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Dan's Blog

EASTERN BLOC UPDATE

Friday, July 13, 2018

The wine industries of Eastern European countries suffered severely under the communist regime in that they were forced to almost abandon their native grape varieties and produce oceans of very mundane wines, mainly from “classic” varieties such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

It will soon be 30 years since the decline and fall of communism and in that time span, some of these countries have bounced back and rebuilt their wine industries, whilst others have seemingly just drifted along.

Georgia is the “shining light” of the bounce back brigade, they have through a lot of hard work and effort in promoting all aspects of their wine industry, become world renowned and admired. Today you can buy Georgian wine in most countries and the bottles aren’t in the bargain bin or chuck-out barrel, they are sitting proudly on the shelf alongside their western European counterparts. Here in Australia you can find the wines of Tbilvino via www.tamada.com.au

Hungary has almost always made good wine. I say “almost” because they did have a bit of a rough patch under communism. Initially they starred with their superb Tokaji wines and more recently with some of their table wines, especially with the white native variety Furmint, which is also used in the making of Tokaji.

The Ukraine was building a strong and viable wine industry in the Crimean Peninsula, that is, right up until Russia illegally annexed the peninsula. The Russians are now, in their new found viticultural region planning to build the world’s largest winery there and supply most if not all of Russia’s wine needs from it. You can just imagine what the quality will be like! Probably it will be a throwback to the quality of communist wine.

Other ex-blockies seem to have faded into obscurity. Whatever happened to Bulgaria and Romania for example? - Formally suppliers of very cheap and cheerful plonk (wine) to the vast majority of UK’s Uni students and un-employed.

I caught up with the wines of Slovenia over the last two years at the awesome Hong Kong International Wine Festival. I tasted a good cross-section of their wines and even met up with then Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Dejan Zidan, to discuss their wine industry. They have found a good sense of balance between their various native varieties and the classics, making good attractive examples of both, as well as some really interesting blends between the two types. The vast majority of the Slovenian wines that I have tasted make for good drinking.

Along the way I have tasted some, wines from Kazakhstan – they make pretty good Cabernet Franc. Bosnia and Herzegovina make very good red wine from Vranac. A great example of this is the 2013 Podrumi Manatira Tvdos (quite a mouthful) available through www.centrotrade.com.au

Vranac is also the main red variety grown in Montenegro along with the local white variety, Krsta.

In June I was in Vienna for VieVinum and attended a Masterclass that was supposed to be on Croatian and Slovenian Wines.  I don’t know if there was a Russian style putsch, or the Slovenian’s got lost on their way to the Hofburg Palace, but it ended up being solely a Croatian tasting. I found the wines very disappointing as there were no real stand-outs in the twelve wines we tasted – one of which was corked and they didn’t have a spare bottle! Most of the wines were okay, everyday quaffers, but they weren’t really crisp and bright, not even the ones made from their native varieties such as Plavac Mali.

The big problem being that their retail price point was generally double that of most of the Austrian wines, which were significantly more exciting, brighter and livelier.  

So, the way it looks to me at this juncture in the narrative is that Georgia will keep on shinning and being a rising star across the globe. While Hungary and Slovenia (if they do things right) will become more visible and accepted across Europe, whilst the other ex- Soviet wine producing states will continue to flounder in the wilderness. That is unless they lift their game significantly. I think that the quality of Russian wine (Crimea) will deteriorate over the next few years as the volumes are ramped up as much as possible on directives from Moscow.

I would suggest that when you get a chance to try wines from Georgia, Hungary and Slovenia, you give them a go. As for the other ex-blockies – well, your call!

THIS WEEK’S WINE REVIEW:

The focus will be on Grüner Veltliner next month when the inaugural “Global Grüner Challenge” (a joint effort between the Austrian Wine Marketing Board and Winestate Magazine) is conducted here in Adelaide (open to Grüner from around the world). It will be the first major Grüner tasting outside of Austria aimed at highlighting what a sensational white variety it is, wherever it is grown.

Currently Grüner is grown in Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, France, USA, Canada, New Zealand and of course Australia. Here in Australia, the majority of it is grown in the Adelaide Hills, which has been christened as the “Southern Hemisphere’s Grüner Capital”.

So I thought it was a good time to check out a couple of the local lads – a small preview of what’s to come. Therefore, this week’s two wines of the week are:

 

ECCENTRIC WINES ADELAIDE HILLS 2017 GRÜNER VELTLINER: This wine is just starting to open up and blossom, with lovely lifted floral and citrus aromas accompanied by just a smidge of herbs in the background. It has great varietal flavours with a good dose of limes. The inherent crispness and steeliness is just starting to soften off a tad, making it a great wine to enjoy as an aperitif as well as with lighter-style food. A CLASS ACT!

ECCENTRIC WINES ADELAIDE HILLS 2018 GRÜNER VELTLINER: This vintage is tight and taut with a hint of spices amongst the lemon and lime aromas. It is zesty, crisp with a degree of steeliness and flavoursome on the palate. It has a tight, zingy, lingering finish that cleanses the palate ready for another sip. This wine will open up over the next 1-2 years to become SUPERB!

Rarely does one get the chance to see consecutive vintages of a wine at the same time. It is a great way to see how the wine is progressing and a better indicator of its future potential. In this case the future potential is secure and will be distinguished. Well done!! www.monkeybiz.net.au