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Macedonia, also known as the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), is not the same as the Macedonian region of Northern Greece. This independent country has a long history of winemaking dating back to the 13th century B.C. It sits in a magical area for viticulture; the country’s location is at the confluence of Mediterranean and Continental climates. When Macedonia was part of the former Yugoslavia, it produced more than half of the Yugoslavian wine. Today, almost all of the production in Macedonia is dedicated to red wine.
Macedonia was already on our checklist for the three-month tasting trip through the ex-Yugoslavian countries. We began the trip in Serbia, which is dominated by small wine producers, the opposite of Macedonia. Many Serbs still have the impression that most Macedonian wine is bulk, inexpensive, industrial wine. However, we made our way south with Macedonia in our sights and many Serb winemakers kept repeating, “you must try Chateau Kamnik.”
Most of the Macedonia’s wineries are huge—a medium-sized winery in the country pumps out 4.5 million liters (6 million .75L bottles) of wine per year. The largest winery, Tikveś, produces 20 million liters of wine per year. Chateau Kamnik is nowhere near that range, it is considered a boutique winery producing under 100,000 liters per year – they are concerned with making high- quality wine. Chateau Kamnik is just outside of Skopje, nestled high on a hill overlooking the city. The property features the winery, a hotel, and a wonderful game meat restaurant named The Hunter’s Lodge Kamnik. The restaurant has a diverse range of meats from Hedgehog to Venison. We stayed one night on our own dime and enjoyed both the hotel and the restaurant, which serves many of Kamnik’s wines by the glass.
Now onto the wines, which are wonderful. The Skopje wine growing region of Macedonia is considered to have a continental climate. However, the summers are long and hot with a low amount of rain, the region also receives anywhere from 270-300 sunny days per year – a common theme in Macedonia. They are big, rich, flavorful wines. They are Robert Parker darling wines – big fruit, rich texture, and high alcohol.
The tasting room is beautiful, with 360-degree views over Skopje and the surrounding mountains. The archive wines are held in a large, all-glass enclosed room. The owner really invested in the presentation of the wines and the tasting room. The room is very comfortable and can accommodate large groups. The bottles are heavy, high-quality glass. Chateau Kamnik uses American and French oak.
We did taste a selection of white wines from the tanks including Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc but it was at the start of our visit so we didn’t get to take notes on them. The following wines were tasted from freshly opened bottles. (Wines Tasted on April 5, 2016)
EXOTIC WINE TRAVEL’S TASTING NOTES
Chateau Kamnik Temjanika 2013
Temjanika is a type of Muscat that Serbia claims as its own. The grape grows abundantly in Macedonia and produces much bigger wines than in Serbia because of the high number of sunny days. This has a nose of sweet white flowers, lemon, and stones. The palate follows as a full-bodied, off-dry feel with lemon, wet stone, and minerals. It almost has a lemon spritzer feel in the mouth – a very interesting white wine.
Chateau Kamnik Chardonnay 2013
This is produced in the French “sur-lie” method, aka barrel fermentation. The wine also is matured for 9 months in oak. It is incredibly rich, buttery, and viscous. The nose has melon, graham crackers, pear, and vanilla. The mouth is full of creamy butter, vanilla, and oak – it is not a fruit forward white. This is very similar to a big, oaky Chardonnay from California.
Chateau Kamnik Winemaker’s Selection 2014
Blend of 50% Vranec, 40% Merlot, 20% Carmenere. The basic red wine in the portfolio, it doesn’t skimp on quality but also doesn’t hold a candle to the reserve and grand reserve red wines. It is not aged in oak. Vranac is indigenous to Montenegro and produces wines of high alcohol and acidity. It has become the flagship of grape of Macedonia, where they spell it by replacing the a with an “e” – Vranac vs Vranec. This wine has a nose of chocolate, plum, raspberry, and mushrooms. The palate is fruity, full of plum & raspberry. The wine ends with a minty finish and is guided by the soft tannins. The Winemaker’s Selection is much leaner than the other red wines by Kamnik.
Chateau Kamnik Cuvee Prestige 2013
Blend of 69% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 13% Vranec. This is the point in the portfolio where the wines start to become really serious. It is aged for seven months in new and used oak. The nose is full of blackberry, concord jam, and dirt. The palate has black fruit, pepper, and bell pepper with ripe, chewy tannins. An absolutely delicious wine that toes the delicate line of keeping Old and New World fans happy.
Chateau Kamnik Ten Barrels Syrah 2011
This is a reserve wine that took home a plethora of gold medals from various international competitions. It is aged for over 20 months in new oak and has a brick red color. The nose is full of rubber, black olives, leather, red fruit, white pepper, and cotton candy. The palate is full of rich blackberry, mint, white pepper and is very drinkable with soft tannins. An absolute beauty of a wine.
Chateau Kamnik Ten Barrels Syrah 2013
This wine was aged for 23 months in new oak barrels. The nose has blackberry, coconut, pepper, rubber, and black olive notes. The palate is fruit forward without being too jammy, there is black fruit, pepper, and round tannins. We prefer the 2011 vintage but this wine has the stuffing to be just as great.
Chateau Kamnik Ten Barrels Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
This is another reserve wine that spends a whopping 31 months in new oak. It is high in alcohol at 15.3%. The red-brown color is absolutely beautiful. The nose has tons of rubber, violet, clove, blackberry, and licorice. The aromas carry over to the mouthfeel in addition to mint, cherry, and blackberry notes. This wine has extremely fierce tannins and needs to lay down for a few more years.
Chateau Kamnik Single Vineyard Merlot 2010
Some of the regional competitions named this wine the Sassicaia of the Balkans. This is a reserve wine and spends 18 months in new oak and is an absolutely fantastic wine. The nose is full of black fruit, strawberry, mint, stones, eucalyptus, pepper, and minerals – an extremely complex nose. The palate is silky smooth with game, black & red berry, eucalyptus, and mint. A wine that will please many wine lovers.
Chateau Kamnik Vranec Terroir 2012
This is one of two “Grand Reserva” wines made by Kamnik from 100% Vranec that were picked late and were partially dried upon harvest. An extremely dense and concentrated wine at 16.2% alcohol. The wine is an inky purple color and extremely viscous in the glass. The nose is full of blue fruit, berry jam, sour plum, and white flower notes. The palate has big blue fruit flavors with balanced acidity and tannins that are round, chewy, and fierce all at the same time. The alcohol is high but is not felt, as this massive wine is put together extremely well. Phenomenal wine from a unique and promising variety.
Chateau Kamnik Merlot Signature 2012
The second of the “Grand Reserva” line and equally big at 17.3% alcohol. The color is more brick red as opposed to the opaque, inky Vranec Terroir. The winery labels this as off-dry, but it tastes like a dry wine. The nose has tomato juice, black pepper, brambleberry, and plum notes. The palate is full of pepper, salt, minerals, blackberry jam with fierce tannins and a long end palate. This wine is so balanced and well made that the high alcohol is again not felt – it is massive, rich, and delicious.
Bonus Tasting Note
We noticed at The Hunter’s Lodge restaurant that they had a Montepulciano on the wine list. We did not try it in the winery so we inquired about it, the server told us that it had sold out a long time ago. About one month later in Kotor, Montenegro we came across a bottle in a restaurant – we ordered it with no hesitation.
Chateau Kamnik Montepulciano 2013
Blend of 97% Montepulciano and 3% Vranec. Even though this is one of Kamnik’s entry-level reds it doesn’t suffer from any loss of quality. The wine is a massive and jammy interpretation of this Italian grape. The wine is beefed up by a small amount of Vranec in the blend. The nose and palate have identical flavors of dark cherry, dirt, plum, and sweet tobacco. A wonderful red wine that gives a sample of Chateau Kamnik’s more expensive offerings at a fraction of the price.
You May Also Enjoy
Vranac Without Borders: 16 Wines to Try
Dušan Jelić: A Perspective on Balkan Wine
Ivana Simjanovska: Macedonian Wine Expert (Wine Judge, Wine Writer)
Exotic Wine Travel YouTube Playlist: Macedonian Wine
Cover image courtesy of Chateau Kamnik.
The ideas expressed in this article are personal opinions and are not associated with any sponsors or business promotions.