Wines from Central & Eastern European countries are starting to get the international recognition they deserve, which is surprising given that some of these regions are the cradle of viticulture. Although countries like Romania, Greece and Moldova produce many excellent wines from international grape varieties it is with indigenous grapes that winemakers in those countries really come into their own – an exciting mix of tradition and innovation. At a recent IWSC tasting these are the 13 Central & Eastern European white wines that really stood out.
One of the 13 best Central & Eastern European white wines is a Petite Arvine from Valais in Switzerland
It’s hard not to be taken aback by the fact that Eastern and Central European wines are only now starting to gain recognition on the international stage. After all, grape cultivation in Moldova dates back as far as 2800 BC while in Georgia earliest indications of winemaking date back to over 6000 years BC.
Although some countries like Georgia, Greece, Moldova, and Romania have produced some great wines using international varietals – including Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc – the most exciting potential for these countries lies in the relatively obscure and unknown indigenous varieties such as Greek Assyrtiko, Hungarian Furmint and Georgian Rkatsiteli.
One grape that is increasingly being featured on restaurant wine lists due to its excellent minerality and versatility with food is Assyrtiko, an indigenous grape variety from Greece, or to be more precise, from the island of Santorini. Many vines go back 400 years and are uniquely ‘basket’ weaved in the shape of nests, protecting the grapes from both wind and sun. The IWSC judges loved the ‘juicy melon and white peach aromas’ of Domaine Papagiannakos Assyrtiko 2019.
Romania is one of the oldest winemaking countries in the world and more and more artisan producers there are striving to create high-quality wines after a 40-year hiatus during the Communist era meant vineyards were collectivised and production massively increased at the expense of quality. Certainly a country to keep an eye on, IWSC judges were impressed with Bradshaw Sauvignon Blanc 2019’s ‘crisp palate of green fruits with zippy acidity.’
The white wines from Eastern and Central Europe is a really exciting category where tradition meets innovation – here are 13 fantastic examples from the IWSC’s recent tasting:
Attractive floral rose petal notes on the nose with orange blossom, peach and spiced ginger on the palate. A crisp and charming wine with an abundance of personality that delivers something very unique. 13% ABV RRP £15 from Corking Wines
Expressive nose with notes of kumquat and lemon rind. Refined minerality that is harmonious with the zesty acidity, creating a lifted style. Elegant citrus notes of grapefuit that last long into the finish with great balance. 14% ABV RRP £42 from Santorini.net
Interesting nose with some spices and floral aromas. The palate is crisp and fresh with notes of orange blossom, stone fruits and green tea. Vibrant and precise. 13.5% ABV RRP £14.95 from Transylvania Wine
Elegant on the nose. Bright, fresh and pure fruit. The palate has enough fruit concentration to make this a juicy and interesting wine and there is some development on the finish too. 14% ABV RRP £35 from Les Celliers de Vetroz
Cuvee Monsignori 2018
Explosion of mineral notes along with citrus fruit. Beautiful aromas of crushed rocks and spiced lemon peel. The palate is focused and fresh with zesty acidity and complexity. 14% ABV RRP £37.95 from Philglas and Swiggot
Unique palate with complex notes of lime, grapefuit and pear skin. Driven by minerality on the palate, creating a refined and charming style with lots of layers and great length. 14% ABV RRP £28 from Tanners Wines
Herbal nose with touches of exotic fruit and ginger. Zesty palate with generous fruit character, which leads to a pleasant finish. Shows a lot of potential. 13.7% ABV from Bibendum Wine
Exhibits varietal character with semi-aromatic notes and floral undertones. Palate showcases the fruit: yellow nectarine, lemon zest, gooseberry. Well defined with a medium length. 12.5% ABV n/a in UK
A simple and classy wine with fresh, green notes followed by muted grapefruit and stone fruits. 12% ABV RRP £9.95 from Tanners Wines
Ripe fruit on the nose with notes of juicy melon and white peach. Generous fruit on the palate with hints of floral flavours, lots of personality and brilliant balance. 13% ABV RRP £14 from Cellar Selected
Grassy and fresh with lifted aromas of lemon, white fleshy fruit and hints of asparagus and wet slate. An energetically crisp palate of green fruits with zippy acidity. 12% ABV RRP £6.50 from The Dutchman
Development of exuberance with citrus and brioche. Gentle and persistent mousse. Palate focused with acidity and balanced out by fruit. Satisfying finish. 12.5% ABV RRP £17 enquire for availability with Wine Style
Make a date! Watch this year’s IWSC awards at home on November 18
This year’s IWSC awards ceremony will take place as a virtual broadcast on YouTube Premieres, presented by wine and spirit experts David Kermode and Joel Harrison. The ceremony will be free to view.
Twenty-one awards will be presented at the 18 November ceremony: a full list can be found here. Three special awards are also being presented this year. Lockdown Legends will celebrate individuals and companies who have done exceptional things to support the wine and spirit industry under the exceptional conditions of 2020.