A Visit to Domaine Karanika Winery, Naoussa, Greece

A cold and windy February morning might not always be the best choice for a winery visit. However, the southern sun was inviting and compelling to take such a trip this time to Naoussa wine region in the northern part of Greece and the Domaine and Khtima Karanika Winery.
 
Domaine Karanika is located in the north west of Greece, in the area of Amyntaio, a picturesque though somewhat desolated surrounding overlooking the Lake Vergoritis. The climate here is continental as the Aegean sea influence, so notable in all the other parts across Greece, is fairly blocked by the Mount Vermio.   
 
Surrounding the winery are three hectares of Limniona, Assyrtiko and Cabernet, planted where only until half a century stretched the Lake Vergoritis. In addition to these vineyards, there is an additional quarter of a hectare planted with 100 year old Xinomavro vines, a plot called Sotirisko, another plot of 0,25 ha of 40 year old Xinomavro vines and another two vineyards of 0,70 ha (age 25 & 40 years) at a location known as Rasto also planted with Xinomavro. Most notable are their vineyards that provide fruit for their famous Karanika Brut sparklers, two plots of 0.5 ha and 0.1 respectively. The first one is situated at Dromos Lakkias and the second one at Nivigratsko.
 

Laurens Hartman is a winemaker & owner of Kthima and Domaine Karanika, along with his wife Annette. The winery & its vineyards are situated on hills at almost 700 m above sea level. Laurens is fully dedicated to pursuing biodynamical approach in the vineyards which he carefully explained in the pleasant, almost four hours visit to his winery. Having spent a considerable time observing the nature, the grapes, the changes of the different needs of the plants, it was a true pleasure to listen to his stories in pursuit of satisfying the needs of the vines in order to obtain the best fruit possible.In addition to making reds from Assyrtiko, Xynomavro, Cabernet Sauvignon, Limniona, Domaine Karanika is most famous for its sparkling wines, Karanika Rose Brut and Karanika Cuvée Spéciale Brut.

 

Karanika Rose Sparkling 2014 (degorged Nov 2015) PDI Florina
Made from 100%  Xinomavro grapes. Vivid dark pink colour, red berry fruit and forest strawberry on the nose, yummy passion fruit on the palate with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Good serious structure.
Karanika Cabernet Sauvignon & Xynomavro 2013 PDI Florina
A blend of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon & Xynomavro. Sour cherries on the nose, rich cassis creme and cocoa taste on the palate.
Karanika Xinomavro & Limniona 2012 PDI Florina
Rosehip fruit on the nose. Lots of ripe dark berry fruits on the palate refreshed by pleasant acidity and smooth tannins. A wine that is ageing very well.
Karanika Xinomavro 2012 PDI Florina
Abundance of cherry & sour cherry on the nose, dark ripe berry fruit on the palate but still very young untamed tannins. I would start drinking this after three to five years.
Karanika Limniona 2013 PDI Florina (tank sample)
Now, this one is not bottled yet but in my opinion it was the most intriguing in the red flight. Made from Limniona grapes from 100 year old vines it gave abundance of rosehip fruit on the nose and the taste, and some additional iron hints, red berry fruit, good structure and acidity. Delicious and lovely wine. To find itself on the market very soon.
Karanika Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 PDI Florina
Plums, meaty sour cherries, lots of dry herbs and slight hints of undergrowth. Rich and exctracted. 
Karanika Cuvée Spéciale Brut 2014 PDI Florina( 6gr. Dosage/ Degorged Nov 2015)
Made from 100% Xinomavro grapes. Sweetness on the nose, followed slightly in the taste as well. Stone candy fruit and lime on the palate, accompanied with a fresh acidity.  
Karanika Cuvée Spéciale Brut 2014 PDI Florina (Zero Dosage)
Fruity, lime and apple notes with additional snowdrop hints. Fresh and mineral. Made from Xinomavro grapes. 
Karanika Cuvée Spéciale Brut 2009 PDI Florina
A true treat of the day. Made from 100% Xinomavro grapes using the méthode traditionnelle, this sparkler is a serious one. Showed luscious mix of baked sweet biscuits and poached apples, yet fruit driven. Lovely rich mousse on the palate. 
 

 

 

My Top 10 Macedonian Wines for 2015

Temjanika Smolnik 2013 by Popov Winery, Tikves Wine District
On first occasion I thought this Temjanika would be my summer hit. I was clearly wrong as it proved to be my all year round favourite Temjanika. This delicate wine is obtained from grapes coming from Smolnik, one of the two micro-localities surrounding Popov winery. The wine opens itself with every following swirl revealing its complexity- it begins with aromas of white peaches, fresh basil, apple blossom and citrus aromas, and then follows in a more serious manner of wet stone and chalk notes. The taste follows in the same manner, rich in gooseberries, honeycomb and quite mineral due to the clay-stone composition of the soil in the Smolnik micro-locality. My kudos go to Petar Mancev, Popov’s oenologist, a winemaker with a clear vision. The price of 330 MKD makes it an unbeatable sample of a refined Macedonian Temjanika. 

My Top 10 Macedonian Wines for 2015

Stanusina 2013 by Brusani Winery, Skopje Wine District
Refined, elegant, complex, enjoyable, and for a price of 370 MKD, the quality-price is unbeatable. Brusani’s 77 year old vineyards of only 0,6 ha of Stanusina are located in the village of Begniste, near the Tikves Lake, while the winery is located in Skopje, in the village of Sopishte. The winery’s vineyards are planted on hill sides at altitude of 400 m. Interesting to mention is that Stanushina is the only indigenous grape variety to Macedonia while the genetic analysis show it has unknown parents. Orce Dimitrievski, the winery’s owner and winemaker, is fully dedicated to making wines only from Vranec & Stanusina, pursuing biodynamical approach in the vineyards and minimal intervention in the cellar.
This Stanushina shows noticeable viscosity in the glass & the nose reveals raspberries, red currants & the taste follows in the same manner- quite refined with notes of sour cherries, cornel-cherries, strawberries & additional hints of dry forest herbs accompanied with a lovely streak of acidity. 

My Top 10 Macedonian Wines for 2015

Tempranillo 2012 Reserva by Brzanov Winery
I am sure that all of you have heard the story of the two guys responsible for the famous wine line “Fat Bastard” & the inception of this famous expression, nowdays a recognzable brand. That’s how I look at this duo of Antonio Brzanov, a proved winemaker, and Dimitar Stojanovski, as of recently a co-owner and manager of the winery. And that is the same way I look at their wines only with one slight difference- they have more than one Fat Bastard in their cellar. 
Not many producers of Tempranillo in the country, if at all in first place. The grapes come from a vineyard located at an altitude of 600 m & the wine was aged for 18 months in new barriques manifactured in Serbia. Another rather interesting detail worth mentioning is the label on this wine as it’s rather somewhat of a novelty & fresh breeze in the rather dull Macedonian world of labels, a motif taken from a painting by Vane Kosturanov, one of the leading Macedonian artists. Associating this Spanish grape variety with the rather loony labels of the Spanish wines, Dimitar makes a parallel of these two concepts. This Tempranillo Reserva 2012 showed to be very oily in the glass & a nose that shows an overripe plums, dark pepper & tobacco. The palate gives away an array of forest fruits like medlars, dark dry berries accompanied with vanilla & spices notes. The price of this “domesticated” Tempranillo is 1300 MKD. 

 

My Top 10 Macedonian Wines for 2015

Vranec 2013 by Chateau Sopot Winery, Veles Wine District
A true expression of the rich Macedonian terroir, a fine sample of a tamed Macedonian Vranec and a school example for the Vranec winemakers to follow. I’ve been admiring the work of the winery’s enologist, Laze Petrov, for a very long time as his rather perfectionist drive in the winemaking has been sort of a difficult approach to understand, though he tried on more than one occasion to explain it to me. Guess it has to do with the years spent in the cellar. The quality of his work is equally followed by the winery’s younger enologist, Kristina Dimova.
This Vranec shows purple red colour with a violet hue. The nose is complex and rich in forest berry fruits, sour cherries and a certain spiciness. Very elegant on the palate- the tannins are tamed and velvety- taking in consideration that is still young, the tannin management was obviously skillfully mastered. Full-bodied wine with a gripping acidity and a lovely cassis and herbal finish. Lots of aging potential in this bottle- a one to stock your wine cellar with. For an affordable price of 480 MKD it is one of the best quality-price Vranec wines out there. 

My Top 10 Macedonian Wines for 2015

Bela Voda Red 2012 by Tikves Winery, Tikves Wine District
My efforts to find more samples of this wine often proved useless as it sold out faster, than it actually spent time on the busy wine shelves in the country.
One thing is sure, Marko Stojakovic and his team of enologists are doing a tremendous work in the oldest winery in Macedonia. Bela Voda Red 2012 is a blend of equal portions of Vranec & Plavac Mali, having spent 15 months in 30% concrete tanks and 70% in new and one year old barrels while the grapes come from Tikves’s Bela Voda vineyards. 
I enjoy this one very much, as on every sniff it opens in layers, and the taste is just as complex as the nose. Almost inky in the glass and aromas of dried fruit- blueberries, red currants and figs, and additional undertones of crème de cassis and graphite. The taste is smooth, elegant with cherry syrup, liquorice and locust bean aromas and impressive minerality due to the composition of the sandy-clay soil. Full-bodied wine, with balance of fruit and tannins, as well as an impressive finish. At a retailers price of 900 MKD it’s worth every drop. 

My Top 10 Macedonian Wines for 2015

Ten Barrels Syrah 2012 by Chateau Kamnik, Skopje Wine District

Voted as the third best Syrah in the world at the Syrah du Monde wine competition held in France this year, this Syrah by Chateau Kamnik has once again proved that the wines coming from this winery are a dedication to their strive for perfection. The winemaking is entrusted to Sandra Krstevska, the winery’s winemaker, while the consultancy has been led by Goran Milanov, the leading Macedonian wine consultant, enologist and a winemaker guru. 

The Syrah grapes come from the winery’s vineyards located in the Skopje Wine District, at an altitude of 300 m above sea level. The wine was aged for 25 months in new American & French barriques. Complex, spicy, fruity. Abundance of spiciness on the nose, blackberry jam notes and hints of violets. The wine is multilayered especially in the taste- powerful and fruity with blackcurrants dominating and lots of chocolate, liquorice & pencil shavings notes. The price of 1300 MKD makes it a steal for this grand fruit bomb.

My Top 10 Macedonian Wines for 2015

Prokupec 2013 by Popova Kula
Light colour reds are not common in a sunshine drenched country like Macedonia. Somewhat surprisingly, I have found myself becoming an admirer to these light and playful reds like this Prokupec. Very elegant on the nose, with abundance of sour cherries and vanilla hints. More sour cherries and gooseberries in the taste, good and firm acidity and lovely playful sense on the palate.
Popova Kula is one of the very few wineries dedicated to growing indigenous and regional grape varieties. Prokupec is the pride of Serbia, also Serbia being the country of origin. Ekaterina Gargova, the winemaker that signs this wine, traveled to Serbia on few occasions to understand (and learn) why the Serbians have mastered the art of making fine refined samples of Prokupec. Ekaterina, and her right hand at the time, Marina Krstevska, have made an exceptional Prokupec proudly presenting the potential that this wine has in a sunshine country like Macedonia. The price of 330 MKD makes it attractive for wine consumers & winelovers. 

My Top 10 Macedonian Wines for 2015

Zilavka 2013 by Stobi Winery, Tikves Wine District
In the sea of reds made by Stobi Winery, I opted for a white one. The answer is simple- this Zilavka is fresh, fragrant, light, enjoyable, even giddy at moments, as well as pleasing to a beginner’s or a more sophisticated palate. The taste is rich in citrus, ripe lemon and very delicate hazelnuts notes. Zilavka is a regional grape variety originating from the town of Mostar in Hercegovina and has been grown in Macedonia with a good success. However, much is owed to Stobi for putting this grape variety en vogue in the country once again. 
This Zilavka is to be drunk solo or as an accompaniment to starters and salads. And for a retail price of 200 MKD, it is no wonder it was sold out in no time, though mostly to the US market. Stobi winery is lead by an already proved duo of enologists, Dane Jovanov & his father, Gjorgji Jovanov Hermes, a wine legend, in addition to the winery’s young team of enologists. 

My Top 10 Macedonian Wines for 2015

Traminec 2014 by Pivka Winery, Tikves Wine District
It’s an undeniable fact that the small, family owned wineries in the country, struggle a lot on the saturated domestic wine market. Should they be lucky, they would be export oriented, just like Pivka Winery. The winery is located in the Tikves Wine District and mostly buys grapes for their needs only from the same area.
This Traminec is fragrant with aromas of white flowers, honey, citrus and lime. The taste is rich, revealing a combination of more white flowers like lily of the valley and rose petals as well as sugar crystal notes. Refreshing acidity and prolonged aftertaste. 
For a price of 300 MKD this Traminec has a lot to offer during the summer days, the autumn days and all the other days.