Years ago, the most well-known wine-day to the general (rather than the oenophile) British public was the day that Beaujolais Nouveau was released. The popular press was concerned with reporting, and sponsoring, teams of drivers, pilots and even parachutists to win a race to get the wine to London. The evening was often marked by Beaujolais Nouveau parties. I think I attended one last in the early 1980s, and I recall nothing of that evening, although the next morning is one I haven’t been able to forget….

That date is the 3rd Thursday of November, so this year it’s 15th November 2018 – and (un-)coincidentally the occasion for a Beaujolais tasting for the WING group at the ICC.

The nouveau isn’t that great a wine, frankly – but it has contributed to an image for Beaujolais as light, chillable, wine best consumed young… which is only part of the story…

Red Beaujolias (about 1% of Beaujolais is Chardonnay) is made from the Gamay grape. Gamay is thin-skinned and light in colour giving light-bodied, fruity and aromatic wines. The grapes are typically trained in gobelet (or similar) and hand picking is compulsory. Experiments are done with cordon royat and machine harvest. The soil is mainly granite and limestone clay, with granite proportions increasing the further North you are.

Beaujolais produces pretty close to 100m bottles every year, there are 3 appellation (AOC/AOP) categories and 12 AOC/AOPs:

  • Beaujolais (about 35% of all Beaujolais, a little over half sold as Nouveau)
  • Beaujolais Villages, from 38 villages in the Northern half of the area, but without the village name on the bottle (about 27%, about a third Nouveau)
  • The Beaujolais Cru, 10 village areas on the best sites where the village is mentioned on the label, each with its own AOC/AOP (about 38%, no Nouveau).

These areas are located as shown on this map:

The area, as you can see, is south of the Mâcon vineyards of Burgundy, and the area counts as part of Burgundy for most general description. In fact there are some Chardonnay vineyards that are to the South of the most northerly Gamay vineyards of Beaujolais (e.g. around Saint-Vérand or Chânes where Macon, Saint-Véran, Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages vineyards form a entangled patchwork).

Really the Nouveau is a lower level wine, even if it comes from the Villages area. So a quality proportion is better shown in this Wine Folly graphic…

The issue with Beaujolais is this: while the description of fresh, fruity, chillable and especially youthful wine does fit the bottom tier, and some of the middle tier – it certainly doesn’t fit the Cru wines. They show the qualities of Gamay – freshness, fruit, suppleness… in a much more serious package, varying greatly across the 10 Cru, with wines that improve with age and in some cases last for 7-10 years…

Part of the reason for all this variation is the relatively uncommon method of making the wine called Carbonic Maceration. I say uncommon, meaning in the wine world – but it is a main way of vinifying Gamay in Beaujolais.

Carbonic Maceration does not use yeast to start fermentation. Whole bunches of grapes are placed in vats, which are then sealed and filled with CO2 to remove the oxygen.

This triggers a process within the grapes known as intracellular fermentation. Once alcohol levels reach around 2% abv, the grape skins split and release their juice. Carbonic maceration extracts some colour from the grapes but little tannin, generally creating red wines that are light in colour, low in tannin and which have a soft, fruity character.

Also the process produces esters such as ethyl cinnamate in higher quantities than normal, giving rise to flavours such as raspberry, strawberry, banana and bubblegum…

Wines made in this style include Beaujolais Nouveau and are often best when drunk young and sometimes even lightly chilled.

More serious wines are more likely to be made using semi-carbonic maceration. A similar method which does not include filling the vats with CO2. Here, the vat is filled with the whole bunches, the weight of the grapes on the top crushes the ones below, releasing the juice. Yeast ferments the fruit and releases CO2, kick-starting carbonic maceration in the remaining un-burst grapes.

Both carbonic methods only create a small amount of alcohol, so once it is completed, the grapes are pressed off the skins and yeast completes the fermentation process in the normal way. Again, some more serious makers might use some oak in making the wines.

However for producers of wine in the Cru areas little – if any – of the wine will be produced like this. Instead the wines will be vinified normally, showing the real character of the Gamay grape…

If you look at any source of reference for Beaujolais Cru Wines they will give you a list of the individual characteristics of the 10 Cru. However although there are general similarities they are all a bit different. For example here are four description of typical Chiroubles: “tart cherry, raspberry, rose petal and violet”; “elegant aromas of violets, peony, red currant and cherry”; “violet, orange blossom, peony and raspberry” and “delicate red berry fruit and violet notes”… You get the idea…

So here’s a typical – but not definitive – idea of each of the 10 Cru’s typical character (listed from North to South):

  • Saint-Amour: Elegant aromas of red currant, iris and plum
  • Juliénas: Bold aromas of strawberry, violets, cinnamon, and red currant
  • Chénas: Medium-Bold aromas of rose and peony and spicy woodsy notes with age
  • Moulin-à-Vent: Bold aromas of cherry, violets and black currant
  • Fleurie: Elegant aromas of black currant, peach, iris and violets
  • Chiroubles: Elegant aromas of violets, peony, red currant and cherry
  • Morgon: Bold aromas of cherry, peach, plum and violets
  • Régnié: Medium-Bold aromas of raspberry and black currant with a hint of spiciness
  • Côte de Brouilly: Medium-Bold aromas of iris, plum and fresh grapes
  • Brouilly: Bold raspberry, ripe peach and a touch of soil

In the November Tasting we are going to concentrate only on the Cru Beaujolais. We’ll try 6 all from the same year and producer. Notes will be posted in 5 or 6 days.

À Bientôt


On Monday 5th November – a smokey night in Nottingham – Anna & Paul led us through a tasting of six McLaren Vale Wines from D’Arenberg – all based on Grencahe and/or Syrah and/or Mourvèdre.

D’Arenberg  was established in 1912, and the winemaking is now in the hands of the fourth generation, Chester Osborn who says: “I aim to make the loudest, most aromatic, fruit-flavoured wines that have great palate texture and are free of obvious oak: I look for tannins that are long, lively, gritty and youthful with fragrant fruit minerality.”

200 hectares of vines are used to make d’Arenberg’s wines (both estate and leased vineyards) and they are all certified organic and biodynamic. This makes them the largest biodynamic grower in Australia. Furthermore, 50% of the estate’s own vineyards are more than 50 years old, which fits well with the estate’s “mission”.

Altogether d’Arenberg make 72 different wines (probably the largest range in Australia) from 37 varieties grown on over 400 different parcels.

Every white and red wine is pressed in old wooden basket presses, with each red ferment foot-trodden too. Red ferments take place in five tonne open fermenters with wooden hammer boards to submerge the cap.

Do the wines match the mission? Let’s see – here are my notes:

(85% Grenache with Syrah + 1% Viognier). Plums to the fore initially and some leaf-mould, vegetal notes, spice and a hint of sawdust…. The palate has supple fruit with a warm cherry-liqueur middle, quite long with sharper and savoury elements and a soft tannic frame…

Darker than the previous wine, more blackberry flavours with a port hint – liquorice, baking spice… Palate has salinity and peppery sweet fruit, tannins and port hints re-surface – very big but wearing its size relatively well.

This is pretty well 50:50 of its constituent grapes. 40 years ago this was launched as “Burgundy” and retains the bottle shape. Very intense dark fruit nose with woody hints. Palate is rich – one might say heavy – with sweet briary fruit with an earthy touch and not much to counter-point it, Big but not, strangely, really very vinous. Not at all like any Burgundy I’ve ever drunk (and there has been a bit….)!

(GSM:: 48:46:6 from rock-based shallow soil). Very fruit driven nose – plums, damsons and black fruit… The palate is pliant with rich but quite firm tannins framing the long warm fruit. The tannins add balance but this needs food, in the same spectrum as a big S. Rhone village.

From old vines, this has open fruity nose, plums again recalling wine 1, but fresher, longer and subtler even though there are woody hints. Palate has supple fruit with a good acidity and spicy tannins giving a cool three-way balance… Lovely!

This is from vines that have lost branches to a vine disease caused by Eutypa Lata. One half, or an arm of the vine slowly becomes reduced to dead wood. The grapes on the other side, while very low yielding display amazing intensity. The nose of this is brooding black fruit, tight with slight tarry and woody hints. The palate is also tarry, showing sharp fruit-acid with mineral earth notes, spices again and a big structure in recess… Behind all this there is a very sweet fruit and (to my palate) a hint of that saltiness waiting to evolve. Tried again an hour later that proves true: a very big, very well made, relatively balanced version of big McLaren Shiraz.

These are very interesting wines, which certainly fall in with the winemakers aims. They are big  (they are all 14.2 – 14.6 % abv!) and to my palate some area bit too big. Certainly within the Australian vernacular, if you like that, these wines have a lot to recommend them. I appreciated all the wines – except for D’Arry’s Original – but the wines I really liked were the Grenaches. With the Derelict winning the night.

An excellent tour around this part of the wine world! Thanks so much Ann and Paul…

À Bientôt

The group met and Kim’s on Friday 26th October  for an evening of blind Tasting…

Here are my notes:

This is from very near Nottingham, and made from Madeleine Angevine with Seyval Blanc and a little of the trio of Champagne Grapes. Nutty nose with savoury undertones and some gradually developing citrus. Slightly gluey with a bitter sweet pithy palate and a citrus lift also growing, quite light with a sherbet fizz….

ALSACE RIESLING “LES PIERRETS” 2004 (Josmeyer)          Laurie  
Quite a dark, evolved colour, showing just a hint of apply oxidation on the nose – but pale in comparison to the nutty and diesel aromas with hints of elderflower and peach. Oily palate with a round dashing acidity – quince and lime, underlying a sweet evolved stone fruit peak – long and quite warm. Lots of secondary flavours but still some youthful dash – rather nice!

“LÁGRIMAS DE MARIA”  2016 (Rioja)         Sue Mc   
This is 90% Viura with Tempranillo Blanco (a mutation of the red). Very light nose with hints of pear and a herby/woody note. The palate follows the same line as the nose – with a citrus hint and little more stone fruit.

“LES IV PIERRE” 2016 (Domaine d’Archimbaud)           Ann
This is from Saint-Saturnin, a little inland from Montpellier. The nose is peach (from 70% Viognier) with pithy and green herb hints, richness and some warmth show too (it is 20% Grenache Blanc and 10% Muscat!). The palate is quite oily and viscous with spicy warmth and good acidity cutting through, rather a good Viognier+!

ROERO ARNEIS 2017 (Marco Porello)          Mike
Slightly sweet fruit nose with an apple sharpness a little reminiscent of some Chenin. Palate has orchard fruit, warmth but quite stringent acidity. I rather liked this and thought it would match a smoked salmon starter very well…

GRANAT ST. LAURENT 2017 (Pfaffl)           Yvonne
This wine, from Niderösterreich, has a big red-fruit nose with Germolene hints and some herbs. The palate has more herbs with damson, sour cherry and raspberry fruit. Good acidity and green notes lift the big fruit making a vibrant and fresh red in the Cabernet Franc / Mencia spectrum. I rather liked this, refreshing and food-friendly…

This is a Tenerife wine made from the Baboso Negro grape (the Spanish synonym of the Portuguese grape Alfrocheiro Preto, better known in the Dão and Alentejo). This has a big red fruit nose showing damsons, spice and a greener herbal element. Palate has an acid-fruit line with a slightly sour plum impression. Decidedly in the slightly saline Syrah-ish spectrum a surprisingly fresh, good example.

PETITE PETIT 2015 (Michael David – Lodi)     Sue T  
Made from 85% Petite Sirah (which might be Durif) and 15% Petit Verdot. This is about as “petite” as the elephants on the label. Soft fruit-driven nose, with some oak hints, leads to a (very!) sweet fruit palate – supple, even soft – warm, concentrated and only slightly counter-pointed by some tannins.  Rather too typically sweet, “Californian” for my taste.

RINGBOLT CABERNET SAUVIGNON  2017 (Margaret River)       Rob
Very Cab. Sauv. nose: pencil lead; blackcurrant; cedar; forest floor…. Palate has sharp dark fruit (suggesting but not really resembling blackcurrant) and round tannins – quite supple for its youth though I think a year or two would improve it!

CHARDONNAY DULCE ALB 2013 (Chateau Vartely – Moldova)       Kim
Nose has apricot, honey and passion fruit with some citric lift. The palate is very sweet – with a butterscotch tinge and a freshening lemon acidity, served with a choice of patisserie – for me it worked best with the tarte au citron…. Yum!

A great evening of wine, it’ll be no surprise to anyone that I preferred the wines that suggest food!! There was (though I say so myself) quite nice food, and it was very good to see people again after 7 weeks in France. Thanks for your hospitality Kim.

À Bientôt

The ICC group met on Thursday 18th October to taste wines from the Balkan region. It was an interesting tasting with a good range of wines from Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and the Macedonia region of Greece, all made from grapes indigenous to the Balkan peninsula. All wines were sourced from Novel Wines.



Here are my (very late) tasting notes:

Damjanic Malvasija Istarska 2016 – 13% – £14.95
I really liked this wine. It was quite grapey with some salinity as well as some honeyed and floral notes. It was well balanced with complexity and a long finish.
Quality 17/20              Value 17/20

Budureasca Premium Tamaioasa Romaneasca 2017 – 13% – £11.95
An interesting wine. Some sweetness but not too much and balanced by good acidity. Floral notes similar to Gewurztraminer. Well balanced and enjoyable but not as complex as the previous.
Quality 15/20                          Value 15/20

Terra Tangra Tamianka Muskat 2016 – 14% – £15.95
Like the last wine, this is also made from a local clone of the Muscat grape. Similar sweet character to the last wine. Flavours of grape, peach and honeysuckle. Slight warmth from the alcohol but not unpleasant.
Quality 14/20                          Value 13/20

Chateau Purcari Maluri de Prut 2015 – 13.5% – £17.95
This Moldovan wine is made from local the local grapes Feteasca Neagra (90%) and Rara Neagra (10%). Quite soft and velvety on the palate with some plum and raisin along with vanilla and spice. This wine divided opinion with some enjoying its soft fruit, spice and vanilla notes and others finding it too oaky. Whilst it was probably my least favourite red, I did find it very drinkable though may have gone for something else at that price.
Quality 14/20                          Value 12/20

Franc Arman Teran Barrique 2013 – 13.5% – £19.50
I was slightly nervous about this wine after reading that Teran doesn’t age well and can turn flat and bitter after a year or so. However, this 2013 Croatian Teran was actually pretty good, made better by the knowledge that Novel Wines are now selling it on their website for £25.99! Full bodied with flavours or cherry and vanilla along with some herbal, earthy notes. Smooth tannins and a long finish. An enjoyable wine!
Quality 16/20                          Value 16/20 (in view of its later price increase)

Alpha Estate Hedgehog Single Vineyard Xinomavro 2012 – 14% – £18.50
This was my favourite red. For me it had good flavour complexity with black fruit and plum complemented by black pepper and leather. Well balanced with smooth tannins and a long finish.
Quality 17/20                          Value 16/20

Apologies for the lateness of these notes. See you all soon,

Brigitte. x

While I was away – tasting in action, in the Loire, nearly 3 weeks ago John and Ann presented the W1NG group with a tasting of six 2013 wines from Bordeaux – one each from 6 well-known appellations: Haut-Médoc; Pauillac; Margaux; Graves; Saint Emilion and Pomerol.

I have had the notes from John for a while but didn’t want to post them when they would be immediately over-taken by the the Balkan scene-setting post. So now there will be a window for 3 or 4 days – here they are:

The wine had been purchased from the Wine Society Bordeaux 2013 en primeur offer and one of the aims of the evening was to try and see how easy it might be to work out not only which were left bank/right bank but also to see if we could work out the appellation itself? This was always likely to be challenging especially as some of the wines were not necessarily typical. 2013 was also a difficult vintage with very problematic weather conditions and a particularly small harvest. Wine for early drinking rather than cellaring, the Wine Society suggested. The Wine Society had also commented that it was producers, rather than communes, that succeeded or failed to make good wine in this vintage and that the en primeur offer recommended those that stood out as the best within the class. A test of the Wine Society as well possibly?

The wines were served blind, the first two together and the last two together. A very basic “crib sheet” was provided which attempted to highlight the differing aromas and flavours that we might expect to find in wines from the different communes and the different grapes. Once each wine, or pair of wines was tasted, the group shared their thoughts and suggested which region the wines might be from. Only following that, was the bottle unveiled. Some of the tasting notes below come from notes made on the night (largely illegible), some from the producer’s notes and some from other available notes.

Clos Floridène, Graves – Cabernet  Sauvignon 65%, Merlot 35%. £15.00.
This was actually on limestone soil rather than gravel based soil as might have been expected. The estate is quite far south in Graves, close to the border with Sauternes. Some blackcurrant and strawberry aromas, mint, liquorice and smokiness. Quite chunky. Not bad for the price. The majority thought this had more characteristics of the right bank.

Château Beaumont, Haut-Medoc – Cabernet Sauvignon 55%, Merlot 43%, Petit Verdot 2%. £14.30
This was from the Haut-Medoc region in the area to the north of Margaux but south of Saint Julien in reasonably gravelly soils. Some cassis and damson fruit. A little thin on the palate with some bitterness and quite typical of a difficult vintage. Probably the group’s least favourite. The group was split as to whether this was left or right bank.

Château Grand Corbin-Despagne, Saint Emilion  – Merlot 75%, Cabernet Franc 24% Cabernet Sauvignon 1%. £21
This estate is actually very close to the border between Saint Emilion and Pomerol and is on a mix of clay and sandstone soils. Quite a fresh palate. Some cassis and liquorice and pencil lead. Quite firm but fine tannins. The group mainly thought this was left bank (Pauillac possibly) and only one person correctly identified this as the Saint Emilion. Well done Mike!

Château Gran-Puy-Lacoste, Lacoste Borie, Pauillac –   Cabernet Sauvignon 75%, Merlot 20%, Cabernet Franc 5%. £19.30.
This is probably the best known Chateau and is the only producer in the tasting that was included in the 1855 classification (as a 5th growth). We were drinking the estate’s second wine which comes from “a magnificent gravel terroir”. Aromas of red fruits which became more complex when left in the glass for 20 minutes. Quite elegant. Some spice and toastiness on the palate. Soft and round. Generally felt to be a step up on the previous wines. The group were torn between whether this was a Pomerol or a Pauillac but, after consultation of the “crib sheet”, Pauillac won through.

Château Angludet, Margaux – Cabernet Sauvignon 56%,  Merlot 32%, Petit Verdot 12%. £30.
This is from the heart of Margaux and is surrounded by Cru Classé properties. The soil is a mix of gravel and medium sized pebbles with some sand. This had some aromas of both black and red fruits with a little spice. Good structure and smooth tannins. Possibly being drunk a little young but seemed to be opening up and going up a level just as we finished it! The group drunk this together with the Pomerol and we pretty much unanimously agreed that it was the Pomerol.

Château Bourgneuf, Pomerol – Merlot 90%, Cabernet Franc 10%. £28.50.
This estate is situated on the slope of the Pomerol plateau. Upper slopes are pure clay, becoming more sandy moving down the slope, and becoming quite gravelly on the lower portions. Some toasted oak on the nose followed quickly by ripe fruit. Juicy with firm tannins and maybe some chocolate and nuts in there. As mentioned above, after much debate (and much wine) we tended towards this being a Margaux.

It is not immediately obvious what we can draw out of this tasting other than it is far easier guessing the provenance of a bottle when one isn’t doing it blind! The fact that it was far from a great vintage certainly did not help. Different producers within a commune can of course produce very different wines, so trying to guess a region from what may have been atypical producers, was never going to prove to be easy, and so it turned out! We tended to feel that we would have been comfortable picking the wines as Bordeaux, but picking left bank against right bank was more difficult than we had imagined it might be, and getting any further than that, on the wines tasted at least, was pretty much impossible.

Hopefully an interesting tasting nonetheless!

Corkmaster adds: “I’m sure this tasting was more revealing than John (modestly) claims. I’m not that surprised that the “Corbin” seemed firmer than expected (the same can be said of other famous Corbyns – perhaps?); or the D’Angludet seemed young (they invariably take time); or the Puy-Lacoste showed well… Though I’m not sure I would have slotted any into the correct appellations, it’s a pity I couldn’t be there…”


À Bientôt

The Balkans, or Balkan peninsula, consists of a number of countries in south-eastern Europe. It is variously defined but is generally said to include the countries of Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Kosovo, Slovenia, and parts of Greece and Turkey.

For the purposes of our tasting on Thursday evening, it also includes Moldova (mainly because I thought it was a Balkan state when I was sourcing the wine). In fact, I’ve learnt a lot about the countries and geography of south-eastern Europe in my preparation for this tasting, including about the (currently very topical) dispute over the name ‘Macedonia’. Anyway, I won’t go into this now; maybe we can discuss it over our (Greek) Macedonian wine on Thursday evening!


So, on Thursday night we’ll be trying a couple of Croatian wines as well as one wine each from Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova and the Northern Greek region of Macedonia. Hence, these are the countries I’ll attempt to give a bit of background on in this blog…

To start with though, a bit of an overview. What do all of these countries have in common? Well, one thing is an extremely long history of wine making, dating back at least 3,000 years in each case. The Croatian island of Hvar lays claim to having the world’s oldest continuously cultivated viticultural site, dating back to the 4th century BC. The beginnings of viticulture in Romania are claimed to date back 4,000 years and there is archaeological evidence that the vine was widely grown in the area now known as Moldova millions of years ago.

Another similarity is the recent improvement in the standard of wine coming out of these countries, as the focus has shifted from producing quantity to a greater focus on quality. In many cases this has come about following the end of the Eastern Bloc and the more recent accession of these countries to the EU, with its funds becoming available to modernise and improve wine making practices.

So, lets look at these wine producing countries individually in a little more detail…


Croatia’s wine industry has seen much success since the country gained independence from the former Yugoslavia. Quite a bit of this success is probably down to the fact that it has become a hugely popular tourist destination with visitors vastly outnumbering residents and creating a big market for the country’s wine.

Croatia lies between 46 and 42° N and has a wide range of climatic influences. There are two very different climates for grape growing in the country: the inland continental climate and coastal Mediterranean climate.

The country grows around 200 different grape varieties, 60 of which are indigenous. Their most widely grown grape is the white Graševina (Welschriesling) which accounts for about 23% of the total vineyard area of Croatia.

On Thursday we will be tasting a red and a white, both from the coastal region of Istria and both varietal wines made from indigenous grape varieties.



In terms of quantity, Romania is the region’s most important wine producer. For a long time it was the fifth largest producer in Europe, but like many other countries in the Balkans, it has more recently sacrificed quantity for a greater focus on quality.

Romania is mountainous and has a climate suited to viticulture. It lies mainly on the same latitude as France but is more continental. Summers are warm but temperatures aren’t often excessive and winter temperatures are moderated by the Black Sea.

The Romanians themselves are big wine drinkers. They import more than they export and statistics show that they were consuming 6.8 gallons per capita in 2012. This figure does not include vast amounts of black-market wine which is sold in markets and at roadsides, and which is estimated to account for about 50% of all wine consumed.

Just under 60% of Romanian wine is white. Traditionally this was made in a semi-dry or semi-sweet style, but there is now more movement towards drier styles. The two white grapes, Fetească Alba and Fetească Regala, are the country’s most planted, followed by Welschriesling. Merlot is the most widely planted red variety followed by Cabernet Sauvignon. Fetească Neagră is gaining vineyard area and Romanian Pinot Noir is popular in some export markets. The Romanian wine we’ll be tasting on Thursday is an off-dry white, made from an indigenous variety. But we will be tasting a Fetească Neagră blend from neighbouring Moldova and there will also be a Romanian Pinot Noir up for grabs for the quiz winner at the end of the night!


Moldova shares many similarities with neighbouring Romania, including a good thirst for wine. Domestic consumption of homemade wines is estimated at 10 gallons per capita, with many households owning their own small vineyards and cellars.

It has an ideal climate and landscape for viticulture and has the biggest density of vineyards in the world, covering 3.8 per cent of its territory and 7 per cent of its arable land, according to official statistics. The industry is very important for the country’s economy, accounting for a significant percentage of GDP, exports and agricultural output.

Moldova has hundreds of vineyards that host wine festivals, including the big estates. These estates, such as Cricova, Purcari and Chateau Vartely, are also known for their extensive wine cellars. More like an underground town, the streets of the famous ‘Cricova’ wine cellar, which are named after grape varieties, exceed 100km in combined length.



Bulgaria has a continental climate with temperature extremes in the summer and winter despite its proximity to the Black Sea.

In the early 1980s, Bulgaria was the fourth biggest exporter of bottled wines worldwide, and a lot of it came to Britain. This export success was largely built on its Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Bulgarian wine industry went through a slump from the mid-1980s onwards following Gorbachev’s campaign to curb alcohol consumption in the Soviet Union, which involved uprooting large areas of Bulgarian vineyard. This was followed by the end of communism and free market reforms which had further adverse consequences for the industry. It is only recently, with Bulgaria’s entry to the EU and access to EU funding that things are beginning to turn around.

Bulgaria’s officially declared wine production in 2013 was 1.8 million hl, but as with some of its other Balkan neighbours, there is also a significant black market. In 2013, 35% of Bulgarian wine was sold within Bulgaria. Russia is still the leading export market, followed by Poland, the Czech Republic, and Romania.

Red varieties account for about 63% of plantings. Whereas Bulgaria was once famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot has now overtaken it to become the country’s most planted variety. Mavrud, Melnik, Pamid and Rubin are all local red varieties used to produce wines of varying quality. In addition to some crosses, which Bulgarian researchers have developed, recent plantings also include Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet Franc.

Bulgaria grows an interesting mix of white grapes including lots of varieties indigenous to the Balkan region. The most widely grown white grape is the Bulgarian pink-skinned Misket Cherven, or Red Misket. Chardonnay is the most popular international variety. We’ll be trying an indigenous white varietal from Bulgaria on Thursday.

Macedonia (Northern Greece)

The Macedonia region of Northern Greece is mostly noted for red wine, particularly from the native Xinomavro grape. Macedonia’s vineyards are the coolest in Greece and its three appellations, Naoussa, Amynteon and Goumenissa are considered to be among the country’s best. Macedonia has a continental climate, but also has the moderating effects of altitude and proximity to the sea. It is a mountainous region with elevations of up to 650m. Summer temperatures do not generally reach the extremes associated with Greece and there is sufficient rainfall for successful viticulture. Many of the vines here have reached very old age in the sandy, phylloxera-free soil and produce some of Greece’s most admired wines. We’ll be tasting a single vineyard varietal Xinomavro from Amynteon on Thursday; let’s hope it lives up to expectation.

See you there,

Brigitte. x

Hi everyone. Without me being present there was a Sock Party – kindly hosted by Yvonne  – on Friday September 28th.

I am sure everyone had too good a time, and/or was too busy catching up to supply the Oenological analysis and deathless prose that I normally provide (only kidding), but despite all this Ann has furnished us with a photo and some text about the wines consumed. Those present – or providing the wines – can amplify this with comments if they wish….

Welcome Fizz- Val de Salis, Blanc de Blanc, Pays d’Oc, Lidl
Green apples, sweet, hint of biscuit, more fruit than yeasty.

Sue – Lyarakis Vidiano-Assyrtiko 2017, Crete – Majestic WIGIG
Peachy, good acidity, stone fruit, salinity. Citrus, floral, sweet apple.Lengthy mineral aftertaste. Vidiano is an ancient white wine grape from Crete,Almsot extinct 25 years ago but undergoing revival.

Kathryn – Oliver Zeter Sauvignon Blanc, Pfalz, 2017, Weavers
Grassy, green pepper, some citrus, gooseberry on nose, intense

Ann – Mas Macia Suprem Blanc, Catalunya, 2015,  from French wine people, Matlock
A blend of cava grape Xarel-lo and Garnacha Blanc.Perfumed, florals, stone fruit, saline.

Yuan – Cims de Porrera Vi de Vila Blanc, Priorat,2015 – from winemaker
Garnacha Blanc, Macabeo, Pedro ximinez and Picpoli Blanc grapes

Yvonne – Paul Mas Réserve Languedoc Blanc 2017 – waitrose
Blend of Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Vermentino.

John – Domaine Font de Michelle, Châteauneuf du Pape 2010, Wine Society en primeur
65% Grenache , 20% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre

Mike – Swartland Limited release Mourvedre 2016, Majestic

Ann “thanks everyone for a fun night and especially to Yvonne for wonderful food and such warm welcome…”

Meanwhile I was in France celebrating my Birthday with duck and a very nice Maranges 2010 (Chevrot)… about halfway through a trip that began in the Loire and took in the Beaujolais, Macon and Chalonnais vineyards in the second week of September. Amazingly, in those places the harvest was under way – and in some cases finished. A week to 10 days early in most cases… even more amazing when you consider how the vines were a similar period behind when the season started in April…

This demonstrates the long hot dry summer after that late start, producing large and problem free crops and the fore-telling of great wine. I wonder, though, if shorter problem-free development is the source of great wine and if the products might be rich, powerful and a bit simple… Who knows, we’ll have to wait for a while yet to see…

À Bientôt

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