Are you hankering for something really different to drink during these last days of Summer? Try the wines of Eastern Europe, from sparkling to rosé, red to off-dry whites, and prepare yourself for a taste sensation unlike anything you’ve sipped before. Unusual doesn’t even begin to describe them, as their savory notes intertwined with fruit, very mineral driven. This is music to a wine geek’s heart, but will captivate all who encounter their charms. These wines demand your attention, as they reflect the terroir, culture, and history of Hungary, Croatia, and Slovenia.
At a recent Sundays at 3 tasting at Silverlake Wine, Stetson Robbins of Blue Danube Wine Company brought a fascinating cross-section of Eastern European wines, paired with Heirloom LA’s fabulous small plates. These wines are being introduced to wine drinkers in the US, and are just the tip of the invasion.
The Hungaria Grande Cuvee Brut NV from Hungary is a fresh sparkler, a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling, aromatic and feminine in character. This crisp 11% ABV sparkling wine has small, delicate bubbles, a slight chalky mineral zing, with aromas of pear, green apple, lime zest, and a hint of white flowers. It even has a slight petrol nose, thanks to the Riesling. It’s a great aperitif, or with food, it’s refreshing and intriguing at the same time.
The Batic Pinot Gris Ramato Vipavska Dolina 2011 from Slovenia is crafted by the Batic family, who have been making wine for over 400 years. Like a medieval alchemist, Miha Batic observes lunar cycles, does extended maceration of white grapes, ferments in open topped Slovenian wooden vats without temperature control, uses indigenous yeast (nothing commercial here), unfined, unfiltered, and sometimes bottled without additional sulfur, basically ignoring modern winemaking methods. The Vipavska Dolina (Valley) stirs together a Mediterranean and Alpine climate, a mix of soils, and warm and cool air, which yields powerful mineral driven red wines, and unusual white wines, native to this region. This Pinot Gris is one of the most unusual wines I’ve ever tasted. Normally a white wine, it is fermented on the skins for 10 days, which gives it a copper color, reminiscent of a Rosé. It is very dry, full-bodied, with a little tannic twist, and a meaty quality. More like a light red wine, with black cherry and a hint of cranberry and tangerine, this flinty wine has great texture in the mouth. Definitely a food wine, it pairs well with seafood and can even stand up to pungent foods like truffles. Heirloom LA paired greens with a watermelon radish and crumbled Humboldt Fog cheese with it, and it was delicious. By itself, maybe not for everybody, but if you’re craving something different, instead of big fruit, check this out.
continued in Part 2