by Ida Manton
While worldwide it might not be well known, if you have been in the region for some time you have probably heard of or tasted Macedonian wine. The valley along the Vardar River has been known for centuries for its good grapes. Almost all of the archeological sites have records of wine-making and amphoras where wine was kept. Discovering the natural beauty of its wine is a certain way to fall in love with Macedonia. During the last 20 years wine tourism has gone through a revival phase. Slowly, and not so surely, wine lovers are presented with more Macedonian final products to enjoy and be proud of. Some of the small boutique wineries proved that to be possible. They broke out of the habit of producing wine in bulk for sale to other countries, which would then brand it as their own. This new wave was started by Bovin Winery and has been followed by many new wineries, which are in a healthy competition that resulted in some valuable wines and experimenting with some very interesting grapes. Popova Kula was the first to experiment with one of the few indigenous grapes, Stanushina. If you like whites though, I would suggest a trip to Sopot and visiting the wonderful Popov family in their inspiring hideaway with a glass full of Emotion.
A wine-tasting day trip, which was once a very adventurous endeavour, has become an actually pleasant experience with these private boutique wineries that understood that they will have to invest in human relations at least as much as they have invested in the quality of their wines. They are still developing towards providing a bit more substance to this branch of the local tourism and there is still a lot to be done especially when it comes to accommodation in the Tikvesh region. Popova Kula is still one of the few places worth staying after a long wine-tasting day in Kavadarci, Negotino, Demir Kapija, Veles and/or Gevgelija. There are some new hotels in Gevgelija but they are not directly connected to a winery.
Spring and summer are the best time to explore this part of the country. The good side about this still not being a well developed business is that it still has a lot of soul and enthusiasm involved, so you are likely to meet some wonderful people and discover new hidden treasures every time you go back. You will not be a part of a well packaged tour, so you are on your own and you can decide what and where you will do while in the Tikvesh region. You can visit wineries that will organize tastings for you often also including some food. You can do some climbing on Kozuf Mountain on the way to a few of the wineries that are high up in the mountain, like Trajkovski in Krnjevo. You can visit the casinos in Gevgelija after visiting the wineries there and in Demir Kapija. You can spend a nice day out on Tikvesh Lake and buy the best fruit from Rosoman on the way back to Skopje. If it is not too hot or raining you can have a lovely day in Stobi or in some of the local monasteries, such as St. George’s, Polog, and Moklishte.