Imako Vino in Štip
Macedonia’s wine industry is on the rise. The warm Mediterranean climate of the valleys which run through the center of the country has provided perfect grape-growing conditions since the days of the Romans, but the region is only now being discovered by the world at large. In the final weeks of our stay, we set off to explore Macedonia’s vineyards. First stop: Štip and the Imako Vino Winery.
Established in 1989, Imako has become the third-largest producer of wine in Macedonia, cranking out ten million liters a year. We pulled into its parking lot at 10 in the morning (maybe a little too early for wine), and were met by a scientist who had agreed to take a break from the lab and show us around.
I must have unconsciously expected Macedonian wine to be produced by buxom village maidens, foot-stomping in a tub, because Imako’s state-of-the-art factory surprised me. This was a high-tech operation, with winemakers in laboratory frocks, and an automated, scientific process. From the arrival of the grapes to the bottling of the wine, the whole plant basically runs itself, monitored from a computer screen.
So, Imako wasn’t going to provide the romantic images we had expected, but our tour of the lab and factory floor was interesting. The best part came at the end, when we were brought to the tasting room. From the semi-dry golden Temjanika, to the rich dark-red Vranec, we sampled a lot of delicious wines; I even enjoyed the semi-sweet Muscat, which isn’t normally my thing.
In a world that’s become obsessed with wine culture, it’s strange that Macedonia’s industry is still so unknown to the outside world. There’s a variety of reasons for that, including the country’s dismal economy as well as its ridiculous name dispute with Greece. But anyone looking for the “next big thing” might want to consider Macedonia. We’re no experts but, to our layman’s palates, these wines compare well to those of more well-known regions.