A Week in Languedoc- Terroirs & Millésimes, 23rd to 28th April 2017

Terroirs & Millésimes Week in Languedoc, 23-28 April, Pezenas, France

Following an invitation by the Interprofessional Council of AOC Languedoc and IGP Sud de France Wines (CIVL) to an annual preview discovery of the latest vintage, I and another ninety journalists from around the globe were given the opportunity to taste blind around 1,500 samples representing all the Languedoc AOCs.
Although it was my first visit to the Languedoc Week, I have had my fair share of wines from this region at many wine competitions and tasting around the world in the last few years. However, nothing comes close to tasting the wines as in their natural surroundings.
The five day wine tasting sessions took place at the charming city of Pezenas and each tasting day was followed by a gourmand lunch with the winemakers of the AOC’s whose wines were presented for that day. Another chance to get behind their winemaker’s philosophy, ask all the necessary questions that only a winemaker can answer and get all the needed details on terroir, yield, history, tradition…

Languedoc AOC Wines

Let us start with some facts about Languedoc-Roussillion. It is the largest vineyard in the world with a geographic identity with a surface area of 224,000 of Languedoc vineyards in number of hectares declared (245,965 planted); with 70,000 hectares of AOC and 141,000 hectares of PGO. 11% of Languedoc-Roussillon wines are Languedoc AOC wines.
93% of all the wines produced in this wine region are still wines, only 2% are Muscat wines and merely 5% are sparkling ones. And yet, Languedoc-Roussillon remains a wine region that produces mostly red wines 76%, 14% rosé wines and only 10% white wines.
With an annual production of 13.6 million hectoliters, which represent 5% of the world’s wine, this wine region remains to be the biggest wine region in the world by production.
Winemakers in Languedoc-Roussillon are more and more dedicated to growing organic vineyards and it’s no wonder that this wine region represents 33% of the organic vineyards in the country.
The export turnover is EUR 820 million, which has doubled over the last six years. To note that 33% of AOC Languedoc wines are sold on the export market and 67% of these wines are sold in France.

A Wine Tasting Dedicated to the 40th anniversary of AOP Côtes-du-Roussillon and Côtes-du-Roussillon Villages Anniversary

To celebrate the 40 years of recognition for Côtes-du-Roussillon and Côtes-du-Roussillon Villages in the Protected Appelation of Origin, the CIVR – Comité Interprofessionnel des Vins du Roussillon organised a master class. The MC was preceded with a wine tasting of a selection of 40 wines, which represent the highlights of this region & were picked prior by a jury of professionals composed of wine merchants, sommeliers and wine educators, during a blind tasting especially for this anniversary. The Roussillon produces dry still wines and fortified sweet wines which represent 80% of national production.

The region is open in the eastern part to the Mediterranean and surrounded on three sides by mountain ranges. The soil and subsoil of the region are extremely varied, which makes for a multitude of terroirs, with different characteristics. The vineyards are in terraces with a view of the sea and 23 varieties are grown, of them 15 are mainly dedicated for AOP wine.

Master Classes

Other master classes that took place over the Languedoc week were: “Introduction to the AOC Languedoc” by Jérôme Villaret, General Delegate of the CIVL, “AOC Fitou” featuring AOP Fourme d’Ambert, “Carignan, a local grape variety” with AOC Corbieres Boutenac winemakers and “AOC Languedoc Sommieres”.

My Fav AOC Picks

I have found Minervois-La-Livinière AOC wines very fruity with abundance of coffee aromas, spicey, peppery, locust notes, consistent, high in alcohol with overoked notes and a rather bittery finish. However, lots of potential in these wines due to the variety of soils including sandstone, shale, limestone, marble and silex, giving the wines a mineral character.

Enjoyed Faugeres AOC wines, as I love schist based vineyards, especially if they’re organic as these- one third of the 2000 hectares in Faugeres are in fact organic. AOC Faugeres Whites were floral, abundance of yellow flowers, daffodil aromas dominating, as well as fruity, citrusy notes, asparagus, mashed banana and melon taste, with a good acidity, lemony finish and a rather with a touch of too much use of oak, only the rich ones can afford. Faugeres AOC Roses- salmon colour, perfumed and elegant, crunchy berry fruit in the taste.

   La Clape AOC Whites, mostly in golden colour, showed lots of vanilla, ripe banana, tropical fruit aromas, brioche, baked bread, ripe lemon skin, but again the unavoidable abundant use of oak and bitterness in the finish.

   Pic Saint Loup AOC wines were maybe one of the most elegant, fresh and refined wines I’ve had a chance to taste mostly due to the clay-limestone and marl-limestone soil rich vineyards, influenced by both Mediterranean and continental climate, and of course, the skillful winemakers in the region. The Pic Saint Loup AOC Roses were in vivid pink and pale salmon colours, fruity and acidity quite high. However, what has left a mark were the reds from this AOC. Red produces mostly from Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre grapes were fruity, boisterous, full-bodied, yet smooth and elegant with a true ageing potential.

The Saint-Chinian Berlou AOC wines (the region was recognised as a cru in 2005) come from vineyards at a height of between 150 and 400 metres, were fruity and elegant with lots of coffee beans aromas and silky tannins. The grape varieties include Carignan, Grenache Noir, Mourvedre and Syrah and taking in consideration the land is schist soil, it is no wonder the wines are so fine and with a hige ageing potential.

Visits to the Vineyards
Trips to some of the vineyards included a picnic at AOC Terrasses du Larzac, where I enjoyed a winemaker’s dinner with the winemakers of these region and discovered a winery named Mas Lasta that has presented their wine for the first time. The winery owns eight hectares of old Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and new Cinsault vineyards on the very edge of the Terasses du Larzac AOC and the winemaking is entrusted to the winemaker Anne-Laure Sicard. Other trips included Faugeres vineyards with a dry-stone wall building workshop, visit into the heart of AOC Pic Saint-Loup and a visit into the heart of AOP Picpoul de Pinet terroir.
 

 

A Visit to Domaine Karanika Winery, Naoussa, Greece

A cold and windy February morning might not always be the best choice for a winery visit. However, the southern sun was inviting and compelling to take such a trip this time to Naoussa wine region in the northern part of Greece and the Domaine and Khtima Karanika Winery.
 
Domaine Karanika is located in the north west of Greece, in the area of Amyntaio, a picturesque though somewhat desolated surrounding overlooking the Lake Vergoritis. The climate here is continental as the Aegean sea influence, so notable in all the other parts across Greece, is fairly blocked by the Mount Vermio.   
 
Surrounding the winery are three hectares of Limniona, Assyrtiko and Cabernet, planted where only until half a century stretched the Lake Vergoritis. In addition to these vineyards, there is an additional quarter of a hectare planted with 100 year old Xinomavro vines, a plot called Sotirisko, another plot of 0,25 ha of 40 year old Xinomavro vines and another two vineyards of 0,70 ha (age 25 & 40 years) at a location known as Rasto also planted with Xinomavro. Most notable are their vineyards that provide fruit for their famous Karanika Brut sparklers, two plots of 0.5 ha and 0.1 respectively. The first one is situated at Dromos Lakkias and the second one at Nivigratsko.
 

Laurens Hartman is a winemaker & owner of Kthima and Domaine Karanika, along with his wife Annette. The winery & its vineyards are situated on hills at almost 700 m above sea level. Laurens is fully dedicated to pursuing biodynamical approach in the vineyards which he carefully explained in the pleasant, almost four hours visit to his winery. Having spent a considerable time observing the nature, the grapes, the changes of the different needs of the plants, it was a true pleasure to listen to his stories in pursuit of satisfying the needs of the vines in order to obtain the best fruit possible.In addition to making reds from Assyrtiko, Xynomavro, Cabernet Sauvignon, Limniona, Domaine Karanika is most famous for its sparkling wines, Karanika Rose Brut and Karanika Cuvée Spéciale Brut.

 

Karanika Rose Sparkling 2014 (degorged Nov 2015) PDI Florina
Made from 100%  Xinomavro grapes. Vivid dark pink colour, red berry fruit and forest strawberry on the nose, yummy passion fruit on the palate with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Good serious structure.
Karanika Cabernet Sauvignon & Xynomavro 2013 PDI Florina
A blend of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon & Xynomavro. Sour cherries on the nose, rich cassis creme and cocoa taste on the palate.
Karanika Xinomavro & Limniona 2012 PDI Florina
Rosehip fruit on the nose. Lots of ripe dark berry fruits on the palate refreshed by pleasant acidity and smooth tannins. A wine that is ageing very well.
Karanika Xinomavro 2012 PDI Florina
Abundance of cherry & sour cherry on the nose, dark ripe berry fruit on the palate but still very young untamed tannins. I would start drinking this after three to five years.
Karanika Limniona 2013 PDI Florina (tank sample)
Now, this one is not bottled yet but in my opinion it was the most intriguing in the red flight. Made from Limniona grapes from 100 year old vines it gave abundance of rosehip fruit on the nose and the taste, and some additional iron hints, red berry fruit, good structure and acidity. Delicious and lovely wine. To find itself on the market very soon.
Karanika Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 PDI Florina
Plums, meaty sour cherries, lots of dry herbs and slight hints of undergrowth. Rich and exctracted. 
Karanika Cuvée Spéciale Brut 2014 PDI Florina( 6gr. Dosage/ Degorged Nov 2015)
Made from 100% Xinomavro grapes. Sweetness on the nose, followed slightly in the taste as well. Stone candy fruit and lime on the palate, accompanied with a fresh acidity.  
Karanika Cuvée Spéciale Brut 2014 PDI Florina (Zero Dosage)
Fruity, lime and apple notes with additional snowdrop hints. Fresh and mineral. Made from Xinomavro grapes. 
Karanika Cuvée Spéciale Brut 2009 PDI Florina
A true treat of the day. Made from 100% Xinomavro grapes using the méthode traditionnelle, this sparkler is a serious one. Showed luscious mix of baked sweet biscuits and poached apples, yet fruit driven. Lovely rich mousse on the palate. 
 

 

 

Terravino 2015, The Mediterranean International Wine & Spirit Challenge, Israel

Terravino- A Wine Journey in Israel

Following an invitation to judge at the 10th anniversary of Terravino 2015 in Israel, to be held in Netanya near Tel Aviv at the beautiful Ramada Hotel & Spa, I embraced the idea of dwelling in the Israeli wine scene for almost a week. In addition to taking place at the beautiful seaside resort, Netanya, not far from Tel Aviv, I was also looking forward to getting familiar with the Israeli wines so rare to find around the world.
 
About the competition
Terravino, The Mediterranean International Wine & Spirit Challenge celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. The idea of this international wine competition is without doubt to promote wines mostly from the Mediterranean wine scene as well as putting them against the Israeli ones for comparison on behalf of the hosts, for better learning, for better understanding of the upcoming Israeli wine scene.
The competition is a very rigorous one conducted under the patronage of the OIV where 46 international wine judges were scoring for three days. We tasted almost 400 samples from 20 countries around the world, according to the OIV rules. In total, 14 wines were given double gold medals of them six to Israeli wines, two went to Argentina, and one was awarded to Spain, the Czech Republic, Germany, Bolivia and Slovakia. Israel was awarded 69 medals in total, followed by Argentina and the Czech Republic (22 each), Spain (6), Slovakia (6), Australia, Portugal, Germany, Turkey, Serbia, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Greece. The medals were given in the following categories:
 
Grand Champion Trophy for the best wine in the Competition, which had the highest score awarded to Michlovsky Ryzlink Vlassky Vyber Z Bobuli 2009 by Vinselekt Michlovsky A.S. Winery from The Czech Republic
Israel’s Grand Champion Trophy for the best Israeli wine in the Competition awarded to Segal Rehasim Dishon Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 by Barkan Wine Cellars Marketing & Distribution Ltd.
Country champion, only for the countries with more than 25 wines participating in the contest
Best Category Price, the best wine in each category
The Best Kosher Israeli Wine awarded to Segal Rehasim Dishon Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 by Barkan Wine Cellars Marketing & Distribution Ltd.
The Best Israeli Small Boutique Wine awarded to 1848 Malbec – Fourth Generation 2013 by 1848 Winery
The Best Israeli Winemaker/s awarded to Barkan Wine Cellars Marketing & Distribution Ltd.
 
For a full list of the winners, please follow the link http://www.mediterraneaniwc.com/index_en.htm
 
Israel’s Wine Scene
Much to say regarding the wine scene in Israel though one thing struck me at first- their winemakers, especially the boutique wineries’ owners are eager to learn, apply the newest techniques in their wine cellars. without much waiting or hesitating regardless of their rather long/new wine tradition and history. Wine making in a country known for lots of sunshine and arid climate, is by itself a challenge. Black is by all means the colour trait of the country’s reds, some very fine elegant samples of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were noted, as well as lots of Bordeaux blends. Some of the most prominent wine producers, at least from what I’ve tasted, were Binyamina Winery, Barkan Wine Cellars, Teperberg Winery, Carmel Winery, Benhaim Winery, Galileo Winery, and of course, one of the biggest, Yarden Winery located in the Golan Heights.

During my wine trip to Israel, I’ve tasted quite a lot of Israeli wines but had a chance to visit only one winery, Vitkin, where I enjoyed some very refined red wines and quite elegant samples of Carignan, Cabernet Franc and Petite Syrah, in addition to a very spicy Rose’. This more or less gave me a picture on what to expect.

 
Macedonian Vranec Wine Tasting in Porta Ceasaria 
Upon an invitation of the organiser of the wine competition, Mr. Moshe Spak, I was honoured to be given the chance to do a tasting of Macedonian wines for the international wine judges. Without a doubt, I opted for the Vranec and chose the following ones- Vranec Barrique 2011 by Brusani Winery, Vranec 2011 Reserve by Popova Kula Winery, Vranec 2013 by Chateau Sopot Winery, Barovo Red 2012 by Tikves Winery and Terroir Vranec 2011 by Chateau Kamnik Winery. As much as to my surprise, the wine judges were even more eager to learn about Macedonia as a wine country, enjoyed their time spent with the Vranec and gave their true opinion on the quality of the Vranec samples. An increasing interest in visiting Macedonian wineries in near future followed suit…

The Balkans International Wine Competition 2015

My fourth year as a member of the jury of BIWC makes me feel a bit of a veteran at this wine competition. Being given the privilege to be part of the jury for four consecutive years, provides me with the much needed introspective of the Balkan wines year after year. Not to mention that to my benefit, I have been able to follow the progress of the quality of the wines, changing of the wine making philosophy in some of the wineries, following trends, styles, yet trying to remain faithful to the tradition.

Behind the Curtains
Three tasting panels, four members in each, one panel judge, using the 20 points Australian Show Model way of scoring the wines and quite a lot of wines to taste. A great jury and three MW’s- Konstantinos Lazarakis ( Greece- president of the jury), Julia Harding (UK) and Rod Smith (UK), as well as Igor Lukovic (Serbia), Paul Robert Bloom (The Netherlands), Jasen Zahariev (Bulgaria), Tzveta Tanevska (Bulgaria), Elissaveta Zaharieva (Bulgaria), Mari V. Ardelean (Romania/Italy), Bartolomeo Roberto Lepori (Italy), Sasa Spiranec (Croatia), Bruno Gabershek (Slovenia) and myself.
Two days of judging went smooth, the quality of the entered samples seems to be higher year after year, the better from the best easily surfaced. Yet, for the first time at BIWC the scores at the grand finale while searching for the Grand trophy were even. We as judges were unanimous in our decision- at two attempts in a row.

BIWC- The Wine Festival
The two days of wine competition were followed by a wine festival, reserved to all those who want to discover some of the best wines from the Balkans- wine distributors, journalists, tasters, bloggers etc.
The Balkans has been an emerging wine region just as of recently, though with rich winemaking history and the fifth biggest in the world. Known as powder keg, due to its ardent political history, its wine future seems unpredictable as well.
So much to taste- Bulgarian Gamza, enjoyed the indigenous Turkish grape varieties Narince, Papaskarasi, some of my favourite wine producers from Greece and the indigenous grape varieties to Greece- Assyrtiko, Savatiano, Agiroghitiko, Malagouzia, and some truthful expressions of the varietal characteristics in many of the other wines from Romania, Croatia, Macedonia etc.
It is more than obvious- expression of the terroir, main focus on the varietal characteristics without any further interventions in the cellar is the new wave on the Balkans.

Who are the guys that keep wining all the time & why
The Bulgarian king of sparkling wines, Edoardo Miroglio, and the many times awarded Matalj Winery from Serbia, shared the Grand Trophy for best wine at the BIIWC 2015.The winners were the sparkling wine Special Selection Pinot Noir & Chardonnay 2005 by Edoardo Miroglio and the red Kremen Kamen Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 by Matalj Winery.
Edoardo Miroglio’s success is not only due to the fact that he has mastered the sparkling wine production, but also due to the fact that he has no competition on the Balkans. And though many winemakers might feel discouraged, they should in fact strive to come closer to his achievmements.
Following world wine trends and styles is somewhat of a must when it comes to being a part of the wine world. Being a good enologist is not only about knowing to tame the tannins, get that gripping acidity at a just level, it’s also about being “fashionable”.The young and talented Mladen Dragoljovic is the new wine guru- he has proved it many times before at Decanter, vino.rs competition and so on. Not to mention that the wine that won the White Wine Trophy is also his work.

The other winners are the following:

White wine Trophy
Serbia, Podrum Janko, white, Sauvignon Blanc 100%, Vrtlog 2013
Red wine Trophy
Serbia, Matalj Winery, red, Kremen Karmen Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Rose Wine Trophy
Bulgaria, Uva Nestum, rose, Syrah, Uva Nestum Rose 2014
Sparkling wine Trophy
Bulgaria, Edoardo Miroglio,sparkling, Pinot Noir & Chardonnay Special Edition 2005
Sweet Wine Trophy
Romania, Cotnari, sweet, Grasa de Cotnari, Cotnari 1984
Best White Dry Wine from indigenous variety/ies
Greece, Sigalas, white, Assyrtiko 100%, Santorini Assyrtiko Barrel Sigalas 2014
Best Red Dry Wine from indigenous variety/ies
Greece, Monemvassia Winery, red, Agiorgitiko 70% & Mavroudi 30%, “300” Red 2006
Best Sweet Wine from indigenous variety/ies
Romania, Cotnari, sweet, Grasa de Cotnari, Cotnari 1984

For the second time this year, awards were given to the best wine label designs. Stefan Bozhkov, chairman of the commission, together with the members Emanuela Kovac and Emil Maslarski, has given his assessment of best wine label design. The Trophy is dedicated to the memory of the Bulgarian artist Kolio Karamfilov, who is the designer of the BIWC Grand Trophy.

Trophy for the best wine label design
Despotika Winery, family labels, Serbia
Gold medal
Villa Yustina, Bulgaria
Silver medals
Betterhalf, family labels, Bulgaria
33 Rajkovic, Serbia
Bronze medals
Avantis Estate, Greece
Crama Ratesti, Romania

Wine Tasting of 2014, 2013, 2012 & 2011 vintages at Tikves Winery

Having received an invitation from Marko Stojakovic, the head oenologist at the oldest winery in Macedonia, to do a full wine tasting of the Tikves wines, I headed to the town of Kavadarci. It was a glorious day, that predicted somewhat of an even better wine tasting. Accompanied by Marko and the Tikves hospitality manager, Alexander, I merged into a full four hour tasting session.

Marko Stojakovic, an enologist and viticulturist, was educated at the Institute in Bordeaux and worked at the highly acclaimed Châteauneuf-du-Pape before moving to Macedonia and taking over the steering wheel at the biggest winery in Macedonia, and the Balkans. That was only 5 years ago, in 2010, and ever since he brought some of a youthful, refreshing spirit, as well as a dose of seriousness and boldness in the Tikves wines. Being a protégé of the highly acclaimed Phillipe Cambie, Marko has been successful and passionate in his dealings with the country’s local grape varieties and terroir, bringing the potential to a whole new level- maintaining quality.

One of my favourites from this winery are the Special Selection line as well as the Terroir wines. The Special Selection line includes both local and international grape varieties that have been successfully grown in the country for decades back. Marko’s aim with this line and its wines is they to be expression of the terroir in addition to maintaining a certain freshness, both on the nose and the palate.

The second line is the more serious one, the Terroir Wines, including Barovo White and Barovo Red, as well as Bela Voda White and Bela Voda Red. The grapes for these wines come from two microlocalites. The first one is Barovo, located  at an elevation of 550-750m, on the slopes of the Kozuf Mountain not more than 100 km from the Aegean Sea. The soils here is rich in carbonates and minerals. The second one is Bela Voda location where the Mediterranean climate prevails and the soil here is mostly clay. Unavoidable is the notion that the wines from these two lines are complex, and what I find intriguing is the fact they open in layers- on every sniff, on every new sip.

Due to the heavy rain pour that hit the vineyards in the country just before and during the harvest, Terroir wines will have their first skip this year. So, no Terroir- Barovo and Bela Voda, as well as no Special Selection Vranec 2014. However, there’s much to be positive about- the white varieties were picked just before the rain and the 2014 wines are fresh and floral. For the ones who still haven’t stoked the Terroir line, now’s the time.

Tikves Ergion Brut 2013
Quality dry wine produced by traditional method. Very fresh on the nose, a constant perlage, fruity and harmonious taste, creamy structure and a fresh finish.
Tikves Special Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Typical Sauvignon  Blanc nose- very f with aromas of green peppers, fresh cut grass and citrus, complemented with aromas of blackcurrant leaves. Harmonious flavours of grapefruit and mashed mango on the palate.
Tikves Special Selection Chardonnay 2014
Yellow-green luminosity in the glass. A good body with intertwined refreshing acidity complemented with citrus, orange peel, crème burlee and lime flavours.
Tikves Special Selection Chardonnay 2013
Oily in the glass with complex aroma of citrus and green banana. Full-bodied wine with pear, melon and butterscotch flavours and a crispy acidity. Long persistence, lime and peer finish.
Tikves Special Selection Grenache Blanc 2013
Delicate light yellow colour with green hue. On the nose it is very floral and fruity- mashed green banana, peaches and melon. On the palate it is fresh with additional notes of citrus and green lemons.
Tikves Alexandria White Cuvee 2014
Very floral and fresh on the nose- apple blossom and pears aromas.The palate is equally rich in stony fruits like peaches, young apricots and citrus flavours.
Tikves Alexandria White Cuvee 2013
Golden colour and oily in the glass. Very floral on the nose- aromas of white peaches and butterscotch undertones. The taste is rich in apple and banana notes with a pleasant refreshing acidity. Full-bodied wine with a good length.
Tikves Special Selection R’kaciteli 2014
Lots of citrus, orange peel and green lemon aromas. On the palate is equally fresh with delicate flavours of pear and peach as well a balanced and accentuated acidity.
Tikves Special Selection Muscat Ottonel 2014
Golden yellow colour with a greenish reflection. Very floral on the nose- elderberry and white flowers notes, with honey undertones. Lovely and elegant lemon aftertaste.
Tikves Special Selection Temjanika 2014
Delicate golden colour and green reflection. Aromas of elderberry flowers, basil and abundance of white spices. Fresh and elegant on the palate with more white flowers, quince and background honeycomb notes and a lovely crispy acidity.
Tikves Alexandria Rose Cuvee 2014
It’s surprisingly pleasant to note the tendency of salmon colour rosés in the country. Very fresh and floral with aromas of dry forest strawberries and Turkish rose delight. The taste is complex and rich in gooseberries, elderberry flowers. A wine with a firm structure, balance and an elegant aftertaste.
Tikves Special Selection Merlot 2013
Typical Merlot nose displaying varietal characteristics- red cherries, and other lush berry fruit, leafy notes. Full bodied wine with tamed tannins and a robust finish. A suprisingly very interesting sample of Macedonian Merlot.
Tikves Special Selection Merlot 2012
Aromas of ripe grapes, honey and mixed caramelized forest fruits. Rounded taste due to a well balanced acid, extract and alcohol content and a slightly sweet and robust finish.
Tikves Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Aromas of sour cherries and raspberries. Good structure and body, and lovely cherry like aftertaste.
Tikves Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Purple-red colour. Cherry syrup and raisins aromas. Soft and tamed tannins, strong structure and very rich, full textured body.
Tikves Special Selection Vranec 2012
Dark-ruby red colour. Intense aromas of cooked blackberries. Taste of figs and overripe sour cherries. It has strong but pleasant tannins, and long and strong finish. Expressive nose of ripe black fruit and dry on the palate.
Tikves Barovo Red 2011
A blend of  65%Vranec & 35% Kratoshija. Dark red colour with purple reflection and a complex aroma of dry blackberries, raspberries and dry plums. The taste- ideally balanced acids with soft and juicy tannins make this wine full, extractive with a powerful structure and a long finish.
Tikves Barovo Red 2012
Inky black in colour, with purple nuances. Complex aroma of dry blackberries, raspberries and dry plums. Ideally balanced acids with soft tannins make this wine full, extractive with a powerful structure and a long juicy aftertaste.
Tikves Bela Voda Red 2012
I enjoyed this one very much, as on every sniff it opened in layers, and the taste was just as complex as the nose. Almost inky in the glass and aromas of dried fruit- blueberries, red currants and figs, and additional undertones of crème de cassis and graphite. The taste is smooth, elegant with cherry syrup, liquorice and locust bean aromas. Full-bodied wine, with expressive minerality, balance of fruit and tannins, as well as an impressive finish.
Tikves Barovo White 2012
A blend of 70% Grenache Blanc & 30% Chardonnay. Very rich and elegant both on the nose, as well as in the taste. So much to find here- aromas of white raspberries, citrus, lime and peach nuances. A certain smokeyness on the nose is due to the volcanic soil where the grapes originate from. Oily texture and aromas of white flowers, pears and just a dash of mango. Rounded wine with velvety tanins and long finish.
Tikves Barovo White 2013
Rich nose, amazing freshness and then aromas of a hazelnuts, almonds and yellow flowers follow. The taste is equally rich with more dark yellow fruit and flowers clashing down on the palate followed by a gripping acidity. A very complex wine and one to look for!
Tikves Bela Voda White 2013
Yellow colour with gold nuances. Very rich and elegant on the nose- daffodils, green bananas and hints of vanilla. Multilayered wine with hazelnut, apple blossom, crème brulee and mineral flavours. A gripping, well balanced acidity and a prolonged aftertaste.
Tikves Bela Voda White 2012
Mild yellow colour and oily in the glass. On the nose it is very floral with aromas of rice pudding, daffodils, vanilla and hazelnuts. The palate is gorgeous with hints of dark yellow flowers, Petite Beurre biscuits and then a fresh splash of green bananas follows. Full-bodied wine with a lingering finish.

 

A special treat was the tasting of wines from Domaine Lepovo, where Marko and Philippe Cambie have joined their forces to make wines at this high-end production facility for estate-bottled wines in the vicinity of Negotino, in the picturesque hillside locality of Lepovo. The winery Domaine Lepovo sits at 250m altitude and benefits from a distinct microclimate where a Mediterranean influence is offset by adequate continental winds heading south through the Vardar Valley. At this altitude the cool night time temperatures are offset by these heat retaining soils contributing to a long, slow ripening period that creates intense aromas.

Domaine Lepovo Chardonnay 2013
Yellow goldish colour and very oily in the glass. A complex nose- both floral and fruity- aromas of pineapple, young bananas, lilies and hints of almonds. The palate is creamy, full-mouth taste of yellow flowers, daffodils dominating, baked bread, hazelnuts and a refreshing citrus acidity. Full-bodied and multilayered wine with a long toffee finish.
Domaine Lepovo Pinot Noir 2013
I tend to believe that this is the typical Macedonian Pinot Noir, as I’ve tasted my fair share of them. Red ruby color and a very rich aroma of red currants, mashed raspberries and abundance of vanilla tones. The taste is complex in more red berry fruits, strawberries and raspberries dominating, as well as a certain cinnamon and chocolate spiciness. Full-bodied wine with a lovely cocoa and dark ripe cherry finish.
Domaine Lepovo Grand Cuvee Red 2013
This rather boisterous wine is due to the blend of Vranec, Cabernet and Merlot. Complex nose and aromas that keep changing on every new sniff- red currants, plums, a combo of spices, then cranberries, graphitte nuances and red meaty peppers. The taste follows in the same manner with more dark red blackberry fruit, dry red peppers, cigar box, hints of vanilla and a refreshing acidity. A long and enduring aftertaste.

 

 

Wine Tasting of 2014 vintage at Popova Kula Winery

The 2014 vintage was not inclined to the grape growers and winery owners in most of the world wine regions and Macedonia was undoubtedly one of them. The heavy rain pours in the middle of the harvest, late August and beginning of September, have certainly made some damages in the vineyards all over the country. Being a witness of this, as I had traveled around the country at that time and visited many of the wineries, it would be hard not but share my compassion with many of them. Looking on the bright side, most of the white grape varieties, were harvested literaly just moments before the rain hit the vineyards thus saving most of the good crops.
Some changes have also taken part in some of the wineries in the country. One of them is certainly the leave of one of my favourite enologists, Ekaterina Gargova, until recently the head at the Popova Kula’s winery as well as her right hand, the young and talented enologist Marina Koceva. It was a sad day as we came to say farewell. However, the winery remains in good hands as we have the highly respected Nana Gargova, until recently an enologist at Dudin Winery, coming in her place. The lovely ladies invited me to go through the 2014 vintage and discuss the prospects of 2015. So, here are my wine tasting notes of the wines we’ve tasted over a five hour get together at Popova Kula Winery.

Classic Sauvignon Blanc 2014-  Surprisingly fresh, aromatic and exceptional sample of Macedonian Sauvignon Blanc. Aromas of boxwood, freshly cut green grass and green tomato leaves. The taste is full and abundant in more green bell peppers, citrus and grassy notes.
Classic Zilavka 2014- The nose showed aromas of green peppers and citrus. The taste followed in the same manner with a mix of young lemons and green apples. Although rather one dimensional, it was a very refreshing wine with a very pleasant acidity.
Classic Chardonnay 2014- Green bananas and freshly cut pineapple aromas. The acidity is lively and refreshing.
Classic Muscat 2014- A nose revealing lilies, citrus and hints of honey.
Classic Temjanika 2014- Lots of young green peaches, lemon and elderberry notes. Very firm body and pleasant acidity.
Classic Stanushina Rose’ 2014- Very dry even on the nose. It reveals aromas of stone candies, forest strawberries and raspberries. The taste is full of little berry fruits with a streak of firm acidity.
Classic Prokupec 2014 Now although young, this wine will develop nicely. Very elegant on the nose showing a mix of red flowers and spices.
Classic Cabernet Sauvignon 2014- Now this one was a surprise! Typical Cabernet Sauvignon nose, black plums and dry red peppers. The body is full, revealing more roasted meaty red peppers, lots of spices and velvety structure. A true fruit and spice bomb!
Classic Vranec 2014- Harvested 10 days later than the first yield of Vranec grapes- a one that survived the rain. Having this in mind, I would have expected that it would be water diluted like but to my surprise it was very fruity on the nose, displaying a whole array of forest berries. The taste was equally powerful and full.
Perfect Choice Vranec 2012- Showing opulent dark ruby red colour and high viscosity in the glass. Aromas of meaty cherries, blueberries and hints of dark liquid chocolate. The taste is equally rich in dark blue and red berry fruits with additional hints of tobacco.
Wine Bridges Vranec 2013- This Vranec is from Ekaterina’s personal made collection although Nana had her hand in this particular vintage as well. Wine Bridges is a brand developed by Katja as a series of author’s wines which introduce different winemakers provoked by the local Balkan grape varieties. Here the wine is the bridge which people, preferences and cultures cross. Katja has also made Wine Bridges Mavrud in her home country- Bulgaria, and will continue doing so with the indigenous Balkan grape varieties all over the peninsula.
So much to find in this Vranec- red ground dry pepper, ripe dark plums and forest berries. Full bodied wine with a bouquet revealing a mix of peony flowers, red bell peppers, black pepper and other dark spices. One to look for!

Best wishes to Ekaterina and Marina and looking forward to future wine tasting together, in Macedonia and all around the wine world!

Premille de Excellenta 2014 by www.vinul.ro , Romania

The five days spent in Romania (04th-08th Nov), as part of the international judging panel at the Premille de Excellenta Wine Awards/Competition 2014, was a good occasion to get familiar with the Romanian wines although I have had my fair share of them tasted on several occasions. However, nothing is more beneficial to one’s wine experience than tasting wines in the country of their origin, surrounded by other local wine tasters who contribute with their knowledge so you could get familiar with the local wine grape varieties, the wine industry and the wineries.

The charming town of Brasov, just 170 km north of Bucharest, was hosting the Wine Excellence Awards 2014 (Premille de Excellenta), and the competition, now in its third year, had been organized by the wine magazine Vinul.ro. The judging was according to the OIV standards, using the 100 points scale and the wines we tasted were divided in three categories: HoReCa, Unbottled and Retails wines, as well as according to the price range and styles. The flights included imported wines along with the Romanian ones.

The organizers of the competition were smart enough to do a very interesting off-the-competition private blind wine tasting only for the international judges by combining well known worldwide labels and Romanian wines thus asking for our frank opinion while also seeking to position the domestic wines in the array of international labels. The wine tasting evolved into a lengthy discussion- I’m led to believe a very fruitful for both the judges, as well as the organisers .

On the last day of the competition, in the Brasov Business Park, the Transylvania Wine Fair 2014 was opened which hosted many wineries from the country and was a great occasion to discuss with the producers themselves some of the wines we’ve tasted during the three day competition in Brasov. The Romanian wines, as well as many of the wines coming from Southeast Europe, have an enormous potential but connecting that fact with a consistent wine making and the search for marketing options of selling the wines, is an ongoing challenge. However, the vast array of indigenous grape varieties, Feteasca Regala, Feteasca Alba, Feteasca Neagra, Tamaiosa Romaeasca, Busuioaca de Bohotin, to name just a few, are under the spotlight on the developing Romanian wine scene.
I would have to apologize in advance to all the wineries I did not have a chance to taste their wines & give my opinion in the following lines, but hopefully in another occasion I would gladly do so.

I was pleasantly surprised to note a consistence in quality in the wines of Budureasca Winery, Muntenia Wine Region, from Dealu Mare, settled in the sub-Carpathian hills, especially their Origini Line out of which I would mention the exceptional Reserve- Cuvee, DOC-CMD Dealu Mare (Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Feteasca Neagra) and the exceptional Budureasca Premium Line and their quite serious Rose (Syrah) 2013, DOC-CT Dealu Mare and their Fume 2013, DOC-CT Dealu Mare, a blend of Pinot Grigio, Riesling & Sauvignon Blanc.

It was a pleasure to go through the wines of Casa de Vinuri Cotnari Winery, and hear the story of their dedication to making wines from indigenous Romanian grape varieties. I’ve let my senses be fully emerged in the Feteasca Alba 2013, DOC- CT Cotnari, Moldova Wine Region from their Cotnari Domenii Line, which showed an aromatic nose of pears, an oily & full-bodied structure, complex taste of yellow tropical fruits like pineapple and mango & a lingering aftertaste. The Colocviu Line, and their Colocviu La Moscova 2013, Grasa de Cotnari  DOC-CT Cotnari showed floral notes on the nose, followed by an amazing combination of pears, stoney fruits & saltiness in the taste. Not to forget my favourite rose for this year, Colocviu la Paris 2013, DOC-CT Cotnari, made from Busuioaca de Bohotin variety.

Crama Oprisor Winery is one of the most serious players on the wine market. The wines made by their oenologist Liviu Grigorica show boldness in styles and firmness in structure. Their Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 and a true wine gem, Ispita 2011 gave away that recognizable strain of seek for perfection, lively playfulness which can easily be traced in Liviu’s wines- a trait of an experienced winemaker.

One of the most pleasant surprises were the wines from Villa Vinea Winery located in the Transylvania Wine Region- their Feteasca Regala 2013 and a very fresh and serious Sauvignon Blanc 2013 with an exceptional minerality.

I would also like to mention a very unique Apogeum Feteasca Neagra 2011 (a Limited Edition) from Domeniilor Tohani Winery, Muntenia Wine Region, DOC Dealu Mare- the nose showed dark plums, the taste followed in a elegant liquorice, chocolate, dark fruits clash.

Liliac Winery, Liliac, Nectar of Transylvania, Muscat Ottonel 2013- from theTransilvania Wine Region, AOC Lechinţa was a cherry on the top- quince& ripe pears on the nose, nail polish notes reminding of a New Zealand sweet wines.

An impromty #winelover hangout happened after the grand finale tasting day, organized by my very dear Romanian friends Iulian Grigorescu & Razvan Stoenescu where all the judges enjoyed an array of wines. We started from Italy, Switzerland, France, than moved to Macedonia, Croatia only to go back to Romanian wines- a wine tasting which was followed by another lengthy enjoyable wine discussion.