Dessert wine Malvasia 2010 ( Kidonitsa, Asyrtiko, Monemvasia & Asproudi) by Monemvasia Winery, Lakonia, Peloponnese, Greece is the best Balkan wine for 2014! Rightly deserved.
My dear friend, Paulo Coutinho, the enologist at Quinta do Portal, pulled out this Porto at the final evening at the Concours de Mondial 2014 de Bruxelles. Well, needless to say it was amazing- caramel, hazelnuts, dried herbs aromas, silky, smooth and full texture and a very elegant finish.
Thanks to my Romanian friends, Razvan Stoenescu and Iulian Grigorescu, I came across my favourite Rose for this year at the first ever #winelover hangout in Belgrade, Serbia. Colocviu la Paris 2013, DOC-CT Cotnari is made from Busuioaca de Bohotin variety, one of the few indigenous Romanian grape varieties. During my visit to Romania, as judge at the Premiile de Excelenta 2014 and visiting the Wine Fair in Brasov, 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 only from indigenous Romanian grape varieties.
The Colheita 1964 was opened during my visit in Brussels to celebrate one of the many gatherings of old friends.
As if a genie was released once this bottle was opened- the nose was complex, elegant – a mixture of almonds, dried dark fruits and lots of orange peel, full-bodied, silky texture and a long enduring finish. A high quality Port issued from a single harvest, aged in oak casks for at least seven years.
This wine “Had me at the Label”, only to surprise me even more when I tasted it. Freshness on the nose, notes of lemon& dry lime skins, followed by a full mouth taste of elderberry flowers. Needless to say that Malagouzia is one of my favourite indigenous Greek varieties. The search for different styles from this grape variety, on my good fortune, is ongoing.
Wine Bridges is a brand developed by Ekaterina Gargova, a Bulgarian enologist who for the past four years has been working for Popova Kula winery in Macedonia. By launching this brand, Katja’s idea was to show the reflection of the Balkan terroir. She started with the Vranec from the vineyards in the Tikvesh wine district, at the same time developing Mavrud from Bulgaria, and Greece is soon to follow. This is a female Vranec, as we call it- very elegant, with tamed tannins, so very difficult to achieve when this variety is in question and something that this lovely lady has done to a perfection. Kudos to Katja!
There aren’t many people who get to taste a 20 year old Plavac Mali. During my visit to Croatia this April as part of the Dalmacija Wine Expo press trip I took visiting wineries on Peljesac, tasting the whole line of Milos Winery’s Plavac Mali was inevitable. Discovering a true gem as this one, unavoidable. Very oily in the glass; the nose showed notes of cherries and dry spices. Very elegant on the palate, with hints of cedar and cocoa, and perfect and long aftertaste. A true perfection in a glass.
Prokupac is an indigenous Serbian grape variety and no matter how difficult is to tame those untamable tannins, the winemakers from this winery have been doing it for so long and so good for years now. A pick I would always go for.
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.
Macedonian Wine Guide 2014
by Ivana Simjanovska & Dave Vlam, 2011, Skopje, R. Macedonia
Co-author & Publisher