Valandovo White Winter Grape
Wines and grape varietals - North Macedonia
The Valandovo White Winter grape is a native grape variety belonging to the geographical group of eastern grape varieties, Proles orientalis Negr. It is a late-ripening variety that has been grown in for centuries in the Valandovo region of southeastern Macedonia. The region is well adapted to grape cultivation with its Mediterranean climate. However, late hail occurring in July and occasionally June and August can cause great harm to the local grape crops. This grape variety ripens in mid-October and can be kept for relatively long periods, both on the vine during mild winters or in storage rooms with low temperatures and low humidity for up to six months. The large grape bunches are made up of large, oval grapes with a greenish-yellow color at first, which ripens into a yellowish-orange color. The flesh is firm and quite juicy, and contains an average of 19-20% sugar. It is a self-fertilizing variety that is normally grown in areas with southern exposure. The tradition of cultivating grapevines and winemaking (particularly dessert wines) has been known in Macedonia since ancient times, dating back to the 1200s BC. Although specialty varieties became popular during the Ottoman Empire, the tradition of growing the Winter White variety was kept alive. In order to store it from its harvest period until the spring, there are two local storage methods. The grapes can be stored in straw or strung together and hung (a technique called vishala, literally meaning “things that hang”). During winters in Valandovo, grapes were generally the only fresh fruits available and were used as a source of energy during fasting periods. By the mid-2010s, the Valandovo White Winter grape was only being sold in small quantities, with the highest quality grapes used in winemaking and lower quality grapes used for producing rakija (another local alcoholic beverage). This variety may also be used as a table grape. In the past decades, however, there has been a trend of growers to cultivate international grape variety’s, meaning that younger vines of this native variety are planted less and less and risk being lost from the area over time.