Wines Of Central and Eastern Europe

With their long histories of making wine, countries like Croatia, Georgia and Hungary are poised to be the next big thing.

Published on Nov 19, 2012
Central and Eastern Europe

Given a map of — once the heart of the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War era—the average American wine consumer would struggle to pinpoint countries like Slovenia, Hungary, Romania or Georgia.

But in terms of global wine production, the region is actually a substantial contributor. As of 2010, Romania ranked sixth in the European Union for wine production, sandwiched between Germany and Greece. Hungary trails just after Greece in eighth place. Labeled with tongue-tying grape varieties like Hárslevelű and Busuioacă de Bohotin, or appellations like Hvar or Crişana-Maramureş, it’s not surprising that U.S. imports from these regions have been limited in volume.

According to sommeliers like Thomas Pastuszak, wine director of the NoMad hotel and restaurant in New York City, the region is a veritable treasure chest of wines, offering incredible diversity and a strong connection to land and history.

“I love to wow guests by introducing them to these unique wines,” he says, speaking about producers like Slovenia’s Movia, a darling in sommelier and wine-geek circles for its biodynamic, low-intervention winemaking and amphorae-aged offerings.

“Initial reactions to my recommendation are often those of skepticism,” he says, “…but when they taste the wine and enjoy a bottle over the course of their meal, they are always thankful to have been exposed to these beautiful, hidden gems of the wine world.”

Central and Eastern Europe – Wine Enthusiast Magazine

Wines from Central and Eastern Europe are increasingly modern and consumer-friendly in style. Many offer an array of solidly crafted, international varietal wines—Merlot, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc—some at incredible bargain prices.

Stetson Robbins, a sales representative at Blue Danube Wine Company, specializes in imports of wines from Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia. According to Robbins, sales of wines from these regions are “…a little elusive, and it’s hard to predict where things will go.”

Robbins finds potential, however, in almost every corner of Central and Eastern Europe. “Croatia,” he says, “is the one that has the most glitter…because it’s so beautiful, and so close to Italy.”

For Robbins, “Hungary is like the new France. It’s developed conceptually and there’s a deeper understanding of their terroir, there’s an incredible diversity in grapes and wine styles, and a lot of the classic, archetypal sorts of wines.”

Slovenia, he adds, is lauded for its diversity of producers making idiosyncratic, complex wines.

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