I realized that as the writer of a blog with a farming theme, I’d be remiss to overlook the wine-production aspect of agriculture. It’s with this idea in mind that I selflessly attended Vino Skop, the annual Skopje wine festival, tonight (and likely will tomorrow night, too).
Before I even get into the wine or the festival, let me first say how much I love Macedonia. It was only by a major change in travel plans that I was able come to this wonderful and tiny country, and I’m so thankful for that. The country is beautiful, it’s inexpensive to travel to and within, the people are lovely–laid back, friendly and helpful without apparent ulterior motive–and the wine is really good. For those of you afraid to travel in non-English-speaking countries, this is a great place for you, too, as nearly everyone I’ve met, from bus-station employees to wine salespeople, speak English. In fact, when I asked two of the wine attendants tonight if they spoke English, they replied (in the nicest manner), “Of course!”
I first heard about Vino Skop when I was in Sofia, Bulgaria, last month, and I kept it in the back of my mind, just in case I was still in Macedonia when it was going on. Thanks to an extended stay at Ohrid Lake, Macedonia (six days instead of two–oops), here I am. It’s a Wednesday night, so I made my way into the center of Skopje with little expectation of a crowd. Wow, was I wrong! I don’t know if this many Macedonians are unemployed or if they just like wine enough to stay out well past my normal work-day bedtime in the name of a party, but the square was packed to the point of being shoulder-to-shoulder in many areas.
I plan to spend the day one-on-one with Mama Nature at Matka Lake tomorrow, so I arrived at Vino Skop promising myself only three tastings for an early and sober bedtime. I brought just a little cash–what I’d guessed would cover only three tastings, in fact. The guy at the information booth explained that I could buy a glass from him to drink the wine I purchase but that wine tastings at each booth cost nothing. At this point, I realized what I needed to bring with me was not a limited amount of cash but rather a chaperone. Six tastings later, I’m awake and upright (and blogging), and it’s before midnight, so I think I’ve done well.
Now to the wine–in the name of agriculture, of course. I tasted only white wines, figuring whites are my favorite and I can return tomorrow night before my overnight bus ride to taste the reds. There are wines in Macedonia that I’ve not seen in the U.S. (though I’m sure they’re there), so I wanted to taste those above all others.
My picks, in order of favorites:
1. Chateau Kamnic Temjanika. This was the first wine I tasted. It reminded me of a semi-sweet riesling–one of my two favorite varieties of wine. This might also be my favorite because the wine was perfectly cold and the girl helping me was awesome and also thrilled that I was from the U.S.
2. Bovin Traminec. The vendors at Vino Skop had an aversion to cold wine, so it seemed. While my first wine was cold, the rest were air-temperature warm. This traminec might have been bumped to the top spot if it were served cold. It was sweet but not overly so. The taste (and name) reminded me of traminette, of which my favorite is from James Arthur Vineyard in Raymond, Neb.
3. Dalvina Astraion. This was another sweet-but-not-too-sweet wine. It must have been fairly unremarkable, because I have nothing else about it in my notes and nothing else comes to mind, just two hours later.
4. Stovi Rkaciteli. The Stovi winery is only one year old, which surprised me because its name is already branded all over Macedonia and because it has a huge selection of varieties. Rkaciteli is a drier white, and the taste that I had was again warm. This wine probably would have moved into third place if I had a cold glass.
5. Skovin Muscat. I have had muscats before, and they’re generally uber-sweet. This wasn’t terribly sweet and was actually a little tasteless, if that’s possible. It wasn’t bad, necessarily, but not really good, either.
6. Bovin white wine cooler. In a throwback to junior high, I decided to make my last tasting a wine cooler. (I’m just kidding, Mom and Dad. I didn’t drink wine coolers in junior high; only in high school.) I could totally go for a few of these with some fruit in the glass Pimm’s-style while sitting on the beach in the summertime. It was nice. I placed it last only because I don’t really consider wine coolers to be “wine.”
I won’t fool myself into thinking I can carry around a bottle or several of wine for the rest of my trip, so I didn’t buy any tonight. I don’t think I’ll be able to find Macedonian wines in the U.S., unfortunately. So I’m hoping the duty-free shop in my departure airport has some of these. It would be fun to bring home a few to share; not fun to get home with broken bottles in my rucksack.
So back to the agricultural spirit of this entry, Macedonia’s vineyards are doing something right. Maybe next trip I’ll get to find out what it is.
And in case you’re wondering about the title of this entry, “na zdravje” means “cheers” in Macedonian.