Some nice surprises from the Balkan wine festival


Some nice surprises from the Balkan wine festival

So, after two day’s judging, today was the Balkan wine festival here in Sofia, where a number of producers gathered to show their wines. I just wanted to report on a few particular highlights.

First of all Borovitza, from northwest Bulgaria. This is a brilliant winery, making small quantities of wine from some really good vineyards. It’s owned by Dr Ognyan Tsvetanov (above), who is a very smart, thoughtful winegrower with an interesting story.  I was particularly struck by three of his wines. The first was the cuvee Americano, a white blend aged in Bulgrian oak with no added SO2. Its very richly textured and intense.

The second was the Orange Garden 2008, an orange wine made from Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier with fermentation on skins and then just under 4 years in oak. It’s powerful and really smoothly textured with lovely complexity.

Finally, the Gamza 2009. I pointed out that this elegant, cherryish red reminded me of Kadarka, a Hungarian variety. It turns out that they are both the same variety. It’s a bit Pinot-like, but with more body. Such a beautiful wine.

I was also really impressed by the Heaps Good Wine Company, which is run by Kiwi Nick Gee in Slovenia (he has a Slovenian wife). He’s  making superb wines. The Pinot Gris is rich and textured, with lovely ripe fruit. The Pinot Noir is super-elegant with some sweet cherry fruit and a reassuringly light colour, and it is a nice contrast to the special selection Pinot called the Gambling Priest, which has more stems and a bit more structure. Both are really compelling and elegant.

I also liked Nick’s Blaufrankisch, which is a really elegant black cherry fruit expression of the variety.

Finally, Vina Caric from Croatia. Really convincing wines including a white blend called Cesarica, that’s fresh and textured, and the Plovac Ploski 2008, a warm, medium-bodied red wine with amazing savoury complexity alongside sweetly aromatic fruit. It’s really elegant.

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