But they should be: and that’s as much for their history as it is for their present. Indeed, there’s a new wave of producers with a slower outlook on wine. And now the first ever edition of the Slow Wine guide for Macedonia has been published to help give them the exposure they deserve.
To get the lowdown on this vibrant scene we spoke to the author of the book, and longtime wine writer Ivana Simjanovska, who has been tirelessly promoting Macedonian wine around the world for years.
HOW HAS THE WINE SCENE IN MACEDONIA CHANGED IN RECENT YEARS, AND WHY DO YOU THINK THOSE CHANGES ARE HAPPENING?
The Macedonian wine industry has seen positive changes across different areas in recent years. Raising the quality of the wines, using more modern equipment, and even promoting and selling high-quality bottled wine abroad. These changes have been made possible for a different reasons. By following wider wine trends from around the world, doing harvests abroad—some of our producers are flying winemakers—and generally gaining knowledge and experience.
Recent changes in Macedonian law regarding wine production have allowed the small-scale, family wineries to register more easily. As I’ve long been a big supporter of these family-run wineries I’m glad that finally, after so many years, they are now able to thrive in the domestic market. They are the heirs to Macedonia’s wine history, after all. For many years their families had sold grapes to larger wineries, but today they are making and selling their own wines by themselves.
Organic farming is not a novelty in the country. But it has been trending a lot in the last couple of years, especially in the grape-growing sector. Again, this is in line with broader trends around the world over the last decade. However, this generation of young winemakers & the owners of these small family-run wineries have not just been focusing on producing organic wine, but on their connection to the land. They’re not just attentive to the grapes, but preserving the nature surrounding their vineyards too. Their dedication and efforts should be supported & we, as Slow Wine, are trying to do by giving them visibility.
HOW HAVE YOU RECRUITED WINERIES TO THE SLOW WINE COALITION IN MACEDONIA?
Slow Food Macedonia has been actively working on promoting ideas such as environmental sustainability, the protection of the landscape and the socio-cultural growth of the countryside for the past thirteen years, so our ideas and goals already coincided with those set by the Slow Wine Coalition. We didn’t really need to work to recruit wineries to the Slow Wine Coalition at first, as it all happened quite naturally, given that the wineries we’d been working with were all guided by Coalition’s principles anyway. This first Macedonian edition of the Slow Wine guide published in 2021 was just a means to highlight their work growing grapes and making wine in an environmentally-sustainable way.
Other wineries are now realizing the importance of the Slow Food movement in the country and beyond, and indeed the Slow Wine Coalition. We are hearing from more and more wineries who want to be part of the next edition of the guide, so we must be doing something right. We’d eventually like to convince all the wineries in the country to start applying these environmentally-friendly practices and join the Slow Wine Coalition!
CHATEAU KAMNIK IS AN INTERESTING WINERY, THE ONLY ONE OF THE SEVEN IN THE GUIDE TO BE OUTSIDE THE TIKVESH DISTRICT. WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT IT?
When conceptualizing the Slow Wine guide, the idea was to promote wineries that could act as a role models for others. Wineries that could serve as examples of a route to higher-quality wine. And so of course we wanted to include the most award-winning winery in Macedonia—Chateau Kamnik—which just happens to be making organic wine, like many of the family-run wineries in the guide.
Chateau Kamnik was established in 2004 and planted its first vines in the same year. It all started as the personal project of the founder, Ilija Malinkovski, a wine enthusiast from Skopje. His passion for winemaking and desire to express authentic Macedonian winemaking traditions have made it what it is today. They produce wines from local varieties, like Vranec, as well as more-famous international ones.
SLOW WINE MACEDONIA AT SLOW WINE FAIR 2022
Learn more about the expansion of the Slow Wine guide into Macedonia and other countries at The Slow Wine Guide Around the World at 10.30 a.m. on March 28.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE FUTURE FOR WINE IN MACEDONIA?
The goal for the near-term future is to support the small-scale, family-run wineries that want to be registered and then to promote them via these series of Slow Wine guides. We’d like these family-run wineries to be able to thrive in the domestic market.
In the medium-term we’d like to increase the sales of Macedonian wines in the neighboring countries, as we can offer high-quality wines for fair prices in those markets. Then, even longer-term, we’d like to promote Macedonian wine within a wider brand of Balkan wine; the Balkans offer a plethora of native grape varieties that are intriguing for wine lovers, drinkers and buyers around the world. Yet they’re still not very well-known outside the local region.
WHAT DOES THE SLOW WINE COALITION MEAN FOR YOU?
The Coalition is a means to achieve these goals, and the more general goal of bringing about a shift in the culture and the philosophy of winemaking, a shift that looks back toward tradition but that also knows how to use modern techniques wisely. A shift that remains faithful to terroir and respects the environment in order to proudce organic wines.
As one of the winemakers featured in the guide said, “I believe that in the very near future, all of us will turn to making only organic wines.” We want to make that a reality.
by Jack Coulton, firstname.lastname@example.org