Have you ever tasted a Vranac wine from Montenegro? Have you ever tasted any wine from Montenegro? Chances are, it’s not something that you can find at your local wine or liquor store (if you can, I would love to know where you shop!). Until I visited, I had never even heard of Vranac, and Montenegro wine was definitely not on my radar.
Nestled among the Balkans, Montenegro is bordered by Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to the north, Serbia to the northeast, Kosovo to the east and Albania to the south. The terrain is rocky and mountainous with a relatively dry climate, suitable to growing grapes. It has the advantage of having a coastline along the Adriatic, which includes the picture-perfect Bay of Kotor, where I bike toured after spending time in Croatia.
I did a bit of research on the wine scene before going and learned that wine has been made in the Balkans since the middle ages. I couldn’t find much on Montenegro specifically, except to look for a wine called Vranac, which is an indigenous red grape variety, genetically related to Primitivo/Zinfandel. It is considered to be the most important grape variety in Montenegro, though most of the wine produced in the country is consumed domestically.
After crossing the boarder with Croatia, I pedaled my way around the Bay of Kotor, past cute villages that beckoned me to stop and stay for a while. I eventually did stop at welcoming fruit stand for a snack break and to take in the views of the beautiful bay. The calm water seems to have a calming effect on the villagers, who move gracefully without any rush. That evening I explored on foot along the streets and boardwalk of the beautiful village Perast. The setting sun reflecting off the water inspired me to stroll slowly, as the locals do.
The sound of clinking glasses caught my attention as I passed by a bistro with tables set up romantically next to the water. I suddenly remembered my intention to find a bottle of Vranac. I poked my head in a little market and was delighted to find several bottles with Vranac inscribed on them. I blindly picked one out, as well as a meat filled pastry, called burek. The entire purchase cost me less than $7. (I’m a pretty cheap and simple date when I travel solo).
I took my treats back to my rented apartment and opened my wine to enjoy on my private balcony overlooking the bay. A large and distinctive looking grasshopper came to join me as I assessed this new wine before me.
Vranac is a deep, red wine with notes of blackberries, prunes and blackcurrants with a hint of chocolate. It is big and fruity like a Zinfandel, but with darker fruits and bigger tannins. The name roughly translates to ‘black stallion’, which is a great description for the dense wine. It paired nicely with my greasy, meat filled pastry! Montenegro is known for their many types of grilled meats, and Vranac would be a perfect pairing for those as well.
It’s always fun to try new wines, especially when you have to travel to the source to find them!