14 best Eastern European wines
Often overlooked, vineyards from Georgia to Romania are having a moment
There used to be a certain sniffiness about Eastern European wines. They were treated as unwelcome attendees at the wine-lover’s party – OK if you wanted a cheap bottle of plonk but were never granted a place at the top table.
But now all that’s changed. With technology and knowhow often imported from Western Europe, a whole range of top-quality wines are now available at prices that won’t break the bank from countries such as Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Croatia and Georgia.
Kovács Nimród Monopole Blues kékfrankos 2015 75cl 12.5%: All About Wine, £13.29
A wine that’s named after a type of music has to have something going for it and this doesn’t disappoint.
The Kovács Nimród vineyards in Hungary’s Eger wine region enjoy a similar climate to that of Burgundy and this rich red made from the local kékfrankos grape and aged for 22 months in oak has oodles of red berry and red fruit flavours combined with an earthy minerality. Goes well with cheese, pork or lamb.
Majestic Loves grüner veltliner 2017 75cl 12.5%: Majestic, £6.99
Grüner Veltliner is a white-wine grape variety that’s found in Austria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and in this case, Hungary.
Fruity, refreshing but dry, this wine is a superb summer tipple with citrus and orchard hints and a dash of minerality. Great as an aperitif and wonderful value at under £7 a bottle.
Kronos pinot noir limited edition 2014 75cl 13%: Ocado, £8.99
Produced in a limited edition of just 6,600 bottles this is a rich, velvety-smooth pinot noir from the southern Carpathian wine-growing region of Dealu Mare in Romania.
Matured in French oak, there’s barrel loads of soft fruit flavours with notes of vanilla, spice and herbs. Enjoy with lamb, turkey or duck or even grilled fish.
Paparuda sauvignon blanc 2017 75cl 12%: Tanners, £7.40
From the Cramele Recas winery, established by Bristol-born Philip Cox in the Banat region outside Timisoara in western Romania, comes a refreshing and fruity sauvignon blanc.
With its citrussy, grapefruit-like flavour and hints of forest and tropical fruits, it’s the perfect wine to accompany summer salads with goat’s cheese or light grilled meat dishes.
Krasno sauvignon blanc Ribolla Gialla 2017 75cl 13%: Majestic, £9.99
From the north of Slovenia comes this little beauty which would sell for a lot more were it produced a few miles away across the border in Italy.
A blend blend of sauvignon blanc and the Italian/Slovenian ribolla gialla grapes, it’s shot through with lashings of green apple and hints of elderflower and herbs. A definite summer staple.
Egy Kis Furmint 2017 75cl 13%: Corney & Barrow, £13.95
A product of the famed Tokaji wine region of Hungary, this vibrant dry white is made from the local furmint grape which is also used in the production of the area’s famous dessert wines.
Lots of summer and orchard fruit flavours here with notes of apricot and lime with a dash of salty minerality. One to enjoy at summer picnics.
Rhea Vigonier 2014 75cl 13.5%: Ocado, £8.99
From the British-owned Cramele Halewood winery in Romania, the country’s second largest producer and exporter of Romanian wines, comes this limited edition (only 6,600 bottles) of vigonier, an aromatic and potent white wine grape that originated in France’s Rhone Valley.
Expect lots of fragrant summer flavours with notes of blossom, peach and mango.
Waitrose Blueprint Romanian pinot noir 2017 75cl 13%: Waitrose, £6.99
Produced and bottled by Cramele Halewood for the Waitrose Blueprint range this is an inexpensive but elegant Dealu Mare pinot noir with an abundance of red and soft fruit flavours.
It’s an ideal match for roast chicken or other poultry dishes.
Vazisubani Estate Saperavi Qvevri Wine 75cl 13%: Slurp, £19.95
Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world and this red has been produced in the traditional method where the wine is fermented in subterranean terracotta amphoras or “qvevri”.
Made from the Georgian saperavi grape it’s also unfiltered, leaving you to wallow in ripe cherry and soft fruits with pleasing tannins. Can be enjoyed now or kept for many years to come.
Kovács Nimród Monopole 777 pinot noir 2015 75cl 13%: All About Wine, £13.50
A product of the 20-acre Nyilasmár and 30-acre Nagyfai Estates of the Kovács Nimród winery in the Eger wine region of north-east Hungary.
A ravishing and complex pinot noir, it has raspberry, blackcurrant and cherry flavours all jostling for your attention. while lengthy ageing in oak barrels gives it a velvet smoothness.
Korlat cabernet sauvignon 2013 75cl 13%: Winebuyers, £12.49
The Korlat vineyard in Croatia’s Dalmatia region borders the Adriatic, where imported cabernet sauvignon vines from France took to the local terroir producing a rich and full-bodied wine with lashings of plum and dark berries and notes of spice and pepper.
Enjoy it now with strong and mature blue cheeses or roast lamb or it can be kept for at least another four years or so.
Korona Egri Bikavér Bull's Blood 2015 75cl 13%: Slurp, £14.95
Even those with only a passing knowledge of Hungarian wines will have heard of Bull’s Blood. Legend has 16th-century Turkish invaders were met with wine-soaked Hungarian soldiers whom they mistook for bloodied warriors.
Whatever the truth, the wine a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, kekfrankos grapes is still a winner and the ideal accompaniment to rich and meatly dishes such as goulash.
Ante Sladić Plavina 2016 12.5% 75cl: Winebuyers, £9.81
Another Croatian favourite, this comes from close to the Adriatic near the Krka National Park, an area where the outstanding beauty is matched by the quality of wine.
Family-owned, the winery has been transformed in recent years thanks to the youngest family member Ante who uses traditional methods allied to modern technology to produce a luscious and lively red wine made from the local plavina grape.
Megyer Tokaj Furmint 2015 75cl 13.5%: Slurp, £14.51
Hungary’s most famous white wine grape, furmint, brings a lively and refreshing edge to this dry white, with its citrus notes, hedgerow vitality and pleasing acidity.
The product of an estate bought by Frenchman Jean-Louis Laborde in 1991 soon after he end of communism, furmint is gaining a growing number of adherents in the wider wine world.
Best buy is the flavoursome and fruity Kovács Nimród Monopole Blues Kékfrankos.
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