I’m not going to beat around the bush here – I am a prize-winning wine taster.
Admittedly, I’ve only won one prize (two years running, mind) and my wine selection method still mainly revolves around what is on half-price offer in the shop nearest to my house, but I like to think that I know a good wine when I taste one.
Bulgarians are very proud of their wine… but until I came here I’d never tasted any of it. Nor any Balkan wine, as far as I can remember. So when I heard about a wine festival happening in Sofia, I was intrigued. If I’m honest, I was a little sceptical; I’ve bought a few glasses of wine in restaurants here and been fairly underwhelmed – it’s been drinkable but not amazing.
But I’m pleased to report that there is some seriously good wine being produced in this region. And there’s an intriguing combination of local grape varieties and interesting versions of more familiar grapes. The full results of the Balkans International Wine Competition are available on their website, and Bulgarian readers will be pleased to hear that it was won by a Bulgarian rose, while Bulgarian wines took 5 of the top 6 prizes.
But it wasn’t just the Bulgarian wines that impressed – I particularly liked the Turkish company Chamlija, who had an interesting fresh Narince (not a grape I’ve tried before), although it was their unusual and totally delicious Sauvignon Blanc that really impressed me (they have beautiful labels too, which adds to their appeal). There was also some stunning Macedonian wine, including a lovely grape variety Tamjanika that I will definitely seek out again.
I’d like to give you a list of all my favourite wines from the event but unfortunately all the leaflets I picked up were stolen along with the rest of my possessions. So I’ll just have to recommend that you make it along to the 2013 competition – but be warned, Balkan wine-tasting is hard-core. There is NO water on offer, no food to soak up the alcohol, and with many of the wines containing around 15-16% alcohol, it’s a wonder that more attendees weren’t robbed…
Interestingly, I asked a few of the producers whether they exported to the UK and they unanimously said that it’s an impossible market to crack – which made me think that there’s a real business opportunity here. Any investors out there interested in funding me to open a Balkan wine shop in the UK?!