Thursday, April 16, 2015

Eastern European Wines - April 16th, 2015 - hosted by Mr Matt and Ms Abbie

Eastern European Wines - April 16th, 2015 - hosted by Mr Matt and Ms Abbie

Theme:  Eastern European Wines - We will do our usual blind tasting method.

Eastern Europe is everything east of Germany, Austria, and Italy:  Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania,   (We will throw Greece & Turkey in there as well for TWITs purposes.)

Bring:  TWITs should bring a bottle of Eastern European Wine.  It can be a single varietal or a blend, but within the specified price range (Up to $20/bottle for Singles, between $20 - $40/bottle for Couples). * we later found that it is not easy to find "expensive" Eastern European wines.  Most bottles were under $20 each.

Why are Eastern European Wines so affordable?
Countries in Eastern Europe have some of the oldest winemaking traditions in the world.  From the oldest vine in Slovenia, to the ancient techniques, such as the use of Kvevri’s* in Georgia, the East provides that heady mix of the exotic and incredible history.  Relatively still unknown in many countries, the wines form these regions are diverse.
Many of the Eastern European countries had thriving wine industries prior to 1991.  Bulgaria, for example exported the cheap stuff to the Soviet Union and the good rustic reds to the West, especially to Britain.  However, the Wine producing countries paid a heavy price for Gorbachev’s attempts to sober up the Russians.   He literally “pulled the rug out from under” the Eastern European wine exports.  In 1986 Gorbachev started a campaign against the over consumption of alcohol in the USSR.   He raised prices for Vodka, wine, and beer.  Wine production halved between 1985 and 1990 as incentives to grow and tend vines melted away.  Gorbachev’s ambitious plan served as a huge blow to the economy, cutting both alcohol sales and government revenues.  There are many difficulties facing winemakers both before and after the end of Communism: corruption; the haphazard redistribution of vineyard land to private owners with no wine-making experience; an absence of properly trained local winemakers; a general absence of money.  It will take time for the wine industry to get back on its feet.  There were already the beginnings of a recovery thanks to entrepreneurial winemakers who were aware that parts of Bulgaria and Romania had the climate and soils to make high quality wine and at considerably lower cost than elsewhere in Europe. They were also conscious that both countries were likely to join the EU, saw an opportunity and began to embark on the complicated process of buying up vineyard land.  Today however, things are looking better and better.  Eastern Europe’s winemaking is taking an upward turn.  Let’s have a taste!

Kvevri – is a large earthenware vessel originally from Georgia in the Caucasus dating back to about 8000 BC.  It has an inside coat of beeswax, and resembles an amphora without handles, and is used for the fermentation and storage of wine.  Often it is buried below ground level or set into floors of large wine cellars.  

Tokaji - the wine named after the town of Tokaj (and once called Tokay outside Hungary), was in its time the world's greatest sweet white wine, made from nobly rotten grapes as early as 1650 according to local history - long before botrytised wines were recorded in Sauternes and the Rheingau, the birthplace of such wines in Germany.  The main ingredients are Hárslevelű and, especially, Furmint, with some Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains (Sárgamuskotály) grapes. The local conditions around the 27 Tokaj villages in this very protected corner of middle Europe are such that in a good year the best are affected by noble rot, here called aszú, and can reach exceptional sugar levels. (As in Sauternes, a confluence of rivers encourages morning mists.) They range from dry to quite extraordinarily sweet with the following descriptions: Szamorodni (in which there is no selective picking of grapes affected by noble rot), dry or sweet; then Aszú 3, 4, 5 or 6 Puttonyos, 6 being the sweetest. (A puttonyo is the traditional hod used as a measure for the sweet grape paste, made from pulverised botrytised grapes, added to wine made from unaffected grapes before a slow second fermentation, though the timing of this addition may vary.) Eszencia is very rare grape sugar essence - a grape syrup really - made from the tiny amount of free-run juice from the botrytised grapes that are used to make Aszú paste. Because its sugar content is so high, yeasts can work only at a snail's pace and these wines continue to ferment in cask for many a year. These were the sort of wines which made Tokaji's reputation as an elixir of life and love. The final ingredient in Tokaji's extraordinary character is that in its traditional guise, it is aged rather like sherry, under a film of local yeast, in barrels partly filled, in strange underground caverns lined with mould like black felt and signalled only by the low doorways hollowed out of the small hills of the Tokaj region. Some producers now make their wines in a less oxidative, more modern, style and there is much debate as to which style or exact method of winemaking is more traditional or desirable.
Tasting Notes:
Welcome Wine: 2012 Peneca Rebula Colliano, Slovenia, Primorska region - $15.99 @ Sherlocks Wine Merchant Brookhaven
100% Ribolla Gialla (aka: Rebula)
12.5% alcohol
This was a delicious, refreshing, sparkling wine.

1) 2011 Movia Rebula Ribolla Ceglo, Slovenia - $34.99 @ Le Caveau Fine Wines
100% Ribolla Gialla, 13% alcohol
nose: orchids, astringent, nectar, a big bouquet of flowers, a nice Senior Citizen home, spring flowers, palate: viscous on the mouth, dry, not too sweet, clings to your tongue like an apple juice, lingering finish, but not too long. easy to drink.  Tropical fruit, lychee

2) 2012 Legacy Pinot Noir, Romania - $8.99 @ Your DeKalb Farmers Market
100% Pinot Noir, 12% alcohol
chocolate, cacao, easy drinking for beginners, dry at first but has a very sweet finish, a bit too sweet, fruity wine, cranberry bitterness, "I'd be very nice if someone served me this wine", "I'll cook with it later", several TWITs dumped this one.

3) 2013 Kobal Family Blaufrankisch, Slovenia Bottle 2413 of 9000 ~ $20 @ Le Caveau
100% Blaufrankisch, 13% alcohol
bell pepper, butter, perfumey, bitter lemons, something greeny, herbacious, cabbage, sauerkraut ("not mine though", says Mina), nice acidic finish, pepper nose, made in traditional method, live yogurt, astringent, banana pepper

4) 2010 Domaine Costa Lazaridi, Amethystos, Adriani Drama Greece - $21.99 @ Toco Giant
Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Agiorgitiko, 14.5% alcohol
octopus, fruit forward, full bodied, bitter, peppery, pulling moisture out of my teeth, very dry, jammy, needs something oily to pair with it, not for beginners, slap your sausage on the berries, I love it!

5) 2010 Plantaze, Vranac, Lake Skadar Valley, Montenegro ~ $20 @ Sherlocks Wine Merchant Brookhaven, 100% Vranac, 13.5%
spicy finish, not much nose, bitter palate

6) 2008 Protopapas Syrah, Athanasios, Greece, Pageon Regional Red Dry Wine, Demos Orfanou, Kavala  - $11.99 @ Your DeKalb Farmers Market
100% Syrah, 13.5% alcohol
ammonia, perm solution, smells of French Oak, spicy on the tongue, peppery, smooth, bitter chocolate, dry, makes your mouth dry, dry as a bone
We suggest retasting as it needs to open up.

7) 2012 Peloponnese, Boutari Elios, Greece, Mediterranean Red - $9.99 @ Your DeKalb Farmers Market
40% Agiorgitiko, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 13.5% alcohol
smells sweet, but it is dry, honey nose, butterscotch, the finish is subtly dry, not puckery, dry in the back palate, chocolate hints, caramel, pepper

8) 2013 Boutari Kretikos, Crete, Greece - $11.79 @ Your DeKalb Farmers Market
60% Kotsifali, 40% Mandilaria, 12.5% alcohol
nose of the sea, speared shark, shellfish, ocean, smells like a salty breeze, interesting nose, mild perfume, it went to my nose and cleared my nose, lighter, summery, not as dry, easy to drink, we like it, the nose makes me want to relax, simple and easy, salt and sea breeze, might be good with oysters, a crowd pleaser!  

9) 2012 Egri Bikaver, Hungary - $8.99 @ Minks
12% alcohol
nose of iron, smells bloody, cucumber, whore's lipstick, soil.

Egri Bikaver (aka: “Bulls Blood of eger) is Hungary’s most famous red wine blend.  Officially Egri Bikavér must contain at least three of the following 13 grapes: Kadarka, Kékfrankos, Blauer Portugieser (Kékoportó), Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Menoire (known as Kékmedoc, or Médoc noir before), Pinot noir, Syrah, Turán, Bíborkadarka and the modern Austrian crossings, Blauburger and Zweigelt.
In 2004 a new level, Egri Bikavér Superior was introduced. In this case, at least 5 out of the 13 recommended varieties must be used and also a lower yield must be applied (maximum 60 hl/ha). It needs to age at least 12 months in wooden cask and 6 months in bottle before releasing on the market. Regulations on the composition of the blend, the wine making technology and minimum alcohol level also differs from normal Egri Bikavér. All those regulations are aiming for an overall higher quality wine.

10) 3/6/2010 Dolna Banya Winery, Bloody Bull, Egri Bikaver, Bulgaria - $7.69 @ Your DeKalb Farmers Market, 10.5% alcohol
honey nose, coca cola nose, cranberry, herbal tea, liquer 

11) Zadar Maraska Cherry Wine, Croatia, Adriatic coast, Kosher - $10 @ Whole Foods
14% alcohol (28 proof)
super sweet nose, cough syrup, wedding cake, cinnamon, apple jam, something Mina's Grandmother would drink with her friends after coffee, "that cherry crap was awesome with espresso"
(we did try it in espresso and it made it so much better).

12) 2013 Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler, Pinot Noir, Mosel, Germany - $15 @ Total Wine
100% Pinot Noir, 12% alcohol
sour apple, old cherry, compared to candy its sour, decent, not remarkable, dry

REFERENCES for articles:
** It is EXTREMELY hard to find any info on Latvian wines or varietals.
1. University of KY
2. Wines of the Balkans
4. The Wines of Eastern Europe  - Jancis Robinson
5. Bulgaria, Romania, and the new wave of wine - - David Williams
6. Blog “What I Like About This Wine” - he has several entries on Eastern Europe with videos and photos of his travels to various regions there.
7. Bulgaria and Romania, new wave of wine -

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