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WINES OF THE DANUBE

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In the nineteenth century, Lord Byron travelled to the Balkans, got acquainted with people, customs and traditions of the Balkan peninsula and then relayed the Balkan stories to West Europeans. The Balkan peninsula has always been just a stone’s throw from the western nations, yet so far away.

The twentieth century was no different. Most countries (with the sole exception of Yugoslavia) were hidden behind the Iron Curtain. In such an environment, there were a few courageous individuals with the vision, curiosity and desire to discover new cultures who were ready to cross the borders. The first person that comes to my mind is Marcel Cellier, a Swiss organist and ethnomusicologist who toured Bulgaria and Romania with his wife, recorded pearls of traditional folk music, and then presented them in the west. Thanks to him, Romanian pan flute virtuoso Gheorghe Zamfir and Bulgarian choir “Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares’ and Bulgarian polyphonic singing gained global popularity.

If we talk about contemporary wine scene in the Balkans and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, certainly one of the biggest promoters of wines from the “New Old World” is Caroline Gilby MW.

Thanks to her endeavours,  numerous grape varieties that have been virtually unknown and impossible to pronounce have been introduced to West European wine connoisseurs.

For that reason, her Masterclass workshops always stir a lot of attention, as they always mean new wine discoveries, new flavours, varieties, wine regions…

On November 14th, 2015, as part of charity event Salonul Rovinhud in Timisoara (Romania), Caroline Gilby MW invited numerous wine audience to join her for the Danube wine adventure.

  1. Morava 2014 – Despotika Winery (Serbia) – Morava’s popularity has been growing rapidly in Serbia, so local wineries often choose to plant this variety in the vineyards nowadays. Jancis Robinson described Morava as a promising  aromatic Serbian variety in her  book Wine Grapes, the Bible of the wine world. The fact that Morava is becoming more common in Serbian vineyards is a proof that local winemakers share her opinion, so they’re seriously considering sparkling Morava, orange Morava, late harvest… I am confident that Despotika Winery will show us the authentic renderings of Morava in the coming years. Simply, the year 2014 did not allow Morava to develop fully its aromatic complex. Somewhat subdued aromas on the nose, trace of herbal and spicy notes that fade gradually.In the mouth, the wine leaves a refreshing citrus trail: lime, lemon, grapefruit. Pleasant, refreshing acidity, well-balanced. Despotika is a new winery in Serbia, founded in 2010. Another indicator that Serbia, according to Caroline Gilby, is experiencing impressive growth in wine production mainly owing to young, passionate winemakers. Due to political situation in the country, Serbian winemakers were late launching the wine scene renaissance. For that reason, they are now like a guest who arrives late to the party and who is therefore in a hurry to make up for the lost time and uses every moment in the best possible way. That’s why we should expect lots of exciting news from Serbia in the years to come.
  1. Graševina 2014 – Iločki Podrumi (Croatia) – Graševina is the most common variety in Croatian vineyards. Officially, it is considered a Croatian variety, although we could consider it to the same extent as the variety from Fruška Gora as well given that boundaries where a variety is grown do not necessarily follow political borders of states (especially in the Balkans). Iločki Podrumi have about 350 hectares of vineyards planted with Graševina. Also, grapes are bought from subcontractors. In the glass, the wine simply captivates with its lush structure – full-bodied, dense, aromas of quince, apple, stone fruit complemented by citrus-like acidity which leads to pleasant bitterness in the finish.
  1. Riesling 2012 – Château Belá (Egon Müller) (Slovakia) – the famous winemaker Egon Müller decided to challenge the best Rieslings of Austria and Germany and make Riesling in the south of Slovakia, on the Danube bank ( the region of Sturovo). Riesling has a long tradition in Slovakia. Straw yellow wine. The nose is dominated by classical notes of citrus, stone fruit, petroleum note. In the mouth, the wine is rather linear (the wine’s length will impress you more than its complexity),whereas its steely character prevails. Trace of minerality lingers in the mouth.
  1. Egon Müller Riesling 2014 (Germany) – Egon Müller’s philosophy is to allow wine to develop itself, organically, with as little intervention as possible and with natural fermentation in stainless steel tanks. It should be added that the wine comes from Mosel, the coldest wine region of Germany. The vineyards are located on steep cliffs, on the sun-drenched slopes. The wine is characterized by vibrant acidity that makes you salivate. Nevertheless, wine is in perfect balance, with just enough sweetness in the mouth, which washes away all traces of acidity in the mouth and leads to a long elegant finish.
  1. Kirchholz Blaufrankisch 2013 – Weninger (Austria) – In Austria, Franz Weninger has become synonymous with Blaufrankisch. Since 2006, Weninger Winery has been following the principles of biodynamic wine production. At the same time, Blaufrankisch in Austria has gone through a transformation phase from wines in the style of Cabernet Sauvignon towards more elegant style of Pinot Noir. The focus is on gentle extraction, less wood. The aim is to incorporate acidity into the wine’s structure rather than tannins. The wine in the glass is truly elegant, tannins present but soft and silky. In the mouth, lush fruity flavors of dark cherry, blueberry and blackberry with spicy notes. The finish is fruity and harmonious.
  1. Borovitza Gamza 2013 (Bulgaria) – Borovitza Winery is located in western Bulgaria, close to the border with Serbia, in the vicinity of a town called Belogradchik. The owner Ognyan Tzvetanov is committed to discovering small plots of land with old vines with an ambition to produce small-batch handcrafted wines from these plots. Gamza variety is widely known as Kadarka. The wine aged for 24 months in large oak barrels. In the mouth, the wine is soft, elegant, with pleasant aromas of blackberries and plums.
  1. Serendipity 2013 – Et Cetera (Moldova) – Moldova is probably in the worst position of all the countries of Eastern Europe. The wine industry has suffered a severe blow when Russia introduced economic sanctions against Moldova, which meant the loss of market which previously absorbed up to 85% of Moldovan wine exports. Currently, Moldova is implementing measures to regulate its wine sector and transform it in order to adapt to present situation on the global wine scene. Et Cetera Winery is a young winery from Moldova, which shows the potential of this country and gives an indication of what we can expect from Moldova in the future when it comes to wine. Varietal composition: Feteasca Neagra 70%, Cabernet Sauvignon 30%. We are better acquainted with Feteasca Neagra as a variety owing to Romanian wineries which invest great efforts to promote this variety abroad. However, it is very difficult to determine the typical style of Romanian Feteasca Neagra which ranges from concentrated jammy wines to fresh fruity elegant wines. According to Caroline Gilby, it might be the winning formula for Feteasca Neagra to be blended with other varieties, such as in this case with Cabernet Sauvignon. The result is a beautiful, concentrated wine full of black forest fruit aromas, licorice, spicy notes.
  1. Negru de Drăgăşani 2013 – Vitis Metamorfosis (Romania) – At this year’s Decanter, Caroline Gilby was the chair of the tasting panel who evaluated wines from the Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary and Slovenia. This year, the highest award for some Romanian wine was silver, and the wine awarded with silver was exactly this one. The variety Negru de Drăgăşani is a recent cross recognized in 1993. There are 16ha of vineyards planted with this variety in the whole of Romania. It’s a wine that gives a lot of pleasure, with a distinct character.
  1. Szamorodni 2010 – Bart Pince (Hungary) – In the end, Tokaj – exclusive region of Eastern Europe. Vintage 2010 was not one of those memorable ones, but this wine from  Bart Winery can attribute its high quality mainly to the micro-location, because the vineyard of Furmint is located on Király hillside (historical plot Öreg Király). A genuine whirl of aromas of quince, dried apricot, acacia honey leading to infinite finish…

(text taken from the website: www.vinopedia.rs)

Tomislav Ivanović  

April 18, 2016 in

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