Vine of purple wine grapes hanging
Greece,  Macedonia,  Uncategorised

Three Alternative European Wine Destinations

I’m going to preface this post by saying I am absolutely no wine expert. However, I have been known to enjoy a glass every now and again. France, Spain, Australia, California.. All places we know and associate with producing great wines. However, wine culture goes far beyond these famous names. We think some of these lesser known destinations deserve to be on the map too.

1. Mainland Greece

Wine production in mainland Greece is a cottage industry. Every village produces their own homemade wine which you can generally expect to be delicious. Particularly popular in some areas, although not to everyone’s taste, is a sweet rosé. If that’s not your thing, don’t fear. Dry or semi-sweet whites and reds are also available everywhere.

There are no pretensions associated with wine in Greece and you will often find it for sale in cheaper plastic bottles. Do not be deceived! It’s still excellent quality.

In restaurants, it’s common to order wine in a carafe of 500ml for 2 people or 1L for larger groups. A very civilized quantity. The price is also something of a marvel; a 750ml bottle of wine will usually set you back only 2-3 euros. In a restaurant you will pay not much more.

2. (North) Macedonia

Macedonia produces the most consistently delicious wines we’ve ever tried. There are many wine producers in Macedonia, the largest of which is Tivkes, although, we commonly saw Bovin and Stobi wines as well. Red wine is the predominant product in Macedonia but they also produce a smaller amount of white and rose. A special grape in Macedonia is Vranac which usually results in a dry, deeply-coloured wine. The prices are a contrast to the general cost of living in the country and you can expect to pay 8-10 euros a bottle. As the saying goes – you get what you pay for.

Visiting a wineries is a great idea in Macedonia. They often have excellent kitchens and may have accommodation. Here are some of my recommendations:

  • Ciflik Winery close to Bitola on the edge of Pelister National Park. Ciflik offers wine tasting, a fantastic menu and rooms. The location makes it perfect for exploring the mountain (as long as, unlike us, you didn’t drink too much wine the night before) and the city of Bitola.
  • Kokino Winery and Hotel a lovely, peaceful location a stone’s throw from Skopje. The staff are great and there are modern, comfortable rooms for a very reasonable price (we paid 36 EUR) including a delicious breakfast. It’s also a great location for exploring the ancient sites in the region – see my post on this for more info.
  • Saint Joachim Osogovski Monastery. This beautiful and somewhat remote monastery is located in the hills above the village of Kriva Palanka in the far north east of the country. Not a commercial winery, the monastery produces a delicious homemade red wine with a very unique flavour which contains none of the usual added preservatives. The accomodation and food leaves a little to be desired but it is, afterall, a monastery and not a 5* hotel. It’s totally worth it for the experience and surroundings.

For more suggestions on things to do in Macedonia, check out these posts!

3. Moldova

Image for illustrative purposes only (and probably isn’t Moldova) by G.C. from Pixabay

Now this is one destination that is on my list! Moldova is the record-holder for the world’s largest wine cellar, Milestii Mici. Just how big is it? You’re probably thinking in terms of kilometers or tens of kilometers, right? Wrong… it’s 250 km long. Mental! Established in the 1970’s, Milestii Mici is, in fact, a converted limestone mine. It’s depth of between 30-85 meters creates the perfect conditions for wine preservation.

Moldova not only has huge wine cellars but also produces a substantial quantity of the stuff as well, ranking as the 11th largest producer in Europe. It’s said that in the Soviet Union, a third of the wine consumed came from Moldova. Not limiting themselves to commercial production, households often produce their own wine. Apparently Milestii Mici is used communally as well, with families storing their wine down there.

We certainly can’t wait to go and check it out for ourselves!

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