With grapes being grown almost everywhere on earth except the Antarctic, it continues to surprise one as to where wines come from. Here are a couple of “unlikely lads”, in the wine world that you probably haven’t heard about.
ALBANIA: Which of you knows where Albania is? It has been in the news a bit lately in relation to the African refugees trying to get into Europe. It is just above Greece, directly across the Adriatic Sea from Italy and below Montenegro. Ten points if you knew that.
So, next question. Did you know they made wine? Well yeah, ‘cause these days wine is made everywhere – including all 50 states of the USA, other than in the Antarctic.
In Albania they have been making wine for a while, with their wines mentioned in the writings of our old Roman mate, “Pliny the Elder”, in the first century A.D. With four main grape growing regions, they thrived as winemakers from the Roman times through until the 15th century when the Ottoman Turks invaded and disseminated the industry. Eventually they recovered, only to have the Soviets wreck things again during the Communist era by going for mass production rather than quality.
Since the end of communism they have had a slow and painful transition to modern viticulture and winemaking. Today, Durrës is the main premium quality producing wine region and the country has around 25 wineries as well as a number of independent grape growers. In 2015, Albania produced 142.5 million litres of wine from around 11,000 hectares of vines.
The main varieties grown (other than the Riesling, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that were introduced by the Soviets) are: the native Bulgarian red variety, Mavrud, along with the Albanian native red variety, Kallmet, and the lesser known native Debine (white and red), Mereshnik, Mjaltez, and Vlosh. There are also a number of other native varieties but they are of minor significance at this point in time.
The majority of red wines that are stored in oak, are stored in local Albanian oak rather than French or American oak. This helps to impart a slightly different flavour to their wines. Additionally, these are usually big barrels so that there is little oak extraction from the barrels (wooden tanks). There has been a considerable effort over recent times to improve the standards of winemaking up to international standards so as to be able to showcase the native varieties at their best, rather than as rudimentary country wines as was the case in the past.
Most of the Albanian wines that are exported go to Germany and therefore Albanian wines are almost invisible on the global wine stage. However, as the industry thrives due to the significant improvements, Albanian wines will become more readily available and of greater interest to the wine world.
WALES: Were you aware that wine was made in Wales? Well, as I recently found out a winery in Wales has just released its first fortified wine (port).
White Castle Wines, in the village of Llanvetherine which is near Abergavenny and Monmouthshire (with names like these it just had to be Wales) has produced a limited release of a four-year-old fortified that they describe as “very fruity and light in texture”. It is called, 1581, after a heritage listed barn on the property which has been restored as a function room.
These are just a couple of the interesting/unusual places where humans produce wine on this planet.
Cheers! Have a great week and enjoy delicious, interesting wines.
Ciao! VINITALY is rapidly approaching. It is on in Verona from April 15-18 and is considered the premier wine fair of Europe, offering the opportunity to network with over 4,000 wine companies and over 150,000 visitors/wine buyers. Visit www.vinitaly.com/en to check it out and plan your visit. Trade visitors can get their free trade badge (saving €80 per day) at Get Your Free Trade Badge and go to Discover The New Exhibitors’ Catalogue to see who is going to be there.
This year is extra special with the South Australia display in the International Hall (A4) celebrating the Great Wine Capitals of the World link between Adelaide and Verona.
THIS WEEKS WINE REVIEW:
The wine being reviewed this week is called KEITH, named after Keith Genders the father of the remarkable “one man band” (woman), DIANA GENDERS, who literally is GENDERS WINES. With the exception of pruning and picking, when she calls in some temporary help, the rest of the year the affable Diana does every single thing in the vineyard and winery herself.
In 1967 the pioneering Keith Genders and wife Rosemary started GENDERS WINES. It was the first new winery to be established in McLaren Vale in 50 years. That was 51 years ago! How many new wineries have been established in the Vales over the last 50 years? I would estimate that it is somewhere between 50 and 100.
Keith used to sell his Shiraz Grenache blend as “dry red” because in those days, a wine labelled Shiraz Grenache would, as Keith put it, “never sell”. Diana has named her Shiraz Grenache after her wonderful and pioneering dad.
GENDERS 2013 McLAREN VALE ‘KEITH’ SHIRAZ GRENACHE: Old vine, single vineyard, this wine has been given all the TLC in the world, and it shows. At five-years-old (current release) it has a massively deep, brooding, purpley/red colour, with plenty of elegant vanillin oak on the bouquet coupled with appealing plum characters and a good dollop of spices.
On the palate it is a big mouthful but with smooth, rich flavours which are developing quite a degree of harmonious complexity, and has a divine long, lingering finish.
This is a very classy wine that is still evolving and will live for a very long time if cellared properly. TRULY OUTSTANDING! www.genderswines.com.auKeith would be very proud to have his name being on such a great wine. Cheers!