Looking for Intriguing & Distinctive Wines? Look to the Balkans!

Wines from the Balkans at iwinetc 2013From Greece to Macedonia and from Bulgaria to Croatia, the Balkan regions are marked by a large number of small wineries, varying terroirs, indigenous grape varieties, and ancient wine traditions that are now being catapulted into the 21st century. While each region will have its own fascinating story to tell, it might make more sense to target international wine importers and wine lovers worldwide as a team, rather than tackling branding and marketing single handed.

Wine importers and wine tourism professionals may be interested to know that  as part of the 5th International Wine Tourism Conference a Wines from the Balkans Grand Tasting is scheduled for conference delegates –  news on this coming soon but in the meantime Wines of Balkans connoisseur, Dusan Jelic has prepared a preliminary insight into wines from the Balkans and the current situation with respect to wine tourism.

Wines from Balkans Grand Tasting at IWINETC 2013The Balkan Peninsula is situated in the South-Eastern Europe between Adriatic and Ionian Sea on the west, Black and Aegean Sea on the east and Mediterranean the south. It is customary to conclude that the residents of the region are situated at the crossroads of the civilizations and also that they represent the bridge among the different cultures. Within the Balkans there are a few sensitive ‘touching’ points, most notably between the East and West and Christianity and Islam.

Wines from Balkans Grand Tasting at IWINETC 2013Konstantinos Lazarakis MW from Greece stated that: ‘Once you travel around the Balkans, a striking notion hits you – this is a land where political boundaries are pointless. This is a wonderful mix of different people, with different religions and different attitudes towards life that have, surprisingly, more things that bind them together rather than make them stand apart’.

The following countries are commonly considered to be a part of region (with Hungary being an exception): Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece and Turkey. This is not necessarily the only politically correct ‘definition’ of the region and inclusion or exclusion of certain countries is purely arbitrary. The above countries are considered to be a part of the Balkans, for instance, by Wines of Balkans online platform which promotes the Balkan wines.

Wines from Balkans Grand Tasting at IWINETC 2013The First Balkans International Wine Competition 2012, held in June 2012 in Sofia, Bulgaria, was a first credible attempt to brand the wines from the region by the Bulgarian wine professional Mrs. Galina Todorova Niforou . In their Manifesto they succinctly described the importance of the region and the wines from the Balkans:

  • The Balkan region can be proud of the most ancient wine history in the world
  • The indigenous local varieties are at least as rich as is the spirit of the people in the region
  • With more than 1.8 million tons of annual wine production, the Balkans ranks 5th in the world in terms of quantity of wine produced, immediately after the largest wine producing countries:Italy, France, Spain and the USA.
  • For the last decade or so, the Balkans have made an enormous progress in terms of the quality of its wines and can rightfully insist on its claim of becoming one of the key players in the global wine industry.

Wines from Balkans Grand Tasting at IWINETC 2013With much more than 1,000 wineries in 12 countries of the region, we have variety of styles and winemaking philosophies. We identified three significant trends among wine producers.

  • First is to almost exclusively concentrate on indigenous varieties which truly represents the identities of their respective terroirs and as such should be preserved and presented to the curious and expecting global wine scene.
  • Second wine making trend believes that both local and indigenous varieties should be preserved and nurtured, including some of the very interesting experiments of blending autochthonous varieties with the international ones in order to create new wines, more complex, intriguing and ultimately better than the already existing ones.
  • Third trend is aiming to satisfy the international consumer by almost exclusively concentrating on well-known international varieties.

It is important to mention that world-class results were achieved in many Balkan countries in all three of these ‘categories’.

Wine Tourism in the Balkans

Wines from Balkans Grand Tasting at IWINETC 2013Wine Tourism as a category had become a meaningful and organized commercial activity in the region since early 2000s. Many of the countries established Wine Routes and with a little help of the state authorities started promoting their wineries. Development of wine tourism facilities, however, is pretty uneven. Very little is done in countries such as Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia etc.

Wines from Balkans Grand Tasting at IWINETC 2013The Croatian region of Istria is probably the best example of the extraordinary synergy between wine and tourism, whereby great gastronomic and tourist potentials are crowned with exceptional wine offerings: more than hundred wineries, numerous tasting rooms, restaurants, hotels and other facilities as well as the Vinistra festival, running for 20 years already! There are various types of Istrian wines that reflect the diversity of climate and soil on which they are grown like the Istrian Malvasia. In northern Istria you can enjoy the great tastes of Teran, Muscat, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In addition, a wine tour is also an adventure through the landscapes and picturesque hills of Istria that one should not miss out on. While in search of wine cellars, a tourist comes across secluded rural estates and a perfect blend of countryside life and modern trends. Each season adorns the vineyards with a new image; each harvest creates new champions. There are a few world-class spots in Istria, for instance the following wineries: Matošević, Kozlović, Trapan, Coronica, De Grassi and so on.

Wines from Balkans Grand Tasting at IWINETC 2013At present there are at least 60 wineries in Serbia which are actively engaged in Wine Tourism and it has been assessed that some 70,000 tourists, wine and travel lovers visit these wineries annually. As a distinct part of the Cultural Tourism, Wine Tourism definitely helps promoting each Balkan country as an interesting tourist destination. It also helps strengthening other gastronomic offerings and creates a strong and attractive tourist brand.

Wines from the Balkans Grand Tasting

Wines from Balkans Grand Tasting at IWINETC 2013The Grand Balkan Tasting is designed to be a showcase for the wines from 12 countries of the Balkan region on March 15, 2013 at the IWINETC Conference. We would like to attempt to present the contemporary picture of Balkan wines with many exciting developments and particularly to offer a collection of world-class wines made from the indigenous varieties not available elsewhere. As each Balkan country shall be briefly presented at the tasting, we would like to briefly highlight the most important vinous information and latest developments in wine making. It will include an opportunity to taste each of the selected top quality wines from various Balkan countries, take notes, talk Wines from Balkans Grand Tasting at IWINETC 2013to the organizers, producers, wine professionals and other specialists, share your experience and get a fresh and new perspective about this exciting region and its revival!

Don’t miss this unique wine tasting! Register now for iwinetc 2013!

Dusan Jelic