The Growing Importance of Eastern and Central European Wine Regions

Somlo Hungary
Somló, Hungary. Photo: Jason Lowe, Saveur Magazine

When each month feels like uncharted and often terrifying water selling wines from the Balkans, Central Europe, and now as far as the Black Sea and the Caucasus mountains, it’s refreshing to look back at the progress made. Having just done so, it turns out things suddenly looks slightly less terrifying. We’ve continued to grow as a company, as a portfolio, and continued our proud tradition of steep learning curves. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve seen the market for these wines grow. We owe this growth to your support. As one form of proof, our slice of the wine world has garnered some promising press we’d like to share. All of that hand selling hasn’t gone to waste…

The New York Times (Tokaji Aszu Wines Are a Taste of Hungarian Sweetness) and PUNCH (An Uncertain Future for the World’s Most Iconic Sweet Wines) recently covered Tokaj and Samuel Tinon in particular. Imbibe Magazine (East Goes West: Wines from Central and Eastern Europe are turning American heads) (PDF) did a wonderful focus on Central Eastern European wine featuring Fekete Béla, Kabaj, Vylyan, Piquentum, Štoka and Orgo. Vogue even singled out both Štoka (Champagne’s Cooler Cousin: 5 Pét-Nat Sparkling Wines to Try Now) and Kabaj (Forget Red, White, and Rosé—Orange Wine Is What You Should Be Sipping This Fall) for their sparkling and skin contact wines as well. Kabaj, for the second time, was also one of Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries for 2015.

8 Wines to Try
From Imbibe Magazine: 8 Wines to Try with 20th Century Cafe owner Michelle Polzine

What’s increasingly reassuring about these kinds of accolades and the visibility you afford us, is that many of our regions are now being recognized not as fringe, esoteric or nerdy, but simply as established and historically relevant. We also see that Jancis Robinson’s newly updated The Oxford Companion to Wine and Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible both have major updates and completely new entries for our regions. Although specific producers, grapes and benchmark terroirs are still unknown to most, the stories about these people and places are universally engaging. As such, we are happy to report that year after the year, the farming is getting better, the winemaking is getting better, and we see and feel this drive and momentum each time we visit. It’s truly exciting to see quality improving in lock step with increased consumer and professional awareness.

Case in point is the current issue of Saveur Magazine (Jan/Feb 2016) focusing on the volcanic Hungarian appellations of Somló and Tokaj (Hungary’s Forgotten Wine Region is Finally Getting the Respect it Deserves). Samuel Tinon, Fekete Béla, Bott, and Spiegelberg were all focal points. This is exactly the kind of coverage that inspires, reaffirms, and has a real nowness to it. Refreshingly, it’s also not just a recap of a glorious past, but a rallying cry for the future.

Saveur Magazine Hungary
From Saveur Magazine: Exploring the Misty Foothills of Hungary’s Next Great Wine Region

It’s on this note that I’d like to thank you for being part of the critical mass that is making this all happen. There’s also that rallying cry I’d like to reiterate… We’ve got a slew of brand new producers from Hungary (Eger, Somló, Tokaj, Sopron, Balaton), and new wines from Croatia, Slovenia, Herzegovina, Austria, and even something from Serbia coming soon. Our first all Georgian container also just arrived a few weeks ago with five new producers that I’ve barely taken out yet. See you in January.