You probably wander through thousands of wines weekly at your local wine shop/supermarket looking for the right one to open now, on a sizzling summer day. You’re mostly drinking the cheaper New World Chards and Chenins because of their freshness, simplicity and ease of access. Hell, you may even drive down to Portugal to experiment with what they have to offer while organizing yourself a bloody good vacation. Two birds, one stone.
But how often do you say to your mates “let’s try some Balkan wines today“? What you can drink in this small heaven – Croatia, Montenegro, B&H, Serbia, Macedonia, Slovenia – will blow your mind into another dimension because we produce fresh styles of wine, aged wines, those exclusively committed to battonage, mixed with international grapes, made solely from international grapes. You name it. And the price-quality ratio is a true gem. As summer is approaching its finish line in the Northern Hemisphere, as means of celebration (or sorrow) I asked 10 wine pros to recommend the best Balkan white wines to be drinking at the moment. Here are their picks.
“It’s hard to say what the best wine to me is because there are no bad wines currently on the market. The freshest bottle in my memory would be Primož Burja Stranice 2015. Lavrenčič made a grand wine using the methodology of organic winemaking and the tradition of white Vipava (Malvazija + Welschriesling + Rebula). This is an upgrade from the ordinary Burja – so much character, full-bodied, fresh with a significant highlight on the Vipava terroir. The winemaker truly combined the old school vision of Loire and Alsace and added his own unique seal. Bravo Primož.” ~ Gregor Kren (Oštarija)
“One of my favourite white wines from the region is Pošip 2015 from Korta Katarina. It’s a wine of strong, complex aromatics with a lot of fruit, but a great varietal expression nonetheless. It’s a refreshing and, despite the high alcohol, perfectly balanced Pošip which differs from other producers greatly. Expertly done.” ~ Josip Martinović (Podrumi Andrija)
“I will pick Bire Grk Defora 2015. One of the best whites I’ve ever tasted. Astounding in depth and complexity. Full body with elevated acidity and saline undertone. Flavors of tropical fruit and citrus. It’s a special whooper and will leave no one feeling indifferent.” ~ Charine Tan (Exotic Wine Travel)
“My pick will be Nuić Žilavka Selekcija 2016, a white wine that serves as an example of what Žilavka is all about. The aromas of tropical fruit, peach and white flowers do not hide the warmth of the terroir. It is a wine fermented with natural yeast, showing freshness and creaminess at the same time. Perfectly balanced with a long-lasting finish.” ~ Ivan Planinić (Vinogradi Nuić)
“Movia Veliko Belo 2009. Year in year out, this wine successfully draws attention to Slovenia as one of the most interesting wine destinations in the region. This is a wine that reflects the tradition of Goriška Brda through the mix of local Rebula with intense international grapes, but also through biodynamic treatment at all stages of grape-growing and vinification. Dynamic aromas of overripe lemon, grapefruit, peach and apricot with brilliant oak influence. Mature, rich, fruity, rounded with pleasant minerality and solid structure.” ~ Marko Marjanović (Grape)
“Malvasia Damijan Podveršić 2013. A complex wine with rich aromas and a full body. One of my favorite winemakers and friends, Damijan makes his wines from botrytis-affected grapes, followed by a long maceration to get the most out of the fruit. Biodynamic, fully interesting approach!” ~ Bruno Trapan (Trapan Wine Station)
“I’d recommend another wine, but because you asked me for my number one choice, I’ll openly choose Brkić Mjesečar 2015. This is a wine that has it all – complexity, freshness, fruitiness and a beautiful structure to keep things going. We drink it as refreshment in Čitluk where temperatures reach 40°C, but it can also serve for more meaningful activities in life.” ~ Josip Brkić (Brkić Winery)
When looking at the ideal price-quality ratio, my vote definitely goes to Radovanović Chardonnay Selekcija 2011. Some producers over-oak their wines completely, but here the barrique shows precision just on the first sniff. Notes of toast, vanilla, nuts and cream are well-integrated in citrus, ripe stone fruit, white flower and herbal aromas, while minerality is accompanied on the palate. The juicy and calm acidity is in good balance with the fruit and together with the somewhat higher alcohol you get a creamy texture which emphasizes the fullness and strength of the wine. ~ Aleksandar Duković (Wine Style)
A wine that stuck to me is Marjan Simčič Opoka Sauvignon Blanc 2013. Beautiful lemon gold color, pronounced nose of recognizable Sauvignon herbaceous notes like basil and tomato leaf combined with ripe stone fruit aromas and that famous “Opoka” minerality. The wine is dry with good weight and piercing acidity. Complex, elegant and persistent. Beautifully crafted wine. ~ Dražan Sunjić (Liberty Wines)
“’Вртлог’ (in Serbian Cyrillic) or ‘Vrtlog’ meaning vortex, whirlpool or whirlwind. Janko’s Vrtlog 2015 (100% Sauvignon Blanc) has a magic golden color with subtle green hints underneath. The wine is fresh, crispy, extremely inviting, herbaceous with a plethora of citrus notes, orange peel and lime. Vrtlog is a powerful wine and its building blocks are the great acidity and exciting layers of complexity.” ~ Dušan Jelić (Wines of Balkans)
Written by Aleksandar Draganić.
I’m a WSET certified grape juice drinker, and yes, I’m that 1% of people that love their job. I drink wine, write about it, preach about it, even take pictures of it. Find me at @grapenomad