A tasting I knew I wanted to put together as soon as I launched my online tastings programme. Personally I am a sucker for a grape variety I’ve never come across before, or wines from unusual places. In my time I’ve tasted wines from Kenya, Denmark, Peru and Egypt to name but a few! But as well as that, I’ve been fascinated by wines from the balkans and former Soviet states.
For six years I was Chair of the Georgian National Wine Competition, travelling to Tbilisi or Kakheti (at the centre of wine production) to judge and supervise the competition, while discovering so many wines that were new to me, and often of terrific quality. So I explored Armenia, Turkey, as well as the slightly more familiar Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Croatia, Greece, Cyprus and so on, where thousands of years of winemaking culture and a fascinating gene pool of indigenous grape varieties always offers something of interest.
This tasting includes a wine from Armenia, now thought to be the birthplace of winemaking 6,000 year ago with the winery at Areni-1 (shown right) discovered by archeologists in 2007, and North Macedonia, another ancient wine culture. One of the reasons their wines have failed to break into the mainstream is down to history and politics, and not quality. Both countries have had turbulent pasts, with governments that controlled so much of daily life , but that has changed and the wine industries have been revitalised.
We’ll also look at wines from Crete – another ancient wine civilisation – and from mainland Greece, including an extraordinary Retsina: forget what you think you know about this unique style of wine, flavoured with pine resin, as we have an example that’s certified organic, made in amphora, and made with only wild vineyard yeasts.
Please join me for what will be a fascinating journey, tasting six terrific wines over the two evenings.