By Paul Caputo

Vranec is a big, bold and robust red wine grape from the Balkans. Although best known as Macedonia’s flagship grape, Vranec isn’t strictly indigenous to Macedonia. Nevertheless it is the flag bearer in the country’s quest for international recognition and is responsible for the majority of the best red wines. It is also widely planted across the Balkans, especially in Montenegro and Serbia, but it is in Macedonia where winemakers have fully embraced the variety’s potential to give bold black fruit flavours and forceful tannin and acidity.

Vranec translates as strong, black and powerful stallion. The word Vran also means raven, coloured or black, which is why this red wine is more colloquially known as black wine in the country.

This grape variety is believed to originate from Montenegro. According to the book Wine Grapes 2012 by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and Dr. José Vouillamoz, the Vranec is a cross of the Tribidrag grape variety (aka Primitivo or Zinfandel) and another grape variety that remains unknown to date. In Macedonia it was introduced for the first time in 1950 by Professor Dragan Nastev who planted Vranec vines in the Skopje wine district to test its potential.