Pai Abel Chumbado Branco 2011, Quinta das Bágeiras, (by Rui Alves), Bairraida Wine Region, Portugal

Pai Abel Chumbado Branco 2011, Quinta das Bágeiras, (by Rui Alves), Bairraida Wine Region, Portugal- given to me as a present by Joao Rico a couple of years ago. An interesting story re this wine- this “Father Abel” did not pass the tasting room of the wine committee of Bairrada & Mario Sergio, out of a cry of revolt, decided to release it anyway, labeling it “Chimbado” (“Rejected”).

A blend of Maria Gomes e Bical grapes, this wine is complex in any direction. Baked bread, daffodils, crushed stones hinting minerality as a backdrop. On the palate it shows an abundance of ripe lemons, fresh acidity & long enduring minerality aftertaste. Excellent harmony! Chimbado, indeed- In my direction that is!
P.S. Finally in 2012, Mario Sergio was considered the producer of the year by Wine magazine!

Wine tasting of Popov Winery’s wines

It’s show off time! That period of the year when the wineries are pulling out on the market their latest wines. In other words, it’s time for some serious wine sampling. A few days ago, at the Temov Wine Bar in the Turkish Bazaar in Skopje, I had the pleasure to taste some of the wines from Popov winery.
Located in Sopot, near the town of Kavadarci in the Tikves Wine District, Popov winery is a family winery established in 2001. Today, the winery owns 45 ha of prime vineyards located in the localities Sopot, Smolnik and Vrshnik, all of these surrounding the winery. The plantings include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Temjanika, Zilavka, Pinot Grigio, Vranec, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Smolnik Temjanika 2013
The grapes for this wine come from the Smolnik locality, which is one of the localities surrounding the Popov Winery. Light yellow colour with greenish nuances. The nose is fresh with lots of peaches and gooseberry hints and the taste follows in the same manner.
Smolnik Sauvignon Blanc 2013 
Fume style, grapefruit and green grass aromas. The taste gives away abundance of kiwi and passion fruit  flavours all rounded with an expressive minerality.
Smolnik Chardonnay 2013
Pineapple aromas, smokey on the nose. Yellow pear skin flavours and a pleasant acidity.
Smolnik Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2012
Lots of rice pudding, vanilla and honeycomb notes on the nose. On the taste an easily detectable sweetness with buttery and citrus flavours.
Domaine Vrshnik 2013 
The grapes for this wine come from the Vrshnik locality, in the vicinity of the winery. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc, hardonnay and Gewurtztraminer. Aromas of pineapple, and flavours of pears, baked bread and lots of crushed stones on the palate.
Domaine Vrshnik Merlot 2011
Oaky & smokey on the nose. Very sweet on the pallate with lots of dry berry fruits.
Cabernet Sauvignon Barrique 2011
Aromas of ripe berry fruits and vanilla hints. Very jammy on the palate with soft tannins.
Cuvee Prestige 2011
Oaky, aromas of cherries, blueberries and red currants. The taste follows in the same manner with additional hints of plums.
Vranec Reserve 2007
Aromas of ground red pepper and cherries. Abundance of bluberries, currants and cedar hints. Velvety tannins and a very good aftertaste. To be drunk preferably as soon as possible.
Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2008
Meaty cherries and vanilla aromas. The taste is full of black currants, powdery tannins.

 

 

Wine Tasting of 2014, 2013, 2012 & 2011 vintages at Tikves Winery

Having received an invitation from Marko Stojakovic, the head oenologist at the oldest winery in Macedonia, to do a full wine tasting of the Tikves wines, I headed to the town of Kavadarci. It was a glorious day, that predicted somewhat of an even better wine tasting. Accompanied by Marko and the Tikves hospitality manager, Alexander, I merged into a full four hour tasting session.

Marko Stojakovic, an enologist and viticulturist, was educated at the Institute in Bordeaux and worked at the highly acclaimed Châteauneuf-du-Pape before moving to Macedonia and taking over the steering wheel at the biggest winery in Macedonia, and the Balkans. That was only 5 years ago, in 2010, and ever since he brought some of a youthful, refreshing spirit, as well as a dose of seriousness and boldness in the Tikves wines. Being a protégé of the highly acclaimed Phillipe Cambie, Marko has been successful and passionate in his dealings with the country’s local grape varieties and terroir, bringing the potential to a whole new level- maintaining quality.

One of my favourites from this winery are the Special Selection line as well as the Terroir wines. The Special Selection line includes both local and international grape varieties that have been successfully grown in the country for decades back. Marko’s aim with this line and its wines is they to be expression of the terroir in addition to maintaining a certain freshness, both on the nose and the palate.

The second line is the more serious one, the Terroir Wines, including Barovo White and Barovo Red, as well as Bela Voda White and Bela Voda Red. The grapes for these wines come from two microlocalites. The first one is Barovo, located  at an elevation of 550-750m, on the slopes of the Kozuf Mountain not more than 100 km from the Aegean Sea. The soils here is rich in carbonates and minerals. The second one is Bela Voda location where the Mediterranean climate prevails and the soil here is mostly clay. Unavoidable is the notion that the wines from these two lines are complex, and what I find intriguing is the fact they open in layers- on every sniff, on every new sip.

Due to the heavy rain pour that hit the vineyards in the country just before and during the harvest, Terroir wines will have their first skip this year. So, no Terroir- Barovo and Bela Voda, as well as no Special Selection Vranec 2014. However, there’s much to be positive about- the white varieties were picked just before the rain and the 2014 wines are fresh and floral. For the ones who still haven’t stoked the Terroir line, now’s the time.

Tikves Ergion Brut 2013
Quality dry wine produced by traditional method. Very fresh on the nose, a constant perlage, fruity and harmonious taste, creamy structure and a fresh finish.
Tikves Special Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Typical Sauvignon  Blanc nose- very f with aromas of green peppers, fresh cut grass and citrus, complemented with aromas of blackcurrant leaves. Harmonious flavours of grapefruit and mashed mango on the palate.
Tikves Special Selection Chardonnay 2014
Yellow-green luminosity in the glass. A good body with intertwined refreshing acidity complemented with citrus, orange peel, crème burlee and lime flavours.
Tikves Special Selection Chardonnay 2013
Oily in the glass with complex aroma of citrus and green banana. Full-bodied wine with pear, melon and butterscotch flavours and a crispy acidity. Long persistence, lime and peer finish.
Tikves Special Selection Grenache Blanc 2013
Delicate light yellow colour with green hue. On the nose it is very floral and fruity- mashed green banana, peaches and melon. On the palate it is fresh with additional notes of citrus and green lemons.
Tikves Alexandria White Cuvee 2014
Very floral and fresh on the nose- apple blossom and pears aromas.The palate is equally rich in stony fruits like peaches, young apricots and citrus flavours.
Tikves Alexandria White Cuvee 2013
Golden colour and oily in the glass. Very floral on the nose- aromas of white peaches and butterscotch undertones. The taste is rich in apple and banana notes with a pleasant refreshing acidity. Full-bodied wine with a good length.
Tikves Special Selection R’kaciteli 2014
Lots of citrus, orange peel and green lemon aromas. On the palate is equally fresh with delicate flavours of pear and peach as well a balanced and accentuated acidity.
Tikves Special Selection Muscat Ottonel 2014
Golden yellow colour with a greenish reflection. Very floral on the nose- elderberry and white flowers notes, with honey undertones. Lovely and elegant lemon aftertaste.
Tikves Special Selection Temjanika 2014
Delicate golden colour and green reflection. Aromas of elderberry flowers, basil and abundance of white spices. Fresh and elegant on the palate with more white flowers, quince and background honeycomb notes and a lovely crispy acidity.
Tikves Alexandria Rose Cuvee 2014
It’s surprisingly pleasant to note the tendency of salmon colour rosés in the country. Very fresh and floral with aromas of dry forest strawberries and Turkish rose delight. The taste is complex and rich in gooseberries, elderberry flowers. A wine with a firm structure, balance and an elegant aftertaste.
Tikves Special Selection Merlot 2013
Typical Merlot nose displaying varietal characteristics- red cherries, and other lush berry fruit, leafy notes. Full bodied wine with tamed tannins and a robust finish. A suprisingly very interesting sample of Macedonian Merlot.
Tikves Special Selection Merlot 2012
Aromas of ripe grapes, honey and mixed caramelized forest fruits. Rounded taste due to a well balanced acid, extract and alcohol content and a slightly sweet and robust finish.
Tikves Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Aromas of sour cherries and raspberries. Good structure and body, and lovely cherry like aftertaste.
Tikves Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Purple-red colour. Cherry syrup and raisins aromas. Soft and tamed tannins, strong structure and very rich, full textured body.
Tikves Special Selection Vranec 2012
Dark-ruby red colour. Intense aromas of cooked blackberries. Taste of figs and overripe sour cherries. It has strong but pleasant tannins, and long and strong finish. Expressive nose of ripe black fruit and dry on the palate.
Tikves Barovo Red 2011
A blend of  65%Vranec & 35% Kratoshija. Dark red colour with purple reflection and a complex aroma of dry blackberries, raspberries and dry plums. The taste- ideally balanced acids with soft and juicy tannins make this wine full, extractive with a powerful structure and a long finish.
Tikves Barovo Red 2012
Inky black in colour, with purple nuances. Complex aroma of dry blackberries, raspberries and dry plums. Ideally balanced acids with soft tannins make this wine full, extractive with a powerful structure and a long juicy aftertaste.
Tikves Bela Voda Red 2012
I enjoyed this one very much, as on every sniff it opened in layers, and the taste was 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. Full-bodied wine, with expressive minerality, balance of fruit and tannins, as well as an impressive finish.
Tikves Barovo White 2012
A blend of 70% Grenache Blanc & 30% Chardonnay. Very rich and elegant both on the nose, as well as in the taste. So much to find here- aromas of white raspberries, citrus, lime and peach nuances. A certain smokeyness on the nose is due to the volcanic soil where the grapes originate from. Oily texture and aromas of white flowers, pears and just a dash of mango. Rounded wine with velvety tanins and long finish.
Tikves Barovo White 2013
Rich nose, amazing freshness and then aromas of a hazelnuts, almonds and yellow flowers follow. The taste is equally rich with more dark yellow fruit and flowers clashing down on the palate followed by a gripping acidity. A very complex wine and one to look for!
Tikves Bela Voda White 2013
Yellow colour with gold nuances. Very rich and elegant on the nose- daffodils, green bananas and hints of vanilla. Multilayered wine with hazelnut, apple blossom, crème brulee and mineral flavours. A gripping, well balanced acidity and a prolonged aftertaste.
Tikves Bela Voda White 2012
Mild yellow colour and oily in the glass. On the nose it is very floral with aromas of rice pudding, daffodils, vanilla and hazelnuts. The palate is gorgeous with hints of dark yellow flowers, Petite Beurre biscuits and then a fresh splash of green bananas follows. Full-bodied wine with a lingering finish.

 

A special treat was the tasting of wines from Domaine Lepovo, where Marko and Philippe Cambie have joined their forces to make wines at this high-end production facility for estate-bottled wines in the vicinity of Negotino, in the picturesque hillside locality of Lepovo. The winery Domaine Lepovo sits at 250m altitude and benefits from a distinct microclimate where a Mediterranean influence is offset by adequate continental winds heading south through the Vardar Valley. At this altitude the cool night time temperatures are offset by these heat retaining soils contributing to a long, slow ripening period that creates intense aromas.

Domaine Lepovo Chardonnay 2013
Yellow goldish colour and very oily in the glass. A complex nose- both floral and fruity- aromas of pineapple, young bananas, lilies and hints of almonds. The palate is creamy, full-mouth taste of yellow flowers, daffodils dominating, baked bread, hazelnuts and a refreshing citrus acidity. Full-bodied and multilayered wine with a long toffee finish.
Domaine Lepovo Pinot Noir 2013
I tend to believe that this is the typical Macedonian Pinot Noir, as I’ve tasted my fair share of them. Red ruby color and a very rich aroma of red currants, mashed raspberries and abundance of vanilla tones. The taste is complex in more red berry fruits, strawberries and raspberries dominating, as well as a certain cinnamon and chocolate spiciness. Full-bodied wine with a lovely cocoa and dark ripe cherry finish.
Domaine Lepovo Grand Cuvee Red 2013
This rather boisterous wine is due to the blend of Vranec, Cabernet and Merlot. Complex nose and aromas that keep changing on every new sniff- red currants, plums, a combo of spices, then cranberries, graphitte nuances and red meaty peppers. The taste follows in the same manner with more dark red blackberry fruit, dry red peppers, cigar box, hints of vanilla and a refreshing acidity. A long and enduring aftertaste.

 

 

Wine Tasting of 2014 vintage at Popova Kula Winery

The 2014 vintage was not inclined to the grape growers and winery owners in most of the world wine regions and Macedonia was undoubtedly one of them. The heavy rain pours in the middle of the harvest, late August and beginning of September, have certainly made some damages in the vineyards all over the country. Being a witness of this, as I had traveled around the country at that time and visited many of the wineries, it would be hard not but share my compassion with many of them. Looking on the bright side, most of the white grape varieties, were harvested literaly just moments before the rain hit the vineyards thus saving most of the good crops.
Some changes have also taken part in some of the wineries in the country. One of them is certainly the leave of one of my favourite enologists, Ekaterina Gargova, until recently the head at the Popova Kula’s winery as well as her right hand, the young and talented enologist Marina Koceva. It was a sad day as we came to say farewell. However, the winery remains in good hands as we have the highly respected Nana Gargova, until recently an enologist at Dudin Winery, coming in her place. The lovely ladies invited me to go through the 2014 vintage and discuss the prospects of 2015. So, here are my wine tasting notes of the wines we’ve tasted over a five hour get together at Popova Kula Winery.

Classic Sauvignon Blanc 2014-  Surprisingly fresh, aromatic and exceptional sample of Macedonian Sauvignon Blanc. Aromas of boxwood, freshly cut green grass and green tomato leaves. The taste is full and abundant in more green bell peppers, citrus and grassy notes.
Classic Zilavka 2014- The nose showed aromas of green peppers and citrus. The taste followed in the same manner with a mix of young lemons and green apples. Although rather one dimensional, it was a very refreshing wine with a very pleasant acidity.
Classic Chardonnay 2014- Green bananas and freshly cut pineapple aromas. The acidity is lively and refreshing.
Classic Muscat 2014- A nose revealing lilies, citrus and hints of honey.
Classic Temjanika 2014- Lots of young green peaches, lemon and elderberry notes. Very firm body and pleasant acidity.
Classic Stanushina Rose’ 2014- Very dry even on the nose. It reveals aromas of stone candies, forest strawberries and raspberries. The taste is full of little berry fruits with a streak of firm acidity.
Classic Prokupec 2014 Now although young, this wine will develop nicely. Very elegant on the nose showing a mix of red flowers and spices.
Classic Cabernet Sauvignon 2014- Now this one was a surprise! Typical Cabernet Sauvignon nose, black plums and dry red peppers. The body is full, revealing more roasted meaty red peppers, lots of spices and velvety structure. A true fruit and spice bomb!
Classic Vranec 2014- Harvested 10 days later than the first yield of Vranec grapes- a one that survived the rain. Having this in mind, I would have expected that it would be water diluted like but to my surprise it was very fruity on the nose, displaying a whole array of forest berries. The taste was equally powerful and full.
Perfect Choice Vranec 2012- Showing opulent dark ruby red colour and high viscosity in the glass. Aromas of meaty cherries, blueberries and hints of dark liquid chocolate. The taste is equally rich in dark blue and red berry fruits with additional hints of tobacco.
Wine Bridges Vranec 2013- This Vranec is from Ekaterina’s personal made collection although Nana had her hand in this particular vintage as well. Wine Bridges is a brand developed by Katja as a series of author’s wines which introduce different winemakers provoked by the local Balkan grape varieties. Here the wine is the bridge which people, preferences and cultures cross. Katja has also made Wine Bridges Mavrud in her home country- Bulgaria, and will continue doing so with the indigenous Balkan grape varieties all over the peninsula.
So much to find in this Vranec- red ground dry pepper, ripe dark plums and forest berries. Full bodied wine with a bouquet revealing a mix of peony flowers, red bell peppers, black pepper and other dark spices. One to look for!

Best wishes to Ekaterina and Marina and looking forward to future wine tasting together, in Macedonia and all around the wine world!

Graham’s 1982 Single Harvest Tawny Port, Douro, Portugal

Well, now. . . when one of your best wine friends is the Port Ambassador, you get to taste wines like this one. The Graham’s 1982 Port was opened during the first visit of my friends from Portugal (Andre’ Ribeirinho) and Brasil/USA ( Luiz Alberto #winelover) to Macedonia- an excellent wine occasion to celebrate their first visit to the country. We got ourselves at the Spa Resort Bel Kamen at 1500 m, on the Pljachkovica Mountain during the winter, which proved an ideal occasion to open this Port.
This beauty showed aromatic notes of nutmeg, vanilla and roasted hazel-nuts. The palate was velvety, elegant, a combination of cinnamon, quince, caramel, hints of honey, raisins and orange peel, silky tannins and long aftertaste.
To mark the birth of HRH Prince George, the Symington family has decided to bottle a special commemorative edition of Graham’s Single Harvest Tawny Port from 1982. For three decades, this very fine Port has been gently ageing in seasoned oak casks under the watchful eye of the Symington family, owners of this long established Port House. Charles Symington, head taster and winemaker, has selected just 6 pipes (a little over 4,000 bottles) for this limited edition release.