“Will you run a wine tasting for me?” That’s a request I hear (fortunately!) quite frequently. After discussing a few practical aspects – numbers, dates, venue – I usually ask whether the client has a particular theme in mind. Different grape varieties, a ‘battle’ between Old World and New World wines or an individual country or region are popular choices and all make for good tastings. But, occasionally, someone will send me in a very different direction.
“Can we have a tasting of Eastern European wines” was a recent request – a first, as far as I can recall. And, of course, I said yes; it depends how you define ‘Eastern Europe’ -Germany, Austria and Hungary all make lovely wines – although I did recommend including South-Eastern Europe as well (Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and the former Yugoslav republics) as this would make a better and more varied evening.
So, do these countries produce anything worth drinking? Absolutely, yes! And, because they’re unfashionable, the wines they make are often remarkable value. You can even find them at High Street outlets – 3 of the bottles I selected were from Majestic and the other 3 from Waitrose.
Among the favourites on the night were Puklavec’s tangy, fresh Sauvignon Blanc/Pinot Grigio from Slovenia (Waitrose, £7.99) and Aemilia’s chunky, dark-fruited Macedonian Shiraz/Vranac blend (also Waitrose, £7.49) – both brilliant value. But the clear winner was from Romania: Incanta’s Pinot Noir (Majestic, £6.99, if you buy it as part of a mixed 6 bottle case). Quite pale in colour (a fact, not a criticism) and reasonably light-bodied (only 12% alcohol) but full of lovely red fruit flavours – strawberries and redcurrants – and a clean, savoury, if slightly short, finish. This is an easy drinking yet satisfying wine that would work well on its own on a summer evening in the garden, slightly chilled, perhaps, or to accompany a seared tuna steak or baked chicken breast; nothing too heavy or robust to overwhelm it, though.
If the thought of a tasting like this (not necessarily the same theme) appeals and you’re close to Bristol, please leave me a message in the Comment box and I’ll get back to you.