By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 24 November 2018
This week I have been searching the world for my favourite wines from unusual locations:
SERBIA: FODOR ORANGE WINE 2016 Mauer (11.5%)
(£17.50 The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com)
Balkan winemakers seem to have taken to the ‘orange’ wine movement and Serbia is no exception. This unusual wine is made from the under-appreciated Welshriesling grape – which is prevalent across the southern Balkans. After six days skin contact in large old Hungarian barrels, the wine barely tastes of fruit. It is quite woody, but I loved its delicate hints of apricot and honey, herb and spice undertones – quite complex, intriguingly different and pleasingly moderate in alcohol. A shock to the senses - you will not have tasted anything like this.
CRETE: ASSYRTIKO 2017 Domaine Lyrarakis (13.5%)
(£12.95 Berry Bros www.bbr.com)
A fresh citric zesty white from the mountains of eastern Crete. The Assyrtiko grape is best known from the nearby island of Santorini, but Crete grows a few vines of its own – and winemaker Bart Lyrarakis knows how to grow it well on Greece’s other large island. In his Voila vineyard near Alagni in Crete. 580 m above sea level he makes this very attractive vibrant grapefruity white with its fabulous minerally undertones.
SLOVENIA: KRASNO SAUVIGNON BLANC RIBOLLA 2017 (13%)
(£8.49 Majestic Wine)
If you drink Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, try this zippy Slovenian white. Slovenian wines deserve to be better known, but with their tiny production few filter into UK. This refreshing unoaked white comes from a co-operative in Goriska Brda region, which borders Friuli in north east Italy. The ancient citric fruited Ribolla Gialla grape originates from Greece’s island of Kefalonia, but is most at home in Slovenia and northern Italy.
GEORGIA: TBLVINO QVEVRIS 2015 (12%) ***STAR VALUE***
(£10 Marks & Spencer)
An intriguing wine for a supermarket to sell – at a very modest price. Fermented on its grape skins, then partially matured for several months in gigantic clay ‘qvevri’ pots buried underground, amphora-like winemaking vessels which have been used since ancient times in Georgia. Remarkably fresh and tangy for an ‘orange’ wine with apricot notes and gripping tannins. It tastes oxidised on the finish, but this style would suit those who like dry Oloroso sherry. Serve chilled as an aperitif with charcuterie, spicy chicken or rich textured seafood.
WALES: ANCRE HILL ROSE 2015 (11%)
(£18.95 Henris of Edinburgh www.henrisofedinburgh.co.uk; www.thewinebutler.co.uk)
This light minerally sappy grapefruit tinged Pinot Noir-based rose (with 15% Triumphe in the blend) hails from just southeast of the Beacon Beacons in the wooded Wye valley in Monmouthshire, made by two passionate biodynamic winemakers, Richard and Joy Morris. They work as close as they can to making ‘natural wines’ and now have a line of four trendy new curvaceous concrete eggs - which add texture and finesse to their rose. Check out their sparkling rose too.
CZECH REPUBLIC: FRANKOVKA 2016 Tomas Cacik (12.5%) ***STAR BUY***
(£16 The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com)
This is the first Czech red wine I have ever tasted and I found it rather interesting. Made by a chef Tomas Cacik from the juicy fruited Blaufrankisch grape, which makes fabulous wine in Austria and Hungary too. Known as Frankovka, it is quite light bodied, but with a beautiful brightness and purity of fruit, blackberry fruit with leathery tarry undertones and a spicy savoury finish. This unoaked Blaufrankisch would suit those who normally enjoy Pinot Noir.
ARMENIA: KARASI ZORAH 2015 (13.5%)
(£21-£27 www.winedirect.co.uk; www.buonvino.co.uk)
A stone’s throw from the world’s most ancient vineyard site near Mount Ararat, the Iranian-born Armenian Zurab Topuridze who made his money as a fashion designer in Italy, planted 6 hectares with rare native Areni Noir grapes in this absurbly remote and beautiful location over 1,000 metres up in the Yeghegnadzor valley in south eastern Armenia. In true Armenian tradition, the wine is aged for months in varying sizes of traditional amphora, known in Armenia as ‘Karas’: resulting in generously fruity, complex, elegant minerally red.
BULGARIA: COLINE D’ENIRA 2014 (13.5%)
(£12.99 bt www.laithwaites.co.uk)
Remember Bulgarian Merlot? Now is the time to try a modern C21 Merlot from this forgotten corner of Eastern Europe. For those who normally drink claret, this generously fruity silky textured oak aged blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Syrah is actually made by a Bordelais who works in Bulgaria. Stephan von Neipperg, owner of the prestigious St Emilion Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere, became fascinated by the potential of southern Bulgaria’s Thracian lowlands.
SYRIA: GRAND VIN DE SYRIE 2010 Domaine de Bargylus (15%)
(£37 bt www.highburyvintners.com (24 hr delivery)
This must be one of the most unusual locations for an active vineyard right now. The owners (pictured right) of Syria’s only surviving commercial winery have not been able to visit for seven years, but continue to make the wine by phone to their team in Syria with grape samples sent over the border to Lebanon by taxi for them to assess. A luscious peppery spicy blend of 60% Syrah with 20% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Tastes like a cross between a warm Bordeaux vintage and a ripe northern Rhone Syrah.
MOLDOVA: CHARDONNAY DULCE ALB 2013 Chateau Vartely (11%) ***STAR BUY***
(£13.99 for 50 cl bt www.laithwaites.co.uk)
Moldova have almost as many vineyards as Australia, but in a country a fraction of the size. Their best wines to date in my mind are their sweet wines. This rare late harvest Chardonnay made by Chateau Vartely’s winemaker Arcadie Fosnea about 50 km from Chisinau has delicious peach and citrus fruits, delicate body with a honeyed smooth rounded palate. Intriguingly good and shows the potential. Moldova also make exceptionally fine Muscat Ice wine benefitting from their freezing cold wintry conditions – so watch this space.
Join Rose’s Classic Wine Dinner at The Peat Inn in Fife on 6 December £105 (for 4 courses & 8 wines) www.rosemurraybrown.com