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.

My Top 10 Macedonian Wines for 2015

Ana-Maria Rose’ 2014 by Bovin Winery, Tikves Wine District
A blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon & 50% Sangiovese, obtained from grapes coming from the winery’s vineyards located in the picturesque locality Lepovo in the Tikves Wine District. Dark salmon colour, and an expressive nose of forest strawberries and very subtle hints of pomegranate. This rose’ is robust and serious, with strawberry stone candy and young cherry flavours. Crafted by the winery’s winemaker, Boris Necev, and his team of enologists. The price is a light one of only 380 MKD. 

Premiile de Excelenta 2015, Bucharest, Romania

Sometimes I don’t stop travelling for weeks due to wine reasons and this year was no different. This November proved rather busier month than usual…
For the second time I received an invitation to judge at Premiile de Excelenta 2015, this year held in Bucharest, in addition to be appointed a president of my panel.

About the Competition
The Premiile de Excelenta, organised by the leading wine magazine in the country, took place over the course of two days (4th & 5th Nov) at the Tasting Room by Ethic Wine, having a wine shop bearing the same name just on the very same corner where the tasting room is located.
We got to judge wines in different categories, Romanian and international ones, all of them  divided according to the style of the wine, pertaining to the retail or HoReCa sector, as well as the price range.

After a two day wine tasting sessions, the following wines were awarded as the best each in a different category:

Best HORECA Wine from an indigenous Romanian grape variety
Gold Medals
Fetească neagră Divinitas 2013, Viile Sudului,
Experience (Fetească albă + Tămâioasă românească) 2014– Ecoferm (Grup Cris Tim)

Tămâioasă românească Colocviu la Roma 2014, Casa de Vinuri Cotnari
Best Retail Wine from and indigenous Romanian grape variety
Gold Medal
Busuioacă de Bohotin dulce 2012, Crama Basilescu

Best Wine from both an indigenous Romanian as well as international varieties
Merlot Private Selection 2013 by Liliac Winery

Gold Medals
Cuvee IX 2012, LacertA
Cabernet Sauvignon + Merlot 2011, Cuvee Tanc 6, WineRo
Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Crama Răteşti
Cabernet Sauvignon Origini 2012, Budureasca
Merlot + Cabernet Sauvignon + Fetească neagră 2011, Tanc 3, WineRo
Shiraz Origini 2013, Budureasca
Origini Reserve 2013, Budureasca
La Muşat 2012, Budureasca pentru Crama Muşat
Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Crama Răteşti
Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Budana 2, Licorna Winehouse
Fume Premium 2014, Budureasca
Primordial Chardonnay + Sauvignon Blanc + Muscat Ottonel 2014, Domeniile Bogdan
Sauvignon Blanc Hermeziu 2014, Domeniile Lungu
Merlot + Cabernet Sauvignon + Fetească Neagră Domeniile Ostrov Grand Reserve 2011, Ostrovit
Cuvee Nicolae Red 2013, Domeniile Tohani
Noble 5 2013, Budureasca
Best Imported Wine
Gold Medals
Cabernet Sauvignon Ecos de Rulo Bisquertt 2010, AlmaTim
Chenin Blanc Douceur d’Octobre 2011, Vinexpert
Carmenere Cuvee Misiones de Rengo 2012, Vinexpert
Carmenere Ecos de Rulo Bisquertt 2010, AlmaTim
Faustino I Gran Reserva 2001, AlmaTim
Sauvignon Blanc Rimapere 2014, Vinexpert

For the full list of medal winners, please follow the link

The Romanian Wine Scene
Much to say really, and not only referring to the Romanian wines only. Having had the chance to attend a wine tasting organised by Smart Drinks, one of the best Romanian wine importers, I indulged myself in Champagne ( most notable for me was Besserat de Bellefon Cuvee Des Moines Brut Millesime 2002), attended a Barolo Master Class, and enjoyed some fine wines from Lebanon, Greece, …

The Romanian wine scene has been blooming for the past few years in regards to raising the bar of domestic wine culture- lots of wine tasting events being held regularly, many newly opened wine shops to supply the recently evolved Romanian palate with international labels, as well as to please the domestic and the visitor’s curiosity to explore the abundance of Romanian indigenous grape varieties.
For all those wine people coming from countries where their wine history had been written years, even centuries ago, this might not be a fact to be thrilled about but as I come from a wine country that has been (re)creating its wine history for the past decade or so, this is an important point of reference for comparison.

My Romanian Wine Highlights
Liliac Winery and their winning wine, Merlot Private Selection, deserved to be awarded the best Romanian Wine at Premiile de Excelenta 2015- much refined and elegant.

As always, I very much enjoy the complexity of the Feteasca Neagras and this year my favourites were the ones from Crama Basilescu ( Feteasca Neagra 2009), LacertA winery ( Feteasca Neagra 2012) and Feteasca Neagra 2013 by Domenile Sahateni.

Feteasca Regala Vine in Flames 2014 by Budureasca Winery, Feteasca Regala 2014 by Liliac Winery and Grasa de Cotnari Colocviu 2014 by CV Cotnari Winery were some of my white wine highlights from Romanian indigenous white varieties.

Quite an exceptional Shiraz Origini 2013 and Cabernet Sauvignon Origini 2012 by Budureasca Winery (again!).

Other noted wines and wineries- Busuioacă de Bohotin dulce 2012 by Crama Basilescu Winery, an excellent Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 by Cantea Winery ( Dealu Mare, Fintesti) and an intriguing Pinot Noir 2011 by LacertA winery



Terravino 2015, The Mediterranean International Wine & Spirit Challenge, Israel

Terravino- A Wine Journey in Israel

Following an invitation to judge at the 10th anniversary of Terravino 2015 in Israel, to be held in Netanya near Tel Aviv at the beautiful Ramada Hotel & Spa, I embraced the idea of dwelling in the Israeli wine scene for almost a week. In addition to taking place at the beautiful seaside resort, Netanya, not far from Tel Aviv, I was also looking forward to getting familiar with the Israeli wines so rare to find around the world.
About the competition
Terravino, The Mediterranean International Wine & Spirit Challenge celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. The idea of this international wine competition is without doubt to promote wines mostly from the Mediterranean wine scene as well as putting them against the Israeli ones for comparison on behalf of the hosts, for better learning, for better understanding of the upcoming Israeli wine scene.
The competition is a very rigorous one conducted under the patronage of the OIV where 46 international wine judges were scoring for three days. We tasted almost 400 samples from 20 countries around the world, according to the OIV rules. In total, 14 wines were given double gold medals of them six to Israeli wines, two went to Argentina, and one was awarded to Spain, the Czech Republic, Germany, Bolivia and Slovakia. Israel was awarded 69 medals in total, followed by Argentina and the Czech Republic (22 each), Spain (6), Slovakia (6), Australia, Portugal, Germany, Turkey, Serbia, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Greece. The medals were given in the following categories:
Grand Champion Trophy for the best wine in the Competition, which had the highest score awarded to Michlovsky Ryzlink Vlassky Vyber Z Bobuli 2009 by Vinselekt Michlovsky A.S. Winery from The Czech Republic
Israel’s Grand Champion Trophy for the best Israeli wine in the Competition awarded to Segal Rehasim Dishon Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 by Barkan Wine Cellars Marketing & Distribution Ltd.
Country champion, only for the countries with more than 25 wines participating in the contest
Best Category Price, the best wine in each category
The Best Kosher Israeli Wine awarded to Segal Rehasim Dishon Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 by Barkan Wine Cellars Marketing & Distribution Ltd.
The Best Israeli Small Boutique Wine awarded to 1848 Malbec – Fourth Generation 2013 by 1848 Winery
The Best Israeli Winemaker/s awarded to Barkan Wine Cellars Marketing & Distribution Ltd.
For a full list of the winners, please follow the link
Israel’s Wine Scene
Much to say regarding the wine scene in Israel though one thing struck me at first- their winemakers, especially the boutique wineries’ owners are eager to learn, apply the newest techniques in their wine cellars. without much waiting or hesitating regardless of their rather long/new wine tradition and history. Wine making in a country known for lots of sunshine and arid climate, is by itself a challenge. Black is by all means the colour trait of the country’s reds, some very fine elegant samples of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were noted, as well as lots of Bordeaux blends. Some of the most prominent wine producers, at least from what I’ve tasted, were Binyamina Winery, Barkan Wine Cellars, Teperberg Winery, Carmel Winery, Benhaim Winery, Galileo Winery, and of course, one of the biggest, Yarden Winery located in the Golan Heights.

During my wine trip to Israel, I’ve tasted quite a lot of Israeli wines but had a chance to visit only one winery, Vitkin, where I enjoyed some very refined red wines and quite elegant samples of Carignan, Cabernet Franc and Petite Syrah, in addition to a very spicy Rose’. This more or less gave me a picture on what to expect.

Macedonian Vranec Wine Tasting in Porta Ceasaria 
Upon an invitation of the organiser of the wine competition, Mr. Moshe Spak, I was honoured to be given the chance to do a tasting of Macedonian wines for the international wine judges. Without a doubt, I opted for the Vranec and chose the following ones- Vranec Barrique 2011 by Brusani Winery, Vranec 2011 Reserve by Popova Kula Winery, Vranec 2013 by Chateau Sopot Winery, Barovo Red 2012 by Tikves Winery and Terroir Vranec 2011 by Chateau Kamnik Winery. As much as to my surprise, the wine judges were even more eager to learn about Macedonia as a wine country, enjoyed their time spent with the Vranec and gave their true opinion on the quality of the Vranec samples. An increasing interest in visiting Macedonian wineries in near future followed suit…

Champagne Tasting at the Begining of a Macedonian Harvest

As 2015 harvest has officially began in Macedonia, this text should be about nothing else than Macedonian wines, the grapes, the state of the vineyards, the ongoing harvest, …And in the forthcoming days, it will be so. However, these lines are about an enjoyable day spent tasting some of the best champagnes to celebrate the beginning, of what seems to be, an excellent vintage.

Somewhere between the destemming, pressing and filling the tanks at Chateau Kamnik winery (one of the three wineries in Skopje where I do my practice), we tasted some fine champagnes among them 2006 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut Millesime, Krug Grand Cuvée Brut and Taittinger 2005 Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut. My list that follows and order of the Champagnes is according to my preference.

Taittinger 2005 Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut

Taittinger is one of the oldest Champagne houses based in Reims in France. The winery, after a recent tumultuous ownership history, is now again back in the hands of the Taittinger family. In their possession they have 288 hectares of prime vineyards and produces 5 million bottles annually. The vineyards in this region, Côtes de Bar, are one of the most expensive in the world with a staggering price of 1.8 million Euros a hectare.

Taittinger 2005 Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut was a pure enjoyment for all senses. Beginning as intriguing as all that followed later on. Almonds, lilies, and just hints of citrus and toasty notes on the nose. Multi layered and equally rich taste with creamy nuances, white peach tones, more toastiness and balanced and crispy acidity. Silky texture that revealed elegant nutty notes with additional hints of vanilla. Absolutely lovely & amazing aging potential!! Silkiness is the only word that I would use to describe this Champagne in just one single word.

Krug Grand Cuvée Brut

Krug is also one of the better known Champagne houses primarily based in Reims, France. Though it is owned by the LVMH Moët Hennessy • Louis Vuitton S.E. conglomerate, the Krug family is still involved in the wineries’ future, though less in the every day winemaking processes.

Krug Grand Cuvée Brut is a blend of 120 wines from a selection of 10 or more vintages and different vineyards, re-created on yearly basis. I’ve founded it classy, quite fresh and balanced. Lovely freshness on the nose, followed by abundance of herbal and fine toasty notes. Good structure, rich and complex taste and though the acidity was quite present, it was well balanced. 

2006 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut Millesime

Louis Roederer is just another Champagne chouse based in Reims, Champagne and unlike the other two above mentioned, it remains until today as one of the only independent family-run house. The winery is in possession of 240 hectares located in three main growing zones in Champagne, the Montagne de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne, and the Côte des Blancs. Yearly, around 3.5 million of bottles of Loiuis Roederer Champagne are sold from the winery to more than 100 countries. 

2006 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut Millesime was maybe the freshest of all the champagnes we tasted, but quite boisterous in crisp acidity (no need to mention a balanced one). Some fine citrusy and apple notes and just hints of tangerine on the nose. The taste follows the nose and is equally rich in agrumes and good minerality, though not over-accentuated. I would leave this Champagne in the cellar for some time more to age slowly and in a good direction.