An introduction to the Vranac grape from Montenegro
The Black Stallion of European wines!”
It is generally accepted that around 53 countries around the World produce their own wine. In that seemingly extensive list, one country has been mistakenly overlooked: Montenegro. A small country with a population of approximately 600,000, Montenegro is host to Europe’s largest continuous vineyard at around 5,700 acres! Along the Mediterranean coast and the surrounding hills of Lake Skadar, the largest lake in the Balkans lying 500 metres above sea level, the Montenegrin Vranac – Black Wine – is born. Under the brand name Plantaže, it is exported to 35 countries including the U.K. and the United States.
The grape which literally translates as “Black Stallion” or “Strong Black” has been grown under Montenegro’s Mediterranean sun since the 2nd Century B.C. To indicate its popularity, about 70% of its vineyards are planted in red grape; and three-quarters of those are of the Vranac variety.
If the name Vranac is not familiar that is very understandable. Outside of the Balkan Peninsula, it is relatively unknown, although the Vranac grape is also grown in Macedonia (spelt Vranec), Southern Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. However, it is indigenous to Montenegro, firmly enshrined in the Montenegrin culture, and cherished as a source of national pride.
Vranac is a sturdy, full-bodied, and vibrant wine; its colour is a deep ruby red, almost ink-like, that lives up to its original meaning “Black Stallion” and why the term ‘black’ – rather than red – is light-heartedly used to describe its colour.
As far as flavour is concerned, it begins with a vibrant fruity palate – black cherries, black currants and red fruits with hints of vanilla and violets – yet on the finish, a surprisingly pleasant suggestion of spice and liquorice. In Montenegro, the wine is often served with the local prosciutto-style ham or even fish dishes; however, it is an excellent robust accompaniment to venison, grilled meat or spicy dishes and full-fat cheese.
Montenegro’s Cabernet Sauvignon is dark-shaded, medium-full with a deep, earthy aroma, while Merlot is even deeper in colour, a well-made, vigorous red that will perfectly match whatever meats are on the grill.
The last words on Vranac belong to the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, who said in the 2nd Century A.D.:
“The wine from the area of Lake Skadar prevents ageing, prolongs life, and heals the wounds of body and heart”.
If you like a wine that feeds the soul, one only has to listen to the last great Roman Emperor. Truly words of wine wisdom!