The beginnings of wine production in Macedonia date back to ancient times and the region in which Macedonia’s current borders fall has been producing wine since the 13th century BC.
Available documents show that Romans actively produced and traded wine in this region. Development continued into Byzantine times, and the people who later settled the territory also adopted the tradition, which is more prevalent today than ever before.
As a landlocked country in the Balkan Peninsula, North Macedonia is filled with lakes and rivers and a unique climate consisting of both Mediterranean and Continental influences, that make it ideal for producing wine.
In the central part of the country, through the Vardar River Valley region, the roadsides almost overflow with dense vineyards and numerous wineries. These tell the many centuries-long story of wine, which is inextricably connected to these areas. Wine is embedded in the nation’s culture and folklore, and is mentioned in many folk songs, stories, legends and traditions. All the chroniclers of Macedonian folk tales from the 19th and early 20th centuries have recorded that wine was an indispensable part of customs and rituals.
Starting in the late 1990’s, Macedonia’s wine industry entered a decade of intensive developments in grape growing and wine making with new wineries being built, old ones restructured, and a commitment of leading producers and wine makers to put Macedonia on the international wine map. The resulting devotion to quality and a sincere desire to offer our unique wines to the world’s consumers, continuously drives us advances the image of Macedonian wines.
Presently there are 74 registered wineries in N. Macedonia, and they produce altogether just over 90 million litres of wine annually. In general, Macedonian wineries are export-oriented, with increasing sales of bottled wines and changing the past image of Macedonia as a bulk wine source. However, they are also dominant in the domestic market, leaving a small space for imported wines from famous global wine regions. Around 85% of the total production is exported and the vast majority of bottled quality wine is sent to neighbouring Balkan countries, as well in Russia, China, USA and Germany (though a significant amount of bulk wine is still exported to Germany), making wine the country’s second most important export product.
Currently there are 28.213 hectares of vineyards managed by 20.000 individual grape growers and few big grape and wine producing companies. The planted grape varieties, whether indigenous or international (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, Chardonnay and Rkaciteli for example) are well at home here. But there is one that by far dominates the landscape: VRANEC is what most winemakers place at the forefront of their production. Although the birthplace of Vranec is actually neighbouring Montenegro – where it is spelled Vranac, North Macedonia has 90% of all plantings of the variety, which also represents some 38% of North Macedonia’s vineyard ha.
The name Vranec essentially means ‘black stallion’, signalling a wine with power, strength and spirit. Because of its vital acidity, masculine tannins and full spectrum of red and dark fruit flavours – from elderberry, cherry and lingonberry to plum and blackberry – Vranec can yield wines that beautifully express a range of styles, including youthfully soft and fruit-forward, or medium-bodied, or bold, lengthy and oak-aged with generous alcohol levels. It also shines as a rosé and makes an optimal blend component.
The top 15 wineries are members of the wine body “Wines of Macedonia” abbreviated WoM (Wines of Macedonia), and they work successfully together to represent the country’s wines and wine regions in export markets. The same body participates in creating wine law and appellations to improve quality, together with the Ministry of Agriculture of North Macedonia. At this point, the members of WoM are the main players in the wine business in North Macedonia and most of them are especially focusing on producing quality bottled wines. Other wineries are gravitating towards WoM, progressing towards a time when they can join the body and then start to contribute in organizing the wine business and its promotional activities.
MACEDONIAN WINE REGIONS
North Macedonia is divided into three main wine regions:
WINE KEY FACTS
74 REGISTERED WINERIES