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
My best wine year so far! Tasted 1488 wines- 488 officially & 1000 unofficially, judged at 4 international wine competitions, traveled to 11 wine countries, visited 35 wineries, my country’s wines won numerous medals & met the most amazing #winelover friends. That’s what I call a pretty wine love buzz year!
Here are my 2013 best wine moment, wine highlights, winemakers, wineries & those little wine discoveries that changed my wine path J
P.S. The Macedonian counterpart will be issued on my Christmas
Poças Colheita 1967 by Manuel D. Pocas Junior-Vinhos- Douro, Porto, Portugal
But what to do when you find yourself with a 45 year old Colheita Port & a bunch of amazing winelover friends?- You drink it to the last drop & hope for more! More friends & more Port in the years to come.
Dark amber colour, rich silky texture and long aftertaste of almonds, caramel and sugar crystals. A blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barocca & Tinto Cão- dark amber colour, rich silky texture and long enduring aftertaste of almonds, caramel and sugar crystals.
Zero Brut NV, Edoardo Miroglio- Thracian Valley, Bulgaria
I have from always been known for going to extremes & never staying in the middle. That’s why a Zero Brut by Edoardo Miroglio is my sparkler of the year.
24 months on the lees, this sparkler is a blend of Pinot Noir 80% & Chardonnay 20%. Light yellow-greenish nuances, lemon, elderberry & white flowers on the nose. Intense, fresh and creamy taste, with lots of honeysuckle, raisins and elegant citrus aftertaste.
Profile 2004 by Merryvale Estate Vineyard (St. Helena Appellation), Beckstoffer – ToKalon, Georges III and Vineyard X
At the #winelover’s hangout in Sofia during the BIWC, I had an amazing chance to taste some pretty interesting wines. One of the wines that stood out was by all means Profile 2004 by Merryvale Estate Vineyard (St. Helena Appellation), Beckstoffer – ToKalon, Georges III and Vineyard X. The Good Samaritan who brought this wine at the winelover hangout is unknown to me to this day.
Imagine having made the perfect combination, the perfect blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot, 7% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc.
Just what a palate like mine asks for- large amounts of cassis & dark ripe cherries hints, on the palate lots of vanilla, cigar box, spicies & cocoa & a very elegant & rich aftertaste…enduring aftertaste! Aged for 18 months in new French oak barrels & bottled unfiltered. Oh, those silky chewy tannins!
Alvarinho 2011, Vinho Verde by Quinta de Soalheiro, Portugal
At 30 something degrees in the sunny Lisbon, during the Adegga Sumer Wine Market, all I could hope for is to either stick to an air-conditioning or find the coolest wines & come to my senses/to freshen up a bit. You guess right- I stick to the wine. When my lips came across Alvarinho the Vinho Verde by Soalheiro I knew the evening was saved! Even though going back as far as 2006, I would have to highlight 2009 but I still opt for 2011.
The blue cheese hints, and the lime & citrus freshness & that pleasant but gripping acidity made me “camp” in the Special Selection Room for the rest of the evening.
Techni Alipias (Sauvignon Blanc & Assyrtiko) 2012, Wine Art Estate, PGI Drama, Greece
Techni Alipias blend of Sauvignon Blanc & Assyrtiko 2012 is by far one of my fav whites of the year. The young winemaker’s confidence, the talented Akis Papadopolous, is traced in all his wines. This young man is treading on a very ambitious wine path- watch this young man’s name- he’ll do miracles in the years to come.
Intense and fresh, citrus, mango and yellow flowers on the nose, rice pudding and buttery touch finish
Pinot Noir 2011 by Raevskoe Winery, Raevskaya village, North Caucasia, Russia
Imagine you’re having dinner & wine tasting with another 200 wine judges & friends in Elesko, maybe one of the biggest wineries in Slovakia, & a friend, the leading wine critic in Slovakia, Vladimir Hronsky, comes up to you & says he’s making a private wine tasting & judging of Caucasusian wines at the wine bar downstairs only for seven close friends. You excuse yourself & rush to the wine bar! And then you discover Pinot Noir 2011 by Raevskoe Winery, 5000 bottles only from North Caucasia.
Cedar and tobacco on the nose, the taste was full with lots of vanilla and mellow tannins. 10 months aged in barrels made from Caucasian Adygeya oak produced by Seguin Moreau.
Schell Mann Achtung! Wein 2007 by Loimer, Thermen Region, Austria
Though being dreadfully late for the master class of the greatest Austrian wines & missing most of the “action”, I somehow found myself enjoying the privilege to sip the Schell Mann Achtung! Wein 2007 together with the lecturer himself, Andreas Wickhoff, in the back row while attending the master class that followed given by….exactly! The wine was that good that I completely forgot who’s master class I attended.Enjoyed to the last drop this orange wine.
A blend of Grüner Veltliner, Rotgipfler, Zierfandler, Traminer, Muskateller, this orange wine showed a subtle and gripping acidity, and intriguing almost oily structure of quince, caramel, apple & yellow fruits.
The Gambling Priest, Pinot Noir 2011 by Heaps Good Wine Company, Ritoznoj, Slovenia
Yes, I am a Pinot Noir sucker! But, aren’t we all?!? Discovered Nick’s wines at BIWC for the first time this year & was blown away by this Aussi’s style- fairly to say I wasn’t the only one.
It is so hard to find a good everyday Pinot Noir these days that would satisfy a sensitive palate, enjoyable & also, affordable as well.
Abundance of dark meaty cherries, plums on the nose. Full & round on the palate with an over accentuated but balanced oakiness and enduring & elegant aftertaste with subtle spiciness.
Pinot Noir 2006 by Williams Selyem, Russian River Valley, California
During the #winelover hangout in Ljubljana, I was handed this PN & as the evening went on & I gave my wine tasting notes. To my surprise, I was described as someone who likes sunshine in her glass. Oh, but don’t I?!? After all, I do come from a sunny land.
Perfumed bouquet of dry peppers, dark cherries, spices- tobacco, pepper & clove dominating, quite intriguing on the palate with raspberries, and
Touriga Nacional 2007 by Cortes de Cima, Portugal
When I found myself face to face with this elegant lady- Touriga Nacional 2007 by Cortes de Cima- I so humbly bowed my head as she made me feel there’s so much more I’d have to learn about elegance. For when you come across a wine as elegant as Touriga Nacional, far more elegant than you ever thought you were, that’s the time you realize there’s so much more to learn. And yes, that’s the time I no longer feel like a lady- I had overtly been surpassed.
The Touriga proved elegance, lots of violets, blackcurrants, perfumed spiciness, complex and continuously elegant aftertaste.
Disznókő Tokaji Aszú 6 puttonyos 2000, Disznókő Estate, Hungary
I do taste wines but now & then, when I come across a dessert wine I truly enjoy, there’s barely a sip left in my glass. Alas, to all the wine tasting! As I set on a terrace while sipping Disznókő Tokaji Aszú 6 puttonyos 2000, and as the lovely spring breeze went on caressing my very tired nostrils, I kept on thinking of the sweet things about life- wines like this one are to be enjoyed to a full extent of your tasting senses.
Dark golden colour, aromatic nose of honey, citrus, lemon & dark ripe yellow fruits. Poised tones of mashed quince, caramel, candied orange & hints of vanilla & coconut oil on the palate. A true dessert gem!
Abel Quinta das Bageiras Pai Abel Chumbado 2011 Branco, Portugal
A friend told me once- you should always need to find a little something to keep you motivated so you could go on in life. And as everyone should have something to hope for, I saved a bottle given to me by the winemaker Joao Rico who told me an interesting story behind the wine. And the unusual story re this wine is that the leading tasters from the Chamber of the Bairrada Wine Commission did not accept this wine as wine with designation of origin. Mário Sérgio Nuno, recognized as one of the most respectful people in following tradition in Bairrada, convinced the winery that they had the best Father Abel ever and they decided to bottle it as table wine branded Father Abel Rejected. I must have had the most stupefied look due to the story, Joao handed me this bottle of Pai Abel Chumbado 2011 Branco & told me I should open it after 3 years. I do believe procrastination brings pleasure but I’ve never been a woman to hold tight to my constraints because once I’m deliberately tempted into “don’t do that”, and come across something I truly enjoy, it’s time for failure to reason & hallo to pampering of my senses! However, promised to restrain myself for another year. . .
This is what I have to look forward to:
One of the most iconic and renowned wines from Portugal, Pai Abel from the Quinta das Bágeiras. There are wines that tell stories and Pai Abel is one such case. Born with the name of “Pai Abel” (Father Abel) in 2009, a tribute from the owner of Quinta das Bágeiras to his father, quickly became one of the most celebrated wine in the country and the producer is recognized as one of the most respectful of tradition in Bairrada. The wine is fantastic. With grapes Bical and Maria Gomes with aging in wood. Wine with character, designed to challenge the senses and leaves no one indifferent. . .
. . . Told you!