Monday, September 27, 2010

Ever Thought of Visiting Macedonia?

No? Why not?

Sure, there is not a lot that's known about this small, land-locked country. And yes, it did only gain independence in 1991. Not to mention the tourism sector is definitely struggling in this down economy. Despite all that, there is only one thing that really matters about Macedonia: The wine.

Being the wine enthusiast that I am, hearing that Macedonia was an uncorked (pun totally intended) resource for delicious and unique grape blends made my ears perk up. But I must admit, I didn't know much about the country other than where it is located, in the Balkans. So, I decided to do a little research, and discovered some interesting facts about The Republic of Macedonia.

The fact that Macedonia is not on the radar does not surprise me, since the country has struggled with so many economic difficulties since their independence from Yugoslavia. They started off at the short end of things by being one of the less-developed regions of Yugoslavia, and when they seceded, many of their export routes through Serbia were lost. The ones that remain are unreliable and costly. The country has a high poverty rate and abundant corruption, stunting the economic growth even more.

However, despite these fallbacks, Macedonia has a lot to offer. Geographically, it does not have direct access to any oceans, but the Vardar River has created a beautiful central valley, and the rugged terrain boasts some breathtaking views. Those can best be appreciated from the top of the Šar Mountains or the Osogovo-Belasica Mountain chain. The intricate nature of the original architecture found in the capitol, Skopje, draws many people to the busy streets. Luckily, the population is not significantly high and visitors are minimal, so it does not feel overly crowded.

A trip out to the Macedonia countryside is a real treat. Here you will find stretches of vineyards that supply the locals with ripe grapes just waiting to be turned to wine. Wine has played a big part in Macedonia's culture since the Roman times. Wine grapes thrive in the transitional climate of Mediterranean and Continental, not to mention the rich soil. In fact, there are so many grapes that families often make their own batches. Macedonians even celebrate the patron saint of wine and winemaking, St. Trifun, every year when growers prune the vines on February 14. (A possible replacement of that made-up holiday everyone else celebrates.) But even with this wealth of wine grapes and great potential for mass production, Macedonia's wine industry has suffered. As a result, wineries are in short supply. But the ones that do exist have done an impressive job promoting their products.

Popova Kula Winery, built in the Tikves Valley, is modeled after the wineries of California. After 6 years, it boasts 17-acres of grapevines and uses the latest Italian machinery. Popova winery specializes in dry white wines, but has been growing its stock of reds, as well. Bovin Winery was the first boutique vineyard after independence, and it houses a tasting room where guests can sample the variety of whites and reds. Stobi Winery is a large facility located close to the capitol of Macedonia. It also produces many white wines and just a few rich reds.

If nothing else draws you to the borders of Macedonia, consider this: not only will you get to taste some exceptional wines, but you will also get to discover a country that most people have never seen. Macedonia appears to be hidden among its surrounding countries, but its history, culture and wine could turn it into a bustling tourist attraction. So maybe you should book this Balkan country for your next vacation, or at least give it a chance.

And just think, you might taste a wine that has never made it to the United States--what a rare find!

2 comments:

  1. Popova Kula is the only Macedonian winery which offers accomodation. They have wonderful appartments and a rrestaurant with view of the valley and wineyards...and their wines are pretty good.

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  2. It is the famous place for tourist attractions.The people of Macedonia are friendly and famous for their devotion to nightlife.It has beautiful lake and spiritual significance.

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