Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

Bombs over Negotino: Macedonia and the Dirty South, together at last | July 28, 2009

Refreshing, full disclosure: the wines tasted in this post were samples provided by the fine folks at Two Friends Imports.

Macedonia. Just the whisper; the mere utterance of the word makes any wine lover go “huh?” Yeah, we all think of France, Italy, Spain, and Germany in the grand pantheon of European wines, but rarely this small Republic that was once part of what made up Yugoslavia. Odd we don’t know anything about this wine region: while the “big four” have been under vine since the Roman times, the folks in Macedonia were kicking viticulture when the Greeks ruled the world- long before Julius Caesar got worked over like a pack of smokes at an A.A. meeting.
So, with all this history of winemaking, surely they’d be making some good stuff? Well, the locals are certainly giving it a go, especially in the Tikveš‎ region, near the town of Negotino. How ’bout a handy map:

View Larger Map

Here, in the central part of Macedonia, they’re dealing with primarily a “Mediterranean” climate (read: hot and dry), which is perfect for grape-growing. Along with popular local varieties like Vranec, they’re growing many “classic” varieties, such as Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon. And, thanks to the intrepid efforts of the guys at Two Friends Import Co., we’ve got these unusual wines in Georgia (thus, the clever Macedonia/Outkast theme of the post. Li’l Jon would’ve also been acceptable, but I didn’t know how to say “YEAH!” in the local tongue).

Anyway, I got to dunk my whiskers into a couple bottles over the weekend, and here’s what I thought:

Bovin 2008 Tikveš‎ Region Chardonnay: Bovin has been making wine since 1998, and they’re currently producing about 80,000 cases annually. Among those, this 13.7% ABV Chardonnay.

Nose: Lots of fruit: cantaloupe, ripe apple, pineapple, grapefruit, plus a VERY pleasant honey-butter aroma, and just a hint of oakiness and minerality. I’ll tell you, I’m not generally a big fan of Chardonnay. Too often, it reeks of oak and vanilla, and this just masks fake-smelling fruit flavors…probably why the cheap stuff is served ice-cold so you can’t smell the shame. But this nose is just pretty…everything is balanced and subtle (but definitely there), and- dammit- it just WORKS, at least for me.

Taste: Admittedly, my smellin’ notes are usually better than my tastin’ notes. We’ll give it a go anyway. This wine is silky, with flavors of lime, buttered (slightly burnt) toast, and grapefruit. The finish was nutty (almonds, maybe?), and I counted to 20 before I couldn’t taste the wine anymore. I thought it was a little hot (alcoholic) on the finish, but overall, things were in nice balance. I even came back and drank some at room temperature the next day, and things were still balanced and there was no evidence of flaw…it was actually incredible the next day.

Verdict: knowing that this wine retails for under $15, it is an ABSOLUTE STEAL. There’s so much underwhelming Chardonnay from California at that price point (or more), and this drinks much more like a $25-35 bottle. That’s one of the great things about lesser-known countries: good quality for a great price. If you see this one, pick it up, and snag a bottle for me, you handsome devil.
Bovin 2006 Tikveš‎ Region Cabernet Sauvignon: At 13% ABV, I expected this to be lighter-bodied. However, coming from a region that regularly hits 104° F, I thought I’d get something that kicked me in the teeth. Frankly, I was torn on what I would get. Luckily, that mystery was about to be solved.

In the glass, this was one of the lightest-colored Cabs I’ve seen in a while. It almost looked like a Pinot Noir.

Nose: Heinz 57, raisins, pickles, black currant, herbs, creamed corn, and a serious kick of raspberry sorbet. Trust me: this nose looks weird, but it’s really cool to get all sorts of interesting things out of the aroma. The nose was really bright and rustic. Didn’t remind me of Cab so much, but it was still quite pretty. Basically, between the color and the nose, this wine would’ve kicked my @ss in a blind tasting.

Taste: I wrote down “Cab for Pinot lovers.” It was a little dull and flabby (as in “lacking acidity”) at first, but I think this is just because I’ve come to expect big flavors, tons of tannin, and high alcohol from a Cabernet. The flavors were there: mostly berries and dark fruit. But the tannins were so soft; more like a new world Merlot. I feel like I could drink this on a hot day and not sweat my face off (the usual, flattering side-effect of me drinking a heavy red wine). It’s officially “summertime Cabernet,” and while it really threw me off, once I took it for what it was, I enjoyed it a lot more.

Verdict: Not quite the freight-train that the Chardonnay was, but a nice wine that I would take down with some roasted chicken (or by itself). Also priced in the teens (I believe… someone please correct me if I’m wrong here), I think you could do a lot worse.

My final analysis: if this is the first stuff coming to the states from Macedonia, we’ve got a lot to be excited about. This quality, at these price points, is exactly how you can still drink good wine in a tough economy. But most importantly, it’s great to try new things. You can really surprise yourself sometimes and find some gems. And if you buy a bottle of Macedonian wine (click here for a list of spots in Georgia), someone in that country will probably do a dance…and I bet they’ve got some pretty sweet dance moves there.

Until next time, Cheers, Sláinte, Salud, Prost, Skål, Konbe, and Kampai!

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