Wines and grape varietals - North Macedonia
The Stanushina grape variety, belongs to the domesticated indigenous grape variety from Tikveš region of central southern Macedonia, where it has been cultivated since ancient times. It belongs to the geographic group of Black Sea varieties, sub-variety balkanica. It’s name is the local dialect that can be translated as “old sprout,” “yellow sprout” or “grandfather’s sprout.” Locals have planted this grape variety since the time of Turkish domination mainly in the areas of Begnishte, Resava, Dabnishte, Raec, Drenovo and Kavadarci. It is believed that the name references the endurance of this variety on dry and poor soils that are mostly found on steep slopes (or strmni strani). Most of these sites are planted with Stanushina specimens over 50 years, mixed in with other local varieties. In the area of Bitola, this variety is also called Gradesh. This variety produces medium-sized grapes on medium to large bunches. These rust-colored grapes are often the last picked, after September, as they are resilient to cold temperatures. The grapes are picked by hand, and the time of picking is very early in the mornings or late in the evenings when temperatures are lower, in order to preserve the aromas. Traditionally, these grapes would be crushed by foot in copper pans, before being moved to wooden vats for fermentation. The wine produced, called kominyak, refers to a style in which the wine is left together with the solid parts of the grapes (such as seeds and skin) until it is ready to be consumed. Any leftover wine is turned into rakija in the spring. The convenient climate and the fertile soil have always made Macedonia favorable for growing grapevines, especially in the Tikveš region. Owing to its presence in everyday nutrition as drink or food additive, wine was reflected to a great extent in the folk songs, thus enriching the folk culture too. A legend says, due to lack of water in the past, villagers of Resava built their houses with bricks made in part from Stranushina wine; but it is not just a legend. In this village there are real houses built of bricks made with earth, straw and wine instead of water, whose walls are as red as the color of the drink. Brick masonry was led by a master known by the nickname “Schuman,” and even today part of the village is called Schuman neighborhood. Today, wine made from Stanushina grapes may take many forms, and generally shades of ruby red in color with aromas of strawberry, raspberry and dry leaves and dried fruits. In addition to being drunk, it may also be used in making desserts or salad dressings. Stanushina Barik or Barrichello wine is matured in oak barrels for 6-8 months. Stanushina Roze or Rosette wine has delicate pink and pale purple shades and a light and fruity flavor. Z’tarakija is a traditional brandy, made from selected grapes of excellent quality, fermented between November and January. After aging in oak barrels, this brandy acquires its typical dark color and an unusual flavor and fragrance. Today, however, growers are abandoning this variety for more internationally known grape varietals, and there is a real danger that Stanushina could be lost. Also, as a result of the ongoing industrialization of the Tikveš region, many are leaving the centuries old tradition of cultivating vineyards for work in new factories. As a result of migration to urban areas, many rural communities and areas are losing their populations and traditional livelihoods, especially among younger generations who consider winemaking with traditional grape varieties economically unreliable.