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Macedonia is a country I've come to know very well over the last few years. I made my first visit there in 2013 and have since returned at least twice a year to update myself on the progress being made.
Situated in the centre of the Balkans, landlocked Macedonia has fantastic potenital to make great wines. Although there is much to be excited about, progress can feel slow. A recent visit in September 2017 showed that all existing wineries had rapidly improved the quality of their wines, but sadly there were only one or two new wineries to speak of.
Up until very recently, any discussion of Macedonian geography in relation to its wines was referenced in terms of three larger wine regions. Rather simplistically, they carved the country in three strips running from top to bottom. Pelagonija, the western strip was responsible fro around 13% of total wine production, while on the eastern border, Pchinya contributed merely 4%. The majority of wine production occurred in the rolling hills between the two, known simply as the Vardar Valley or Povardarie. It accounted for the remaining 83% of wine.
In order to bing things in line with EU standards though, things have changed, or rather, re-descibed. The wine districts that once fell into these three regions are still the same, only now the districts themselves constitute the wine region, at least when it comes to labelling.
According to the Rulebook for the Designation of Geographical Districts suitable for Production of Wines with Geographical Origin, the three former regions Povardarie, Pelagonia-Polog and Pchinya-Osogovo, are merged into a single region, Macedonia. However, the 16 districts below are now considered to be the best way to frame any geographical breakdown of Macedonia's wines.
Geographically Macedonia is best understood when divided into three main geographical areas. The most important is the central Vardar Valley which runs from north to south through the centre of the country. The majority of wine production is focussed here and although only seven of the 16 official wine districts are here, the region is by far the most important both in terms of volume and quality.
Now as the ministry of agriculture attempts to bring appellation and labelling closer to EU standards, 16 distinct wine districts are the best way to reference wine production.
Alongside Macedonia's geographical identification system there is also a quality tier group in place.
WCGO: Wine with controlled and Guaranteed Origin (Вино со контролирано и гарантирано потекло ВКПГ). Wine with controlled and guaranteed origin must meet a number of targets. At the moment the quality classification is based on yield and also requires the study of a micro locality to have been made and ratified by the ministry of agriculture. The category is confusing, few producers seem to use it and it is ripe for change.
WCO: Wine with Controlled Origin (Вино со контролирано потекло ВКП). In this case, the origin refers to one of the 16 districts referred to above and wine bottled as WCO must originate from a specific district only.
WGO: Wine with a geographical designation (Вино со географска ознака или регионално вино или столно вино со географско потекло ВГО). Today, production at this level is permitted throughout the country and wines labelled at this quality level with carry the label 'Wine of the Republic of Macedonia 'WGO'.