The Grand Trophy Winner of the 7th edition of the BALKANS INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION (BIWC 2018) is The Rose Wine Anca – Maria Syrah & Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Vladoi winery, Romania

The other Trophy winners per categories are: Trophy for white wine – Ergo Chardonnay 2016, Temet Winery, Serbia Trophy for red wine –Erelia 2013, Rumelia winery, Bulgaria Trophy for rosé –Anca – Maria Sira & Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Romania Trophy for sparkling wine – Brut Metodo Classico 2011, Edoardo Miroglio winery Trophy for dessert wine – Vinsanto 20 Years Barrel Aged 1994, Argyros Estate, Greece Trophy for orange wine -  Cu Orange 2016, Bikicki Winery, Serbia For the fourth year will be awarded trophies for wines from local varieties: Trophy for best white wine from indigenous variety – Assyrtiko 2017, Monemvasia winery, Greece Trophy for best red wine from indigenous variety –Vranac Premijer, 13 Jule Plantaze winery, Montenegro Trophy for best dessert wine from indigenous variety – Vinsanto Sigalas 2011, Sigalas winery, Greece Stefan Bozhkov, chairman of the commission, together with the members Emanuela Kovac and Emil Maslarski, has given his assessment of best wine label design for the third consecutive year. The  Trophy is  dedicated to the memory of the Bulgarian artist Kolio Karamfilov, who is the designer of the BIWC Grand Trophy. Trophy  for best label design:  Temet winery, family labels, Serbia

Gold medal- S, Gaia Estate, Greece Silver Medal –3 blend, Bratanov family estate Bronze medal –Stigmata, Thivaiki Gi, Greece 16 double gold medals have been awarded to the following countries: Bulgaria – 5, Greece – 7, Macedonia – 1, Romania – 1, Serbia – 1, Turkey – 1. The total number of gold medals awarded by BIWC 2018 is 30, of which 8 for Bulgaria, 6 for Greece, 3 for Macedonia, 3 for Romania, 6 for Serbia, 1 for Slovenia and 3 for Turkey.

The Balkan Wine Festival was opened by the organizers of the event Galina Niforou and Konstantinos Lazarakis MW. The exhibitors and guests of the forum were welcomed by Mr. Krasimir Koev, Executive Director of EAVW and Xaofang Guo, from the Chinese company Jointek, a partner of the Bulgarian Wine Export Association. Gala Dinner and Award Ceremony was opend by the incredible soloists from The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices, which performance conquered all guests from Japan, China, the United States and all Balkan countries. The winning of the Rose Rose Grand Prix coincides with the campaign of this year’s Balkan Wine Competition and Festival – #winelovers agaist cancer, during which the special pink t-shirts with the campaign logo are sold during the festival.

The Aftertaste of Skopje Wine Salon- Vinodonia 2017

The second Skopje Wine Salon- Vinodonia took place on 1st & 2nd Dec 2017 at the Marriott Hotel in Skopje. Being the co-founder and organiser of a first ever such a wine event in the country, my general feeling is that Vinodonia is becoming the most significant wine event in the country, gathering all the important factors comprising the Macedonian wine industry in one place.

The enologists, winemakers and the marketing teams of the exhibiting wineries where there,  representatives from the HoReCa sector, wine critics and journalist as well as representatives from the business community and the embassies in the country attended the wine salon and many interesting workshops, wine tastings and lectures took place conveying important messages to all the wine lovers and enthusiasts.

More than 40 wineries from the country and abroad (Italy, Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia) exhibited at the Skopje Wine Salon and more than 1300 people attended the event having the opportunity to taste more than 350 labels. One of the most often comments from the visitors was the surprise to taste wine from wineries they’ve never even heard of before.

Masterclasses at Vinodonia 2017

This years programme was versatile and included master classes of the wineries Chateau Kamnik, Tikves and Stobi, as well as workshops, wine tastings and food and wine pairings: Professional Riedel Glass Wine Tasting, educational workshop with Stefano Canello, Riedel Vice President of sales for Southeast Europe, Pairing Specialities from Dubrovnik with Macedonian Wines, given by Gino Premzic, one of the most renowed world chefs and owner of Konoba kod Marka restaurant, together with Sloboden Chokrevski, President of Slow Food Macedonia, Comparison of Montenegrin and Macedonian Vranec Wines with Danijela Radech, President of the Sommelier Association of Montenegro, together with Zvonko Herceg (WSET), Sparkling wines from the Adriatic Sea Bed and Wines form Amphora with Ivo Kozarchanin, a wine journalist, a master class Bulgaria on the Wine Map. Lets Explore it! given by Galina Todorova Niforou, BIWC president, The Secrets of the Stanushina- the Macedonian Pinot Noir with Prof. D-r Klime Beleski and Zvonko Herceg, and The Elegance of the Macedonian Temjanika given by myself. 

The aftertaste of Vinodonia 2017

Last year Vinodonia set the standards of a wine salon organised in Macedonia and this year it confirmed them.The Macedonian wine audience is eager to attend wine events such as the Skopje Wine Salon, having the opportunity to taste and learn more about the wines and hear the story behind their creation from the winemakers and enologists that made them, to be part of the world  wine scene and to educate themselves at the masterclasses on different wine topics. To the exhibiting wineries it gave the opportunity to once again confirm the quality of their wines and to the ones less known help them get out from the anonymity.
The aftertaste of Vinodonia 2017 will be prolonged and will last for quite some time, at least until its future edition next year.

Skopje Wine Salon- Vinodonia 2017


The second Skopje Wine Salon- Vinodonia 2017, the most important wine event in the Republic of Macedonia, will be held at Marriott Hotel in Skopje on 1st and 2nd December. The wine salon, first of its kind in the country, is organized by Ivana Simjanovska, wine writer and international wine judge, Zvonko Herceg, wine expert (WSET), Aleksandar Vuchkovski, President of the Association of Sommeliers of the Republic of Macedonia under which auspices the event is organized, and Dejan Donev wine consultant.

Vinodonia was a major success last year as it gathered in one place the Macedonian wineries, as well as wineries from the Balkans and many other European countries such as Italy, France etc. This year, for the second time it will gather all the factors in the country’s wine industry, wine lovers, critics and journalists, as well representatives from the HoReCa sector, the business community and representatives from the embassies in the country and the region.
More than 40 wineries will be exhibitors at the Skopje Wine Salon- Vinodonia 2017, where you will have a unique opportunity to taste more than 300 different labels of wine. One day ticket for the wine salon is MKD 490 and can be bought at the entrance or online on the following link:…

This year’s programme is versatile and includes master classes of the wineries Chateau Kamnik, Tikves and Stobi, as well as workshops, wine tastings and food and wine pairings: Professional Riedel Glass Wine Tasting, educational workshop with Stefano Canello, Riedel Vice President of sales for Southeast Europe, Pairing Specialities from Dubrovnik with Macedonian Wines, given by Gino Premzic, one of the most renowed world chefs and owner of Konoba kod Marka restaurant, together with Sloboden Chokrevski, President of Slow Food Macedonia, Comparison of Montenegrin and Macedonian Vranec Wines with Danijela Radech, President of the Sommelier Association of Montenegro, together with Zvonko Herceg, wine expert (WSET), Sparkling wines from the Adriatic Sea Bed and Wines form Amphora with Ivo Kozarchanin, a wine journalist, a master class Bulgaria on the Wine Map. Let’s Explore it! given by Galina Todorova Niforou, BIWC president, The Secrets of the Stanushina- the Macedonian Pinot Noir with Prof. D-r Klime Beleski and Zvonko Herceg, and The Elegance of the Macedonian Temjanika with Ivana Simjanovska.

The price of the tickets for the master classes, workshops and wine tastings will be starting as of MKD 800 .


A Week in Languedoc- Terroirs & Millésimes, 23rd to 28th April 2017

Terroirs & Millésimes Week in Languedoc, 23-28 April, Pezenas, France

Following an invitation by the Interprofessional Council of AOC Languedoc and IGP Sud de France Wines (CIVL) to an annual preview discovery of the latest vintage, I and another ninety journalists from around the globe were given the opportunity to taste blind around 1,500 samples representing all the Languedoc AOCs.
Although it was my first visit to the Languedoc Week, I have had my fair share of wines from this region at many wine competitions and tasting around the world in the last few years. However, nothing comes close to tasting the wines as in their natural surroundings.
The five day wine tasting sessions took place at the charming city of Pezenas and each tasting day was followed by a gourmand lunch with the winemakers of the AOC’s whose wines were presented for that day. Another chance to get behind their winemaker’s philosophy, ask all the necessary questions that only a winemaker can answer and get all the needed details on terroir, yield, history, tradition…

Languedoc AOC Wines

Let us start with some facts about Languedoc-Roussillion. It is the largest vineyard in the world with a geographic identity with a surface area of 224,000 of Languedoc vineyards in number of hectares declared (245,965 planted); with 70,000 hectares of AOC and 141,000 hectares of PGO. 11% of Languedoc-Roussillon wines are Languedoc AOC wines.
93% of all the wines produced in this wine region are still wines, only 2% are Muscat wines and merely 5% are sparkling ones. And yet, Languedoc-Roussillon remains a wine region that produces mostly red wines 76%, 14% rosé wines and only 10% white wines.
With an annual production of 13.6 million hectoliters, which represent 5% of the world’s wine, this wine region remains to be the biggest wine region in the world by production.
Winemakers in Languedoc-Roussillon are more and more dedicated to growing organic vineyards and it’s no wonder that this wine region represents 33% of the organic vineyards in the country.
The export turnover is EUR 820 million, which has doubled over the last six years. To note that 33% of AOC Languedoc wines are sold on the export market and 67% of these wines are sold in France.

A Wine Tasting Dedicated to the 40th anniversary of AOP Côtes-du-Roussillon and Côtes-du-Roussillon Villages Anniversary

To celebrate the 40 years of recognition for Côtes-du-Roussillon and Côtes-du-Roussillon Villages in the Protected Appelation of Origin, the CIVR – Comité Interprofessionnel des Vins du Roussillon organised a master class. The MC was preceded with a wine tasting of a selection of 40 wines, which represent the highlights of this region & were picked prior by a jury of professionals composed of wine merchants, sommeliers and wine educators, during a blind tasting especially for this anniversary. The Roussillon produces dry still wines and fortified sweet wines which represent 80% of national production.

The region is open in the eastern part to the Mediterranean and surrounded on three sides by mountain ranges. The soil and subsoil of the region are extremely varied, which makes for a multitude of terroirs, with different characteristics. The vineyards are in terraces with a view of the sea and 23 varieties are grown, of them 15 are mainly dedicated for AOP wine.

Master Classes

Other master classes that took place over the Languedoc week were: “Introduction to the AOC Languedoc” by Jérôme Villaret, General Delegate of the CIVL, “AOC Fitou” featuring AOP Fourme d’Ambert, “Carignan, a local grape variety” with AOC Corbieres Boutenac winemakers and “AOC Languedoc Sommieres”.

My Fav AOC Picks

I have found Minervois-La-Livinière AOC wines very fruity with abundance of coffee aromas, spicey, peppery, locust notes, consistent, high in alcohol with overoked notes and a rather bittery finish. However, lots of potential in these wines due to the variety of soils including sandstone, shale, limestone, marble and silex, giving the wines a mineral character.

Enjoyed Faugeres AOC wines, as I love schist based vineyards, especially if they’re organic as these- one third of the 2000 hectares in Faugeres are in fact organic. AOC Faugeres Whites were floral, abundance of yellow flowers, daffodil aromas dominating, as well as fruity, citrusy notes, asparagus, mashed banana and melon taste, with a good acidity, lemony finish and a rather with a touch of too much use of oak, only the rich ones can afford. Faugeres AOC Roses- salmon colour, perfumed and elegant, crunchy berry fruit in the taste.

   La Clape AOC Whites, mostly in golden colour, showed lots of vanilla, ripe banana, tropical fruit aromas, brioche, baked bread, ripe lemon skin, but again the unavoidable abundant use of oak and bitterness in the finish.

   Pic Saint Loup AOC wines were maybe one of the most elegant, fresh and refined wines I’ve had a chance to taste mostly due to the clay-limestone and marl-limestone soil rich vineyards, influenced by both Mediterranean and continental climate, and of course, the skillful winemakers in the region. The Pic Saint Loup AOC Roses were in vivid pink and pale salmon colours, fruity and acidity quite high. However, what has left a mark were the reds from this AOC. Red produces mostly from Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre grapes were fruity, boisterous, full-bodied, yet smooth and elegant with a true ageing potential.

The Saint-Chinian Berlou AOC wines (the region was recognised as a cru in 2005) come from vineyards at a height of between 150 and 400 metres, were fruity and elegant with lots of coffee beans aromas and silky tannins. The grape varieties include Carignan, Grenache Noir, Mourvedre and Syrah and taking in consideration the land is schist soil, it is no wonder the wines are so fine and with a hige ageing potential.

Visits to the Vineyards
Trips to some of the vineyards included a picnic at AOC Terrasses du Larzac, where I enjoyed a winemaker’s dinner with the winemakers of these region and discovered a winery named Mas Lasta that has presented their wine for the first time. The winery owns eight hectares of old Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and new Cinsault vineyards on the very edge of the Terasses du Larzac AOC and the winemaking is entrusted to the winemaker Anne-Laure Sicard. Other trips included Faugeres vineyards with a dry-stone wall building workshop, visit into the heart of AOC Pic Saint-Loup and a visit into the heart of AOP Picpoul de Pinet terroir.


Skopje Wine Salon- Vinodonia 2016

The first Skopje Wine Salon – Vinodonia 2016 will be held 11th & 12th Nov 2016 at the newly opened Marriott hotel in the centre of Skopje. This is the first time that an event like this, dedicated to wine, wineries, wine trade & winelovers, is going to be held in the Republic of Macedonia. 

Skopje Wine Salon is an international event with exhibition character which will be held every year with the intention to increase the number of wineries, wine authorities and the level of wine culture in Macedonia. More than 30 wineries from the country, as well as from the Balkans and Europe, will present their wines. 

The program of the wine salon is rich and includes Master classes where number of wine personalities will present wines from Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, Italy, France, etc., there will be wine tastings of Prossecco & Champagne, Wine & Chocolate Pairings and lectures on wine marketing and how to increase wine sales in the HoReCa sector. 

Organiser of Skopje Wine Salon-Vinodonia 2016 is a group of Macedonian wine critics, judges and enthusiasts who under the auspices of The Sommelier Association of the Republic of Macedonia are organising this wine event. 

Skopje Wine Salon is an event intended for people from the wine trade, wine enthusiasts or just genuine wine lovers. We are looking forward to seeing you at the first Skopje Wine Salon – Vinodonia 2016. 

For more info please follow the link & to buy tickets for the event please click here

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.