The harvest is in full swing in North Macedonia, in Tikveš region. Throughout the year, the vinegrowers looked anxiously at the sky and took good care of the vineyards, and now the moment has come to reap the fruits of dedicated work and efforts. The grapes are about to be processed into wine. Marko Stojaković, the chief oenologist of Tikveš Winery, resembles the captain of the naval ship, he gives instructions to other colleagues around, coordinates the entire process of receiving and processing grapes, selects the best clusters to be used for wines from the premium segment. One would think that it is not such a demanding job, but Tikveš Winery processes grapes from 1,000 hectares of its own vineyards and from another 5,000 hectares of vineyards from its subcontractors. The work during harvest time sometimes implies that Marko spends 18 hours a day in the winery.

A winery such as Tikveš has the advantage that the best grapes for each price range can be chosen from a large number of vineyard plots, thus creating wines capable of meeting the expectations of any consumer. From simple wines for everyday use to top premium wines that have reached the wine lists of the most famous restaurants in the Balkans region and beyond.

Since 2019, Marko has been taking care of premium wines produced at specific micro locations in Bela Voda, Barovo and Lepovo, which represent the very top of the Macedonian wine scene and wines in which the local terroir is best reflected. In his work, Marko relies on advice from the famous French oenologist Philippe Cambie in his work, but this cooperation has already turned into long-lasting friendship between two of them.

Philippe Cambie is well acquainted with the Balkan wine regions and he firmly believes in the huge potential of Balkan wines that has yet to be presented on the world wine scene. The Balkans are truly endowed with diversity. Philippe often points out “that Slovenia offers great white wines, in Dalmatia there are wines from Plavac Mali variety, in Serbia one should look at Prokupac wine, whilst Montenegro and North Macedonia can offer to the world authentic wines made from Vranac and Kratošija (Zinfandel, Primitivo) grapes”. Wines from localities such as Bela Voda and Barovo also confirm his opinion, given that at international wine competitions they often stand side by side with the most famous wine regions of the world such as Chateauneuf-de-Pape or Piedmont. Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise that several labels from Tikveš Winery have been rated 94 or 95 points by the famous wine critic Robert Parker.

Tikveš vineyards in North Macedonia can boast a specific location because the region is surrounded by mountains on three sides. This creates a specific micro climate at the meeting point of a warm Mediterranean and a cooler continental climate. Marko attributes this to the excellent aromatic structure of Tikveš wines. But it should be pointed out that the rural population that lives in that part of North Macedonia have a centuries-old tradition of wine production… Wine is present when they get born, the wine is present when they die. There is wine when they get married, but also when they went to wars. Wine is the essence of Macedonian culture, and Tikveš tries to convey that nuance of terroir in their wines.

While numerous grape pickers continue to harvest grapes from the vines in the vineyards of Barovo plot, Marko keeps repeating that the key words are selection and reduction. The race for quality requires good planning and knowledge of the characteristics of each plot. Grape pickers in the vineyard are protected from the heat of the sun by the wind that constantly blows here at an altitude of 600 meters. And the wind seems to carry the smell of the sea with it, because the location is some 100 km away from the sea coast by air.

Tikveš wines in the right way represent wines from the sun-drenched south… All the warmth, power, concentration, full body just burst from the wine glass. In addition to state-of-the-art technology, Marko is committed to allowing the wine to show its authenticity, which it gained owing to growth on a specific vineyard plot.

Text Tomislav Ivanović