see Kosovo. That’s because of its contested history with Serbia. This map shows Kosovo, a small landlocked area. Encyclopedia Britannica noted the following: “A landlocked country, Kosovo is bordered by Serbia to the north and east, North Macedonia to the south, Albania to the west, and Montenegro to the northwest. Kosovo, about the same size as Jamaica or Lebanon, is the smallest country in the Balkans.”

I first tasted these wines from Stone Castle at Vinexpo 2019. I just went back to Vinexpo for the first time in two years, since March 2020.

I didn’t see if the Stone Castle folks were there but I did find familiar faces from abroad. The show was smaller than usual but fun to attend and a step towards a more normal future.

Stone Castle Vineyards is located in Rahovec, part of the agricultural valley of Dukagjini in the Prizren region of western Kosovo. The area has a Continental climate with Mediterranean influence. The altitude is around 550 meters and the region lies in the central and southern part of the Dukagjini mountain range.

Stone Castle is an enormous entity, a privately owned company with 5,552 acres of vineyards and land. The Gecaj family owns the winery today which was built in 1952. The winery used to be owned by the government and was privatized. It has about 65% of the market share in Kosovo.

I tasted through all of their wines during Vinexpo and here are some photos of the many that they make.

All well-crafted wines, some with depth and finesse, all with weight on the palate. My focus for today is the one they make called Amphora red. The grapes are Vranac, Prokup, and Gamay grape. Vranac and Prokup are two grapes from this area. Vranac is a red grape that comes from nearby Montenegro. It means strong black and gives you an idea of what these wines taste like – black fruit, bramble, and cheery. It adapts well to oak aging which gives the vanilla and spice aromas. It also has high sugar content and some of the wines can contain a lot of alcohol. The grape is one that those who enjoy Primitivo will also like. In fact, in the past, people thought they were related.

Prokup, Prokupac as it is spelled in Serbia, is another variety in the blend. It is also one that lends itself to making rose wines and those with high alcohol. The last grape is Gamay, which we know is from France, completes the picture.

Join our chat at 11:00am on Twitter, Saturday, March 12. Follow us using the #WinePW. Here are some of the Grape Varietals and Pairings that will be discussed…….

12 comments

  1. It is hard to concentrate on every day life with the tragedy that is taking place in Ukraine right now. I am glad that you showcased wines from another country that has suffered enormously.

    • Thanks Wendy. It’s always hard to just put all of it and write about wine, at least for me, I feel compelled also to talk about what happens in the world. This winery was very surprising to me and enormous, on a different scale with an interesting history.

      • It was years ago now. I spent most of my time in Pristina but have been to northern Mitrovitsa a few times and also to Prizren which was lovely. It’s an interesting place, not really like anywhere else I’ve been. But fantastic food, generally very friendly people, and a creepy golden statue of Bill Clinton to greet you on your way into Pristina.

  2. I’m personally glad you mentioned what is going with Ukraine. And thanks for the history lesson about Kosovo and the introduction to the wines of Stone Castle. Let’s hope for peace sooner rather than later!

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