Flowing Wines in Demir Kapija, North Macedonia, An unexpected trip to an unusual destination
January 27, 2023 || views
My initial mental reaction when someone mentions North Macedonia is to think of the main square in Skopje, the panoramic landscape of Dibra, and the magical Lake Ohrid. Passing through the country, I had read a couple of times the road table showing the direction to Demir Kapija, and other than some references from history books, I did not know much about the place.
How easy it is to miss out on a great experience.
In a rare combination of serendipitous circumstances, I ended up in this town for a few days in the summer of 2022, to attend a program on media literacy hosted by the Municipality of Demir Kapija. The drive to reach out the town was a beautiful trip on its own, as I got enjoy both Lake Ohrid and Lake Prepa within a couple of hours, divided only by the thrilling drive through Galicica Park.
Sprawling vineyards, serene landscape, and lots of sunlight. Great food and wine in every turn. Friendly hospitality and lots of things to do. Regal, colorful peacocks – alive or on painted mosaics – were our companions those days.
I was immediately hooked. And I was lucky to have Aneta and Stefanija from the Municipality to show us all the great spots.
A rather small town in the wine region of North Macedonia, Demir Kapija has a lot to offer to visitors of all kinds, like kayaking, bird watching, rock climbing, and hiking. Walking around, we came across an old tunnel that is a kind of a natural “division line” between the continental and Mediterranean climate. An inscription in German on the mountain side by the tunnel dates it back to 1916. The ancient site of Stobi, not far from Demir Kapija, take visitors even further back in time. Former homes, palaces, shops, baths, streets, and churches – all bustling with life once upon a time. Beautiful mosaics of peacocks, standing still as a symbol of life’s cycles.
The Museum of Wine in the town’s center displays artefacts from the ancient times to present days, taking visitors along a journey into the pleasures of wine. Another wine museum in the neighboring town of Kavadarci completes the wine journey with the rich selection of local wines and rakia, displayed side by side with the perfect glasses to drink from, and other folk artefacts.
In fact, Demir Kapija is a must-visit destination for all wine lovers. We spent the few days there visiting the numerous wineries, discovering the unique flavors and aromas of the local wines and learning about the wine history in this region. Conveniently, wineries also offer comfortable accommodation, restaurants with delicious local food, and shops to buy all the wines that your heart – or palate – desires.
Our stay began at the Royal Queen Marija winery. Here, the old meets the new in a smooth fusion of style and ambience. The accommodation units are a nice addition to the old palace built in Romanian-style architecture in honor of Queen Marija of Yugoslavia (1900-1961) – from the royals of Romania. The winery was established in 1927 by King Aleksandar of Yugoslavia, who was looking to create a special wine. It was settled to establish the winery in the fertile area of Demir Kapija, and he named the place after his wife. Still today, Queen Marija’s palace is part of the estate, open to visitors to approach.
The restaurant at Queen Marija has a rich breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu, mostly local dishes. The estate features conference facilities, a shop displaying all their products, vast vineyards surrounding the buildings that one can walk around freely, a wine cellar that is also part of the guided tour, and peacocks. Lots of them. Walking around, flying over the treetops, accompanying people as they have breakfast or enjoy wine sitting in the outside terraces. If you are lucky, you will find resplendent peacock feathers on the ground to take away as a souvenir of a relaxing time there.
On the other side of the road we found the Verdisso hotel and restaurant. We walked through the symmetrical lines of Queen Marija’s vineyard to reach the place, and enjoy an excellent lunch of traditional dishes, while soaking in the serene countryside landscape visible from the windowpanes and terrace of the restaurant and hotel, sitting atop a hill.
Our next stop was at Popova Kula Winery, which we reached as the golden hour was embracing the countryside. I found the perfect spot to have a taste of their excellent Vranec red wine and homemade brandy. Apart from the restaurant that features a large and well-kept outdoor terrace, Popova Kula is also a hotel, has a children’s playground, a wine cellar that visitors can tour, and the wine shop. The place is beautiful, and so are the food and service.
Visiting the Tikveš Winery brought the wine-tasting experience to a different level. Founded in 1885, the place combines wine-making tradition with the latest technology to produce one of the best wine selections in the region. The winery itself is impressive, with rows of barrels neatly arranged in the cool, dim corridors spreading underground, with beautiful artwork displayed on walls and corners.
Tikveš offers a wine and dine experience that it not to be missed. Every dish is accompanied by the right wine, a combination meant to bring out the best of both food and drink, and guarantee the visitor’s enjoyment. The cozy restaurant is eight meters underground, where the ambience only gets better by the wafts of wines dreaming in the oak barrels nearby. The restaurant regales it guests with a unique gastronomic experience and wine degustation delight.
The Tikveš rosé is now my favorite ever! Made in a traditional recipe, the semi-dry wine is infused in floral notes and berry scents, the perfect liquid to celebrate life’s beauty.