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About Tikves Wine Route

WINE GUIDE 

Geographic location of Tikvesh region.

In between the plains in Macedonia, which vary in position, Tikvesh valley is specific as a separate geographic unit by its geomorphologic and anthropogenic characteristics.

With its size of 2.120 square kilometers Tikvesh region called “Tikveshija” is significant part of Macedonia’s territory. Tikvesh valley is framed by mountains: Mariovo-Meglen on south whose riffs are 1700 meters high. Mountain heights on the East and West are also well defined. To the West of the valley is mountain Borila 1.500 meters high, mountain Balija 1.400 meters high and Karadak with its 750 meters. Thus framed by mountains, Tikvesh valley is cut to the North by the river Vardar, to the west by Crna River, while in the middle runs river Luda Mara (Crazy Mary) also known as Velika, Vatasha River or Mokla.

In more narrow geographic sense, Tikvesh valley spreads to the north up to the flow of river Bregalnica, towards villages Vinichani and Nogaevci, then over the villages of Gradsko and Dolno Chichevo, over the villages of Sirkovo, Mrzen Oraovec, Farish, and Raec to the village Nikodin with the hill Nozot, to the village Toplica.

Western border of the valley begins at the area of Toplica through the road Gradsko-Prilep up to the villages of Raec and Drenovo in the direction of Tikvesh Lake. It contains the area of Suva Gora with the villages of Begnishte, Koshani and Dabnishte. To the south the region spreads over the villages of Vatasha, Moklishte and plateau Vitachevo. This part contains the area of Belgrad with the villages of Gorni and Dolni Disan, Przdevo, and Demir Kapija, south side of Tikvesh valley ends with the village of Dren.

East side spreads across river Vardar towards the village of Koreshnica, cuts the river Lipovska and towards the villages of Brusnik and Pepelishta, crosses river Vardar and railroad Skopje-Gevgelija to the village of Ulanci and ends at the inflow of river Bregalnica into Vardar.

Tikvesh field consists of larger number of cupola shaped terrains, spreading to the west and east of Kavadarci and to the north along river Vardar, from Gradsko to Demir Kapija. Lowest area of the valley consists of the fields: Kavadarci’s, Marena’s, Sopot’s, Rosoman’s, Negotino’s and Pepelishte’s field. Besides these fields there are hilly terrains rising up to 400 meters of altitude, which are best for grape growing.

The remaining of the Tikvesh valley to the south, west and east of the above mentioned areas is transition from cupola shaped hills to mountainous parts. These hills are usually bear and rising above 500 meters. All of this stating that the relief of Tikvesh valley is not identical, neither in land configuration nor the type and quality of soil.

 

2. Grape growing and winemaking in Tikvesh region throughout the history

If there is something Tikvesh is well known of, not only in Macedonia but wider, it is grape growing which is traditional here since antique times, through the Middle Ages up to present times. Testimonies to this are many artifacts found in antique and medieval archeological sites spread through the whole Tikvesh region.

It is well known today that Antique Macedonians have grown grapes with great affection and the God of wine, festivals, fertility and lustful life Dionysius was worshiped with special attention. Grape and wine were cult food products and for their production there were special regulations that had to be applied. People in the antique times had special respect for the wine which was drink of all classes, the rich and the poor. Wine was used as currency and in those times one could pay taxes with wine. God of grapes and wine Dionysius was loved and respected and in his honor twice a year they had “Days of Dionysius” when all the population was eating and drinking until they blacked out. In the later period such events led to unpleasant consequences (mass fights and trivialities) and that is why emperor Probes banned them in 186 year.

From this region origin many presentations in stone, marble and terracotta showing grapes and vine, known as Bahanalia (motives from celebrations in honor of God Bahus in Roman=Dionis in Greek mythology) in lapidarums (lapidarium - exhibition of antique artifacts under open sky) in museums in Kavadarci, Negotino and since recently also Demir Kapija. Unfortunately, there is even greater number of those taken abroad to enrich glass windows in museums in other countries (Belgrade, Sofia, Berlin and other).

In the time when Romans ruled this area, twice a year were also held festivities called “Bahanalias” in the honor of God of grapes, wine, fertility and lustful life Bahus.

Antique Macedonians who lived in these areas of Macedonia were cultivating vines with great love and skills, evidences of that are many mosaics, reliefs, bareliefs, lucerns (lucerna – lamp) and stones discovered in many archeological sites in this region.

Grape growing as important branch of agriculture continued to develop in the Middle Ages, evidences found in several important miniatures presenting plowing and harvesting of grapes, whose originals are placed in Vatican library.

During 13 and 14th century Kotorski kodik (kodik-lawbook) regulated the cultivation of vine and it was enforced by law while non-compliance was punished. It was exactly specified when to plow the soil, to what depth, the quantity of fertilizer, when and how to do the pruning, protection etc. During the rule of the Nemanik dynasty with this region, approximately twenty villages in Tikvesh together with their vineyards and fields were presented as a miro (gift) to the monasteries of Hilendar and Panteleimon on Mount Athos. It is especially important to know that in early Middle Ages lots of quality grapes and wine was produced by the churches and monasteries, and the trade of winemaking was kept by the elders the greatest secret. Poloshki monastery in its two inns (called konaci) had two beautiful wineries where quality wine was produced, to which testify documents and many wine pots that were found in this monastery.

With conquering and falling of Macedonia under Ottoman rule, the first period marks significant drop in production of grape, wine and rakija (grape brandy) in this region, since the Koran prohibits consumption of alcohol, opium and other toxic substances. On the other hand Turks as great lovers of sweets brought from their colonies in Little Asia several new varieties of grapes such as Afus-Ali, Cavkariche, Chaush, Malvasia, Sultanina and other and therefore have significantly enriched grapes assortment in Tikvesh.

From Turkish evidentiary documents about the history of Macedonian people could be seen which village or settlement in Tikvesh produced which quantity of grapes and accordingly, the amount of tax paid to the state. Tax on grape production was called ushur on must and the largest producers here were villages: Hohovo, Vatasha, Resava, Sopot, Boshava, Drenovo, Moklishte, Rashtani, Vozarci etc. For the excellent Tikvesh wine was told it was so thick you could carry it in a towel. Some years of harvest were so rich and people simply did not know what to do with the excess of wine, and frequently they made bricks and building material for their houses, thinking it would make them stronger. Remains of such houses today can be seen in the village of Resava.

Many world travelers were writing about the quality of Tikvesh grapes, such as Evliya Celebi, Johan Han, Stefano Cuver, Espri Mari Kuzineri, Alexandar Bashmakov, Nikolaj Surin, Ami Bue and other. Wines from Tikvesh were mostly sold on the markets in Skopje, Bitola, Prilep, Kichevo, Ohrid, Krushevo and later on were carried with camels, mules and horse to Thessaloniki and South Serbia (Leskovac, Vranje, Nish, Krushevac, and Belgrade).

Grape growing in Tikvesh had great expansion after the construction of the railroad Belgrade-Skopje-Thessaloniki in 1874. During the grape harvest many merchants from Serbia stayed for one month at inns in Kavadarci, Krivolak, Negotino and Gradsko and shipped purchased grapes in rail wagons to South Serbia. According to one report in 1860 only in Kavadarci was registered production of 600.000 oka (Turkish measure for mass equal to 1,2829 kilograms) and in best years it reached up to two million oka.

During that period in Tikvesh people were growing several varieties of vine mostly indigenous: Nikodinka, Nishavka, Tikvesh vine, Mustenik, Malvasia, Parmak, Tikvesh white etc. Most famous producers and traders with grapes, wine and brandy in Tikvesh were: Hadzi Pais, Aleksandar and Pane Velkovi, Gjorgji Boshkov, Janaki Danov, Gjorgji Vchkov, Todor Velkov, Eftim Manev and others.

In Kavadarci, Negotino and bigger villages of Tikvesh existed large number of wine producers which processed between 20 and 80 thousand kilograms of grapes, but the first larger enterprise for production of wine, brandy and other spirits was winery “Tikvesh” owned by Pais and Aleksandar Velkovi established in 1885. In that time only in Kavadarci 500 wagons of grapes have been processed and around 800 were exported. One of the worst harvests was the harvest in 1913 after the ending of the Balkan wars.

Rise and expansion of grape growing in Tikvesh was completely stopped in the period 1913-1918 when whole wine regions in this area were infected and destroyed by the filoxera. It was devastating to see how beautiful vineyards – pride and joy of people in this area were completely dried. The devastation was growing day to day. To overcome this situation on December 20th 1920 was established a Vine nursery in Kavadarci, the largest enterprise in those days, with a goal to produce vine trees using American vine as foundation, since it was resistant to filoxera. It is important to say that hard work done in the Vine nursery in Kavadarci bore fruit and in a few years they started the renovation of the devastated vineyards in Tikvesh region.

After the end of the Second world in 1947 was established a grape company called “Bel Kamen” (white stone) which owned 64 hectares of vineyards. In 1946-47 was established the wine company “Tikvesh” whose main office was in Skopje and in 1947-48 began the construction of the “Tikvesh” winery. In the beginning the grapes were processed in the nationalized private wineries of families Velkovi, Adzilazovi, Vchkovi, Kujundzievi, Danevi, Shkartovi and other. First quantities of grapes in the amount of 35 wagons in the “Tikvesh” winery were processed in 1951. Larger construction actions and increase in capacities in “Tikvesh” winery were made in 1956, 1966, 1972, 1978 and in 1984 the winery’s capacity reached 5400 wagons. Today, besides Tikvesh winery there is a large number of other wineries in Tikvesh: Povardarie, Bovin, Dudin, Fonko, Popov, Gjorchev, Pivka, Vinaris, Popova Kula, Elenovi, Eros, Chekorovi, Ristov, Mojsoff, Stobi, Peca and other.

To the honor of the grape harvest and wine, which is significant mark of the Tikvesh region, starting in 1964 in the first half of September was organized cultural-touristic and economic event that lasted several days called “Tikvesh grape picking” marking the beginning of the mass grape harvest in this famous wine region. Several events are being organized during the grape picking festival and they are visited by many foreign and domestic guests. Such events are: Carnival defile, cultural program for the first grape cluster harvesting and the start of the harvest, wine tasting etc.

Among the important grape and wine events organized in Tikvesh dedicated to grape growing and winemaking is celebration of St. Trifun Day, protector of grape growers, celebrated by all municipalities in Tikvesh, marking officially the start of the grape and wine production year.