Posted by: tomciocco | December 12, 2013

A SECOND BITE: THE OTHER SIDE OF MACEDONIA

If you look back to my previous post, you’ll see its subject was Macedonia, and perhaps a little surprisingly, so is this one. But there’s Macedonia and then there’s Macedonia. The previous post brought the focus onto the Greek region of Macedonia. This one centers on the independent nation known as The Republic of Macedonia just over the border from Greece; a place often referred to as “Serbian Macedonia” that sadly is partially disowned by both Serbia and Greece though in ancient times there was no distinction between the two places. But enough nomenclature and history and on to the table…

The growing region of Macedonia from which tonight’s wine hails is called Tikves (tik-VAESH) and the grape from which it’s made is called Vranec (vra-NETZ). The name Vranec roughly translates as “strong, black stallion” and indeed this is a deep, dark, and muscular wine that fits somewhere in the Zinfandel/Crljenak Kastelanski/Primitivo family of vines (precisely who begat who is still to be determined), and without much of a stretch of the imagination or the palate, the resemblance is easy to note, and to this palate, Vranec bears the closest resemblance to Primitivo in that it’s a bit lighter and brighter than the other two siblings.

This particular bottling is aged for 8 months in medium and large-sized new French oak barrels despite the region’s close proximity to the source of Slavonian oak in neighboring Croatia. But no matter the place from which the cooperage comes, Vranec as much as any grape anywhere, benefits from some oak aging, giving notable depth and structure to Vranec’s round, rich, and sweet fruit profile.

So in spite of the two Macedonias similarities in terms of names and history, at least in terms of  winemaking, their paths diverge pretty markedly. Would that I knew how to say vive la difference in Macedonian or Greek

I put this lush and lusty Balkan red together with an oil-cured black olive, orange, scallion and paprika salad followed by a main course of cevapci (Balkan-style lamb herb and spice patties) with a triumverate of accompaniments: ajvar (red pepper and eggplant paste) yogurt and garlic sauce, and watercress.

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Stobi Winery Tikves Vranec 2011

Very deep and completely opaque purple color with garnet highlights. Big, expressive nose of plum, mulberry, and blueberry fruit supported by notes of wood smoke, dark chocolate, black coffee, and walnut oil. The body of the wine is full, chewy, and plush but still well-structured with broad, fine-grained tannins and a zippy acidity that launches big flavors of black cherry, prune, myrtle berry, wet stones, cloves, meat juices and burnt orange peel. Convivial, pleasantly bitter, chalky finish.

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