Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bottoms Up in the Balkans; Adam Bloodworth Finds Plenty of Grape Expectations in Serbia, Albania and Macedonia

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bottoms Up in the Balkans; Adam Bloodworth Finds Plenty of Grape Expectations in Serbia, Albania and Macedonia

Article excerpt

Byline: Adam Bloodworth

THINK of the Balkans, and its flourishing wine scene isn't immediately what comes to mind. But throughout its turbulent recent history, there has remained one certainty: the robust Balkan vineyards, which are some of the oldest in the world.

Far from the world stage and usurped by the more romantic bins of France, Italy and Spain, wine aficionados might be surprised to hear that the land here is uniquely fertile, with a wine history dating from the Ottoman Empire.

Under Yugoslav rule, wine was measured by quantity rather than quality but now an artisan community is thriving in Macedonia, Albania and Serbia. They're far from the mass-market offerings of Bulgaria and Romania we see in London -- and, in general, very cheap. Here's where to find the best.

Serbia One of the best Serbian wines is prokupac. The sweet, red grape, first recorded here in the Middle Ages, is often served as a dark rose.

The "new" wine scene is still growing but centuries of tradition are leading a sharp new focus on innovation, making Serbia's wineries some of the region's most exciting. Zupa, half a day from Belgrade, is the region to aim for.

Near Krusevac is the idyllic Ivanovic Winery (ivanovicvino.com). Running for 98 years, it focuses on prokupac, with its deeply complex and robust sweetness, though cabernet and merlot are also popular, and owner Dragoslav Ivanovic swears by a dark, ruby-coloured blend of the three grapes, with complex fruity tones of blackberry, ripe plum and blueberry, plus a spicy green pepper and clove kick. The vineyard is open daily; expect Dragoslav to speak passionately about how bizarre it is that this wine has never found fame outside of its homeland. A very good bottle should only set you back about PS8. Around Aleksandrovac, Vino Budimir (vinobudimir.com) and Rajkovic Brothers (facebook.com/podrum.bracarajkovic) are also worth a visit.

Macedonia may be small (just shy of 10,000 square miles) but its vineyards pack a punch. …

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