How many of you can say you’ve enjoyed wines from Serbia or Macedonia? Compared to major international wine players like France, Italy and California, the Balkans get short shrift as far as the wine discussion goes.
Which is odd, considering the earliest cases of winemaking in the region can be traced to the Romans, not dissimilar to France and Italy. The traditions established ages ago still prevail in the Balkans, and with modern techniques taking root, the region is producing incredible wines from indigenous grape varieties that are not only elegant but also expressive of terroir.
Thankfully, distributor Winebow has launched their Balkan Wine Project, and I had the pleasure of being able to taste some in the shop. Shining a light on the region, Winebow is stocking ace wine-producers from the Balkans that would otherwise go unnoticed. Their portfolio now features grapes you may not have heard of, grapes like Zilavka (zhi-luv-kah), Morava (moh-rah-vah) and Vranec (vrah-nets). The reds tasted like Loire Cab Franc and even Cru Beaujolais, while the whites were fresh, with a balance of fruit and acidity I didn’t expect.
This is the best part of the job: branching out of my wine-rut and tasting little known regions and exploring new grapes. Now that I’ve had my first taste of Balkan goodness, it’s time to get my explorer cap on and learn more!
Milijian Jelic, Morova | Porcerina, Serbia, 2011 – Extended fermentation and skin contact produce a rich, full white. Made of Morova (named after Serbia’s largest river), it has aromas of elderflowers and pineapples, but with a long, lush finish.
Stobi, Zilavka | Tikves, Macedonia, 2011 – This native grape of Macedonia is often used to blend wines, but Stobi created this 100 % Zilavka as a pure expression of the fruit. Complex aromatics are followed by a mineral-driven palate and lemon-y finish.
Stobi, Vranec | Tikves, Macedonia, 2011 – Another indigenous grape from Macedonia, this Vranec (translated to “wild black horse”) is aged in French oak casks, resulting in a full-bodied wine with elegant tannins complemented by an herbaceous, spicy aroma. I wanted a street-meat kebab while sipping this guy. Preferably lamb, but anything spiced would do.
Agrina Doo, Portuguiser | Fruska Gora, Serbia, 2011 – The grape Portuguiser is widely-planted in Austria and Germany, and produced a lively, acidic wine, much like Gamay in Beaujolais. Agrina’s wine is deep purple, with a bouquet of ripe blackberries and currants. I loved this lady on first sip: so pretty, so light, so ephemeral.
[Feature photo by Sobrecroacia.com | Flickr]