Ever since the collapse of the U.S.S.R., satellite states of the “union” have been struggling to expand their export markets beyond Russia that replaced the collapsed state.
Georgia, due to political reasons, lost the lucrative Russian market, as did Moldova.
Hungary had the vision to export to Western Europe and North America, albeit only inexpensive wines (except Tokaji) and competed on price. Now, Hungarian quality wines cost more or less according to international norms and must compete with Spanish, Italian, and South American wines (Argentina and Chile).
Greece made huge improvements due to financial support from the EU head office in Brussels, and during this tasting Greek wines appeared to be favourites of more than a few wine writers.
Red Bulgarian wines also fared well with their ripe fruit aromas, balance, and appealing flavours.
Romania produces huge quantities in Cotnari, Transylvania, and on the Black Sea coast.
Like most eastern European palates, Romanians favour off dry to sweet wines, and wineries continue to cater to their main market. Several of the Romanian and white and red wines tasted were off dry to sweet, and only one tasted really dry.
Moldova once exported the majority of its wines to Russia. Now, the Russian government has decided to claim that Moldavian wines fail to comply with strict Russian hygienic requirements and therefore cannot be imported. Moldavian wineries spend considerable efforts to capture market share in western European and North American markets.
Croatia has been producing wine for centuries and some of the red wines are truly fine and flavourful, but due to marketing and financial reasons is less well known and accepted in North America.
Macedonia, now a republic is one-third its original historic size. The other parts are in Bulgaria and Greece. Macedonia was once a powerful country and Alexander The Great lead military campaigns as Far East as western India.
Macedonia produces a significant amount of wine, but its wines are less well-known in North America.
Recommended white wines
Poligious Sideways, 2012, Ktima Biblia Chora, Greece
(85 per cent chardonnay, 15 assyrtiko)
A pleasant low acid but high alcohol (14 per cent ABV), fruity wine that is ready to enjoy with light foods.
Chardonnay, 2013, Château Purcari, Romania
Pale yellow colour, fruity, fresh, clean, dry, and well balanced. Long aftertaste.
Graso De Cotnari, 2013, Cotnari, S.A., Romania
Deep yellow with greenish hues. Floral and fruity. Light, off dry with refreshing acidity. Long aftertaste. A fine wine for patio enjoyment, or to sue for fruit bowls.
Sauvignon Blanc, 2013, Gilvesy, Hungary
A well made sauvignon blanc with subtle grassy flavour, and medium body. Well balanced, appealing with a long aftertaste. Try with pan-fried scallops, or shrimp in a cream and dill sauce, or grilled shrimps.
Available as a special import. Approximately $ 21.00
Irsai Oliver, 2013, A typical floral fruity wine with an excellent balance and deep flavour.
Yellow Muscat, 2013, Puklus Pinsczeti, Huignary
Deep yellow colour. Fruity, well balanced, off dry, deeply flavoured. Enjoy on its own, or with ripe peaches, nectarines or apricots.
Tokaji Three Puttonyos, 2013, Puklus Pincszeti, Hungary
Deep yellow with brown hues. Raisiny nose. Relatively high alcohol
( 13 per cent ABV). Too sweet.
Rose, 2014, Ktima Biblia Chora, Greece
Made from 100 per cent syrah grapes, this excellent wine exudes ripe berry aromas, is dry, light, and eminently enjoyable on its own or with light foods.
Petit Fleur, 2014, Parparoussis, Greece
Lighter than standard rose colour. Very delicate and fruity. Clean flavours. Mid weight, and well balanced.
Single Vineyard Kekfrankos, 2013, J and J, Eger, Hungary
Dark vibrant red. Exudes dark ripe berry aromas. In the mouth, this full bodied wine (13 per cent ABV) reveals its true deep layers of flavours. Long aftertaste.
approximate price as a special import $ 24.95
Melnik, 2011, Orbelus, Croatia (Unfiltered)
Brilliant red. Deeply flavoured and fruity. Well balanced, but needs cellaring for at least four to five years.
Avgoustiatis, 2011, Ktima Brintzikis, Greece
Deep dark ruby. Dried raspberries, plums, cinnamon cloves dominate the nose. In the mouth the wine offers integrated and velvety tannins.
Biblinos Oenos, 2009, Ktima Biblia Chora, Greece
Dark violet with blueberry tinges. Aromas of pomegranate, ripe raspberries and rose petals dominate. In the mouth flavours of luscious red fruits, chocolate, and dried herbs can be discerned. An elegant and well-structured wine.
Vranec, 2012, Strobi, Macedonia
Crimson colour. A full bodied, powerful (14.5 per cent ABV) wine. Well extracted, balanced, but needs cellaring fro four to five years. 88/100
Available September 19 at Vintages
Syrah/Merlot, 2012, Strambolova Estates, Croatia
Aromas of ripe strawberries and raspberries greet the nose. Full bodied, intense with a long aftertaste.
Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011, Lovico, Bulgaria
Well extracted, fruity, deeply flavoured.
All Greek wines recommended are available at the L C B O (store number 4 on Danforth avenue, Toronto)