What's new in the wine world?
PUBLISHED: 09:06 18 November 2014 | UPDATED: 09:06 18 November 2014
At trade tastings there are often stands with wines from wine producing regions that don't have a high profile in the UK. Sadly, the wines don't always live up to the PR announcing their presence.
Sometimes though there are some gems to be found, tasted and enjoyed. The wines of Stobi winery in Macedonia is one such find and having tasted their range twice over a period of nine months and been consistently impressed it’s time they were put on the map – at least in St Albans!
First, an introduction to Macedonian wines. While it was part of Yugoslavia Macedonia was a major wine producer responsible for two thirds of its wine production but after the break up of that country its production dwindled by 60 per cent to just 447,000 hectolitres. Since the 1990s wine production is again increasing but this time with a close eye on quality and still with 80 per cent in red wine. The grape varities include many native verities such as Vranec for reds and Viklava and Muscat Ottonel for white wines.
The Stobi winery is a great example of quality wine production in the Tikves region of Macedonia, a region gaining a reputation for consistently good wines. It is located in the very heart of the country and stretches along similar latitudes as the Bordeaux region in France, Tuscany region in Italy and the Napa Valley region in California. With nearly 12,000 hectares of vines, the Tikveš wine region represents around one third of the all grapes grown in Macedonia. The summers are long and hot and the winters mild and rainy with an average annual rainfall of 460 mm. The vineyards are located at an average of 300 metres above sea level, protected by mountains and highlands on three sides, channelling the gentle north winds and Mediterranean climates, creating ideal grape growing conditions.
Stobi winery was established in 2009 and is one of the country’s largest producers with a 20 million euro investment in viticulture and vinification. The name Stobi is taken from the nearby ancient site of the city of Stobi located on roads that lead from the Danube to the Aegean with many Roman mosaics etc that show the regions rich legacy of wine making.
Production is based exclusively on grapes grown on their own vineyards which cover 500 hectares of land, producing 4.5 million litres of high quality Macedonian wine per year.
Each vineyard is divided up into small parcels, each under the control of an agronomist, for close supervision of the vines and to maximise quality control. Following careful cultivation, the grapes are hand-picked into small containers, with only the healthiest of grapes selected. These are transported quickly to the winery preserving the quality before applying the latest technology throughout every stage of the final production.
The purpose-built, luxury wine-tasting centre offers a wonderful experience for its guests, situated above the majestic Barrique room. Covering an area of 700m it has the capacity to mature 300,000 litres of wine and houses barrels made from the highest quality French, Italian, Slovenian and American oak. There are two wines made from the Vranec indigenous grape and they are very intense with a bouquet of morello cherry overlaid with notes of roast coffee and liquorice. A tasty and characterful wine with crushed blackberry flavours and easy, rounded tannins, the premium wine is made from specially selected Vranec grapes making a rich and rounded with masses of bramble fruit and a velvety texture surrounding the fine tannic structure. All the reds receive some careful oakaging. The Zilakva grape is an example of the attention to detail given to their white wine production and makes wines that are fresh and spicy with flavours of lemon and white peach with a lingering white pepper finish.
The Stobi winery reperesents a point where the old and new wine world meet in cutting edge quality retaining old world values. I’d certainly seek them out and give them a try.