INTERVIEW: Organic grapes for excellent wine

According to Dr. Klemen Lisjak, oenologist and researcher at the Institute of Agriculture of Slovenia, in Macedonia the production of grapes and wine is almost entirely organic, as a result of the minimal usage of pesticides and an agreeable climate.

Mr. Lisjak, as an oenologist who has been involved in a variety of scientific researches about wine and its effects on human health, what do you think are the wine’s most valuable ingredients that affect its quality and have a positive influence on people’s health?

Wine is an extraordinarily complex product for many reasons. Its quality is largely determined by the nature, and its ingredients make the wine an extraordinarily complex matrix that consists of numerous different compounds.

Wine is a rich source of bioactive and nutritive phenolic compounds. These phenolic compounds affect the qualitative characteristics of grapes and wine. In addition, they also determine the color of the wine and influence its taste. What is more, polyphenols have a number of positive effects on human health such as the antioxidant activity and high activity on free radicals, as well as an inhibitory effect on the growth of cancerous cells. They are found in wine because they exist in grapes.

Resveratrol and anthocyanins affect human health positively as they prevent damage on blood-vessels, decrease the bad cholesterol and prevent blood coagulation, which lowers the risk of heart diseases. Often, they are recommended as food supplements, but wine contains these ingredients in a pure state. There are other important ingredients in wine that have positive health effects, but generally speaking a moderate  consumption of wine, which includes one or two glasses a day,  is enough to feel these healthy benefits.

What is the main focus area of your latest research and what do the findings show?

My latest research is focused on the characterization of polyphenols in red wine types and characterization of the terroir, that is, the different grapevine kinds in the Tikvesh region. The improvement of the quality of polyphenols in wine through controlled practices in raising grapes and the controlled production of wine are another aspect covered by this research.

The types of wine used in the research were Vranec, Kratosija, Plavec, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon produced by Tikves Winery, all originating from different locations and a different vintage. Analysis showed that  the Vranec type of grapes contains the greatest amount of anthocyans and tannins, and hence they are found in that type of wine. The amount of resveratrol is also higher in the Vranec type compared to Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The research also showed that the vintage, or, the weather conditions over the course of a year, have a crucial importance in the quality of polyphenols. Moreover, it was determined that the type of soil plays a major role too.

How important is the terroir when it comes to manufacturing quality grapes and wine with quality ingredients and is there a difference in their substance depending on the vintage?

It is commonly known that secret of good wine lies in the vineyard. Therefore, the terroir which is actually a combination of the influence of the natural elements: soil, climate and the topography of the unique characteristics of a certain place, has a crucial importance in producing quality wine and grapes. Research has shown that the same type of wine made with the same wine-making techniques, but produced by grapes grown on different locations, leads to a different amount of anthocyans, different structure of the tannin and other phenolic substances. This also depends on the microclimate and more importantly on the structure of the soil and the ratio of clay, sand, and silt.

What is your opinion about the quality of grapes and wine manufactured in Macedonia?

If we compare the situation today to the one ten years ago when I first started working with the Tikves Winery, I can say that there is a huge progress in the quality of wines and grapes. Solid proofs of this are the numerous awards that Macedonian wines have received throughout the most prestigious wine competitions worldwide.

However, I would like to point out that in Macedonia the production of grapes and wine is almost entirely organic. This is largely due to the minimal usage of pesticides, which results from the agreeable climate. Compared to Slovenia, where pesticides are used 10-15 time throughout the year for protection purposes, in Macedonia this usage doesn’t reach more than 4-5 times in a year. This significant difference gives Macedonian wines a great advantage over the other countries in the region, and I believe that it ought to be used for a greater worldwide breakthrough.

What is your favorite Macedonian wine?

I prefer the country-specific types, such as Temjanika and Vranec. Foreigners like these types particularly for their exotic and unique taste which is not commonly found around the world. My favorite white Macedonian wine is Temjanika Special Selection by Tikves Winery, while my favorite from the red types is “White Water.” The latter is a unique blend of plavec and vranec, two typically Balkan grape types, and the best proof is the high rating it got from the world famous wine critic, Robert Parker.

Originally published in “Utrinski vesnik” on: 09.06.2016, 16:10

by Sanja Naumovska