Putting Vardar on the map – international cooperation promotes regional wine tourism

Apr 22, 2015

Wine lovers will soon be able to enjoy a greatly enhanced experience when touring the vineyards and cellars of the Vardar region.

A new and much-expanded route will offer them the chance to visit as many as 48 wineries, as well as plenty of opportunities to tour the region’s museums and galleries. And with the help of a new wine-route map detailing local sites of interest, hotels and restaurants, they should also stand a much greater chance of not getting lost amongst the vineyards!

This much-improved tourist offer is the expected outcome of intense efforts to foster closer cooperation between wineries, tourist facilities, local authorities and other stakeholders interested in promoting tourism and wine production in the Vardar region.

The success of these efforts has led to a major collaborative project that includes the establishment of close links with experts from one of Europe’s other leading wine regions, Alsace, which will be helping directly in developing the map of the Vardar wine route.  

With its excellent climate and soil conditions for growing grapes, the Vardar region has long been the country’s main wine-producing area.

More than forty registered wineries have been established in the region, and together with numerous individual producers they have managed over the years to attract an ever-increasing number of visitors to wine-tasting events and vineyard tours.

Up till now, however, the promotional efforts of Vardar wine producers have not been coordinated at a regional level and full advantage has yet to be taken of the area’s great potential for wine tourism.

This previous lack of coordination was largely the result of insufficient communication between the major wineries, individual producers and the region’s tourist facilities, as well as limited financial, technical and expert human resources. These shortcomings explain, for example, why no detailed map of the whole region has so far been developed for tourists to make the most of their stay in the Vardar area.

To help overcome these challenges and realize the full tourist potential of the Vardar Region, UNDP’s Local Development Programme recently supported a major project to establish cooperation between the Vardar Planning Region and the Alsace-Macedonian Association based in Strasbourg, France—an association aimed at strengthening relations and cooperation, especially in the field of culture, tourism and economic cooperation.

The main objective of the new project is to help brand the Vardar Planning Region as a wine route through the country and to promote Vardar wines and wine tourism in other wine-producing regions in Europe, including Alsace. The project will bring together networking experts from Alsace and the Vardar region and will see the first direct engagement of the Council for the Development of the Vardar Region in efforts to improve promotional activities.

“The project will help connect local and regional authorities, winemakers and experts in order to ensure sustainable cooperation, including frequent visits and exchanges of experience and know-how. In the long-term, this cooperation is expected to lead to the development of various programmes and projects, creating a basis for partner applications of projects to European funds,” says UNDP’s Toni Popovski.

Representatives of the Network for Inclusive Development will work with the project team members to coordinate the initiative, and the project will be managed and coordinated by the Centre for Development of the Vardar Planning Region in collaboration with the project team. A number of specialist wine associations will also participate in the project, including the Association of Winemakers and the Association of Oenologists.

This project is part of a wider UNDP inclusive regional development programme, which aims to ensure that local governments are able to ensure efficient and transparent services to all their citizens and secure local growth, while adopting an integrated approach to development – one that includes its economic, environmental and social aspects.

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