BULGARIAN WINE – PART 2 – SOPOT WINERY

Our bus trip from Villa Teres to Sopot Winery took over two hours. Along the way we drove through the Valley of Roses – this is another beautiful part of the country. This lowland has three valleys, Balkin Mountains to the north and Sredna Gora hills to the south. Famous for its rose-growing industry, which has been cultivated for centuries, this area produces 85% of the world’s rose oil. It’s interesting to note that Bulgaria is one of the world’s largest exporter of rose oil, which is used in the production of: perfumes, creams, chocolates, liquors, jams, jellies and toothpaste. Towns of importance include: Kazanlak, Karlovo, Sopot, Kalofer and Pavel Banya. Unfortunately we missed the harvest, crowing of the Rose Queen and the sounds, sights, and wonderful fragrances of the festival by a few weeks.

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Arriving at Sopot Winery, which is 510 meters above sea level in the heart of the Valley of Roses, south of the town of Sopot – it’s one of the most favourable climatic zones for viticulture in Bulgaria, we saw spectacular views of the southern foothills of the central Balkan Mountain range.

After our tour of the winery and hotel and settled in the restaurant for lunch and tasting.

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The principal owner is businessman Docho Shikov. Sopot Winery currently has 12 ha of vineyards, with 16-year-old vines, with majority plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon. The facility has modern, state-of-the-art equipment, with a full lab for conducting analysis and research. Head Wine Technologist, Georgi Dchorbadzhakov, goes on to say that they have “an annual production of 120,000 bottles”.

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Wines worth tracking down:

Sopot Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Edition 2013
Sopot Syrah 2014

Liz Palmer

BULGARIAN WINE – PART 1 – CHATEAU KOLAROVO

Bulgaria is one of the oldest winemaking countries in the world; this Balkan nation has been stomping grapes since the time of Thracians who were big fans of Dionysus.

With the fall of communism and recent investment and innovation, they’re again immerging on the international markets. Bulgaria has five official wine regions, each with their own microclimates and grape varieties.

Danube Plain (northern) region

Taking in the fertile plains between the Danube and the vast Stara Planina range, this dry, sunny region is home to 35% of Bulgaria’s vineyards – plantings include Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Aligoté, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pamid, Merlot, and the sweet Muscat Ottonel. The deep purple, slightly spicy Gamza is the region’s signature variety.

Black Sea Coast (eastern) region

Running down the coast from Romania to Turkey, this region encompasses 30% of Bulgaria’s vineyards. With long, hot summers and mild autums, conditions are ideal for white varieties including: Dimyat, Traminer, Riesling, Muscat Ottonel, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc.

The Valley of Roses (sub-Balkan) region

Specifically known for rose oil production, this small region produces dry whites. It’s particularly famous for Misket.

Struma River Valley (western) region

This small but significant region is home to the village of Melnik. Despite having a population of 400 people, Melnik is a nation-leader in producing strong reds; its signature, Shiroka Melnishka Loza, was a favorite of Winston Churchill. The region’s arid, Mediterranean climate also makes it ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Thracian Lowland (southern) region

This region – south of Stara Planina and extending to the Sakar Mountain – produces one of Bulgaria’s most famous wine grapes: the red, spicy Mavrud. Other ripper reds include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Muscadine and Pamid. The Bessa Valley sub-region has serious vintage: wine has been produced there (by the Dionysus-doting Thracians) since the 5th century BC.

 

CHATEAU KOLAROVO

 

There are over 37 mountains in Bulgaria with most of them in the south. Our next appointment took us to Sakar Mountain which is in the southeast. Between four mineral-rich rivers: Maritsa, Tundzha, Sokolitsa and Sazliyka and close to the borders of Greece and Turkey, there has been an increased concentration of aspiring newcomers. These new producers are seriously concentrating on bigger reds like Cabernet, Syrah and Mavrud and Merlot.

After another lengthy and fun bus ride, we came to Chateau Kolarovo, which is housed in a former Soviet warehouse. The facilities are very basic. This boutique winery was founded in 2009 by businessman and horse lover Stoyan Stoyanov.

Chateau Kolarovo currently has 12 ha of old vines in cultivation, manly red varieties. Founded six years ago this small winery now produces 40,000 bottles annually. Since its first vintage in 2009 Chateau Kolarovo has won many international awards including two recent Decanter awards this summer for Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (Silver) and Ahal 2011 (Highly Recommended). We learned that the “Ahal” wines were named after a Bulgarian horse breed that is bred for long-distance racing – hence the logo.

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We had an informal tasting and lovely regional-style lunch outside in the garden area, led by winemaker Iliana Koeva and Stoyan Stoyanov’s son.

Stoyan Stoyanov and Iliana Koeva

Some excellent reds tasted:

Kolarovo Ahal 2010

Kolarovo Ahal 2011

Kolarovo Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Kolarovo Merlot 2010

Kolarovo Special Selection 2009

Kolarovo Syrah Premium 2011
Chateau Kolarovo is definitely one to watch out for.

 

Liz Palmer

Wines of Sicily ~ Part 1 – Sicilia en Primeur 2015

The 12th edition of Sicilia en Primeur was held this year in Taormina at the Grand Hotel, Atlantis Bay from April 14th to April 18th. Organized by Assovini Sicily, it’s one of the most important events of the year – it’s the international preview of the last vintage, addressed to both Italian and international press.

Who is the Assovini Sicily?

Assovini Sicilia was founded in1998 by three leading wineries: Diego Planeta (Planeta Estates); Giacomo Rallo (Tenuta di Donnafugata); and Lucio Tasca d’Almerita (Conte Tasca d’Almerita) for the purposes to meet the challenges of the winemaking sector, including the promotion and communication on behalf of its members.

Assovini Sicily currently has 72-member companies, which express all the areas of production.

Today it represents 80% of bottled wine in Sicily and 59% of it is exported exclusively to USA, Canada, Brazil, China, Japan, Russia, Switzerland, Germany, UK and Scandinavia. The total amount of the bottled wine by the Assovini shareholders is worth approximately 250 million euros.

Sicilia en Primeur 2015

Over 70 international and 20 Italian wine journalists attended this year’s Sicilia en Primeur. We had a chance to speak directly with owners, winemakers and marketing teams. Forty members from Assovini Sicily participated and here we the opportunity to taste over 300 wines from the 2014 harvest, including some previous years. The tasting was a full expression the different wine areas of Sicily.

This year’s theme was sustainability and biodiversity. Of the 72 members, 61% have environmental certification, 39% produce wine from organic grapes and around 82% operate according to the rules of the guided and integrated pest management. Assovini Sicilia also believe “it’s their ethical duty to the local community and nature, to be concerned for the environment”. What makes this Sicily so special is that the producers take great lengths to preserve the environment by: recovering indigenous grape varieties which are naturally adapted to their microclimates; invest in technology to produce clean energy, such as solar panels and wind mills; and reduce the resource consumption by using efficient work procedures. Several protocols of sustainable practices have been adopted.

Francesco Ferreri, President of the Association states: “we have set ourselves the aim of presenting to the world oenology quality that respects the environment and safeguarding the biodiversity that characterize Sicily”. This says it all.

Vintage 2014 – A Great Year

It was a difficult harvest everywhere but Sicily, with producers being optimistic. The weather conditions improved at the end of June and the vineyards enjoyed a warm and dry growing season typical to the island. Francesco Ferreri, president of Assovini Sicilia says: “The quality of the production this year will give great balance and elegance to Sicilian wines”.

Sicilia en Primeur 2015 – Tasting

The tasting was organized two ways.
There was the “Producers Room” which was dedicated to “meet and greet” the owners, winemakers and marketers. Here we had the opportunity to taste wines from different vintages and participate in vertical tastings, with a strong emphasis on the 2014. Then there was the “Sommelier Room” which was dedicated to tastings coordinated by sommeliers. Some of us seized the opportunity to participate in blind tastings.

Sicilia en Primeur 2015 – My 2014 Favorites and ones to look out for:

Cottanera Etna Bianco 2014

Baglio di Pianetto Ficiligno 2014

Caruso & Minini Grecanico 2014

Donnafugata Prio 2014

Fazio Aegades Grillo 2014

Feudo Maccari 2014

Girolamo Russo Nerina Etna Bianco 2014

Masseria del Feudo Grillo 2014

Occhipinti SP68 Bianco 2014

Planeta Cometa Fiano 2014

Rallo Beleda 2014

Rapitalà Vigna Casalj 2014

Tasca d’Almerita Cavallo delle Fate 2014

Terre di Giurfo Suliccenti 2014

Valle dell’Acate Zagra 2014

Zisola Azisa 2014

Sicilia en Primeur 2015 – List of participating wineries:

AL – CANTARA
ARIANNA OCCHIPINTI
AZ. AGRICOLA GREGORIO DE GREGORIO
AZIENDA AGRICOLA TORNATORE
BAGLIO DEL CRISTO DI CAMPOBELLO
BAGLIO DI PIANETTO
BARONE BENEVENTANO DEL BOSCO
BARONE DI VILLAGRANDE
BARONE SERGIO
CANTINA WIEGNER
CANTINE RALLO
CANTINE SETTESOLI
CARUSO & MININI
COTTANERA
CUSUMANO
DONNAFUGATA
DUCA DI SALAPARUTA – CORVO – FLORIO
FAZIO CASA VINICOLA IN ERICE
FEUDI DEL PISCIOTTO
FEUDO ARANCIO
FEUDO MACCARI
FEUDO PRINCIPI DI BUTERA
FIRRIATO
GIROLAMO RUSSO
GRACI
LE CASEMATTE
MARCHESI DI SAN GIULIANO
MASSERIA DEL FEUDO
MUSITA
PIETRADOLCE
PLANETA
PRINCIPE DI CORLEONE – POLLARA
SPADAFORA
TASCA D’ALMERITA
TENUTA DI CASTELLARO
TENUTA DI FESSINA
TENUTE RAPITALA’
TERRE DI GIURFO
VALLE DELL’ACATE
ZISOLA

Also integral to the event we visited the production territories and visited 10-13 wineries, depending on which tour you were assigned. See Wines of Sicily Part 2 – The Tour

Liz Palmer

UNESCO adds Champagne Slopes, Houses and Cellars to World Heritage List

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has decided to include the Champagne slopes, houses and cellars on its World Heritage List.

The 21 representatives of the state parties to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention unanimously voted in favor of including the Champagne slopes, houses and cellars on the World Heritage List in the Living Cultural Landscapes category. The committee members recognized their ‘Exceptional Universal Value’ and deemed that the protection and management conditions for the proposed property had been fulfilled.

The Association Paysages du Champagne spent eight years putting together and managing the area’s application. President Pierre Cheval said: “Inclusion on the list is a form of recognition but also an undertaking to the world’s nations, so we must ensure that we are worthy of it. We are duty bound to preserve and maintain this landscape, know-how and heritage so that we can pass them on unspoilt to future generations.

The application Milestones include:

2002: Included on France’s tentative list.

2008: The Association Paysages du Champagne was founded.

2009: First submission of the provisional Application to the French Properties Committee and appointment of a rapporteur to steer the Application process.

2010: The French Properties Committee approved the Exceptional Universal Value of the Application.

2011: The French Properties Committee approved the geographical area and comparative analysis.

2012: The French Properties Committee approved the management plan.

January 2014: The Application was selected by France.

Autumn 2014/Spring 2015: ICOMOS and IUCN international experts assess the Application.

Summer 2015: 39th session of the World Heritage Committee in Germany.

July 2015: The Committee approves the Application

 

The three distinct ensembles that have been recognized: the historic hillside vineyards between Hautvillers and Aÿ; the architecture of the Champagne houses on Saint-Nicaise Hill in Reims, and the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay..

The Champagne region can only welcome this global recognition, which in turn will increase in wine tourism.

Champagne Bureau, USA Launches Interactive Map of Champagne Region

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The Champagne Bureau, USA today has launched an interactive map of the Champagne region.   Here you can explore the towns and areas that make up the world-famous wine appellation that produces the unique sparkling wine called Champagne. From the city of Reims to the Côte des Bars, the interactive map allows users to click on different towns and locales to learn more about the areas, including their unique history and fun facts.

View map here: http://bit.ly/1Bl6e3g

 

Source:  The Champagne Bureau, USA