Introduction to Georgia: A Brief Discussion of an 8,000 Year History


The journey down the Danube river continues! As you know, our company is named Blue Danube Wine because the wines we source come from the countries through which the Danube river flows. If you continue to follow the river, it empties into the Black Sea, at the Republic of Georgia. It only makes sense that we expand our selection of Georgian wines. Stetson Robbins, our New York Sales manager, has been to Georgia twice and personally selected the new wines we are excited to introduce. Read our interview with him to learn more about the country, the wines, and why you need to try them! Be sure to read part two for more information on the producers and grape varieties.

Tell us a bit about Georgia as a country?

S: What a special place! I was struck during my visits by the geological, biological, and cultural differences throughout the relatively small country.

Georgia is truly at the crossroads of civilization. The triangle-shaped country is one of Europe’s most diverse landscapes. Situated between a desert, Caucasian peaks, and the Black and Caspian seas, many different climatic influences can be seen. This also contributes to a density of biological diversity. As you move around the country, you begin to notice different aromas which relate to the local food and wine.

Terra cotta clay vessels, aka qvevri, have been used in Georgia for thousands of years.
Terra cotta clay vessels, aka qvevri, have been used in Georgia for thousands of years.

As it relates to wine, archaeological exploration has unearthed a terra cotta vessel decorated with grapevine ornamentation in present day Georgia. Carbon dating has revealed that the vitus vinifera seeds found inside the vessel date back 8,000 years! This is the earliest evidence to date of utilizing grapes for winemaking.

When you visit, it just makes sense that Georgia has been producing wine for so long. It is hard to describe, but that’s a feeling that completely overwhelms you upon arrival.

How should we understand Georgian food and wine culture? What are some typical Georgian foods?

S: The food is simply amazing. After returning from my last visit to Georgia, I didn’t eat for a week because I was spoiled by the freshness and superior quality of the food there. As I mentioned earlier, Georgia’s location puts it at a crossroads between Europe and Asia. While all these different cultures have impacted the cuisine, it is still anomalous, with dishes and preparations not seen elsewhere. One example of this is the tradition of “supra”. The word means tablecloth in Georgian, which is fitting since an elaborate spread of dishes is presented family-style on the dining table. There are a few rules to supra i.e special toasts, required number of guests, but at the basic level, all that is required is good food and wine.

Georgians often drink wine from shallow clay bowls.
Georgians often drink wine from shallow clay bowls.

The Georgian table is extremely diverse. Vegetable dishes and grilled meats are very popular. Skewers cooked over hot grapevines are a common sight. All the dishes are intensely flavored. The best match for all these mixed, strong flavors? Plenty of wine, of course! The traditional white wines fermented in terra cotta vessels, also known as qvevri, are perhaps the best suited. These wines are more savory than fruity with the perfect structure.

Freshness and variety present on the Georgian table
Freshness and variety present on the Georgian table

Why is it important for Blue Danube Wine to expand the Georgian wine portfolio?

S: Georgia displays consistent quality across the board. There are so many great wines to choose from that we could have easily selected more. Also Georgia has made a unique contribution to the world of winemaking. The qvevri is distinctively Georgian, just as barriques are distinctively French.

Our goal is to try to understand Georgia through the wines we have selected. Part of the fun of working as an importer is finding wines/regions that have never been widely discovered. In many more prominent wine regions, this is impossible because it has all been explored by many different people.

The wines we chose represent a range from the three primary appellations: Kakheti, Kartli, and Imereti.

What influence does the qvevri have on the wines?

S: Qvevri tends to accentuate the savory, herbal qualities of the grapes, while the fruit character dominates in the “Euro-style” wines. Qvevri wines compliment foods, almost like a sauce or condiment.

The other influence can be seen more in the white wines, which turn a golden amber color after spending time in the qvevri with skins, stems, and seeds. These are tannic whites that drink more like reds and suit a wide range of foods.

Newly forged qvevris

“Euro-style” vs. Qvevri…which is more important for Georgia?

S: Georgia is experiencing a renaissance at the moment and qvevri wine making is being revived. Honestly, there is a longer unbroken history of producing European-style wines than qvevri wines. Currently only 1% of wine production in the country is qvevri style. There is a serious lack of knowledge with this style of production which leads to inconsistent wines.

In our case, it was the qvevri wines that attracted our interest but it is the “Euro-style” wines that convince us of the market potential for Georgian wines in the United States. It will be interesting to see how the market develops and whether we will see demand shift.

At what temperature should the different styles of wine be served?

S: “Euro-style” wines should be served at the same recommended temperatures for all wines; whites 44-57 degrees and reds 58-65 degrees.

The qvevri wines, regardless of color, should be served at or just above cellar temperature, around 58-60 degrees.

Continue our interview with Discussing Producers and Grape Varieties.

A Georgian Sparkler to try: Bagrationi 1882 Classic Extra Dry

Photo: Meg Houston Maker
Photo: Meg Houston Maker


Looking for a different type of sparkler for your holiday celebrations? Why not try one of the Bagrationi Sparkling wines from Georgia? Founded in 1937, Bagrationi is the first specialized company producing sparkling wine in Georgia. Nowadays, Bagrationi 1882 is the Georgian market leader of sparkling wines.

Wine writer Meg Maker recently reviewed the Classic Extra Dry:

A dry sparkling wine from the country of Georgia, made from Chinebuli, Mtsvane, and Tsitska grapes. The fragrance has a faintly grapey fruitiness, suggesting musk melon and white flowers, and its active, crackly body feels green-citrusy but with a welcome bitter finish. This is a Charmat method wine so its complexity is modest, but the approach highlights the fruits’ freshness and pure flavors. More interesting than much Prosecco at this price level. Pair with fresh cheeses, crackers, snacks. 12% abv

Other Bagrationi Sparkling wines available:

Bagrationi 1882 Classic Brut
Bagrationi 1882 Reserve 2007
Bagrationi 1882 Rouge
Bagrationi 1882 Royal Cuvée Brut
Bagrationi 1882 Semi-Sweet

#WineWednesday Spotlight #1: 2011 Kabaj Ravan

Jean-Michel, Tom, and Eric
Jean-Michel, Tom, and Eric

New feature on our blog! Every week a Blue Danubian will highlight his or her favorite wine of the moment. Starting things off is Tom, our newest sales guy in the San Francisco Bay Area:

Conformity, regularity, status quo, etc. Call it what you will, these terms have again and again been stricken from my vocabulary. Rather than going “by-the-book”, I have always chosen to pursue the road less traveled, even if it sometimes led to learning things the hard way. For exactly this reason, I was delighted to meet winemaker Jean-Michel Morel of Kabaj (Ka-BUY) Winery in Slovenia. He truly embodies the spirit of being an expat, leaving his native France to create an entirely different style of wine in a country that has been underestimated in terms of its wine production (especially compared to the juggernaut that is France). He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy. He knows what he likes, he knows what he doesn’t, and his brutal honesty is perfectly balanced and underscored by his charming personality.
This aspect of his personality is reflected in his skin contact wines, which offer an unusually grippy and full-bodied mouthfeel supported by subtle undertones playing a back-up role. Mention the name Goriška Brda to any upstanding wine enthusiast and you may be greeted with “Bless you”, but for any diehard Slavic wine fan, this name reflects only the highest quality and passion.
The Ravan is a chameleon, known under other aliases such as Tocai Friulano, Sauvignon Vert, and Jakot (since passive-aggressivity is the best way to deal with political gridlock, as “Jakot” is simply “Tokaj” backwards). As with much of this region, the subtleties are imperceptible. I’ll be bringing a bottle to my family for Thanksgiving (“No Mom, it’s not Pinot Grigio!”) to pair with our veggie-heavy side dishes and to take a shot at the bird itself, while simultaneously stimulating the tongues of all involved, both through its tangy tannins and its barely pronounceable origin information. Ka-baj yourself a bottle for the holidays and be the life of the party, just like Jean-Michel! Na zdravje!

2011 Kabaj Ravan

An Uncertain Future for the World’s Most Iconic Sweet Wines


Is there a future for traditional sweet wines as global taste changes? Zachary Sussman explores the “uncertain” future for the world’s famous sweet wines, like Hungary’s Tokaji Aszú, in this article for Punch.

Ironically, the examples that have fallen the furthest out of fashion—basically, port, Sauternes and Tokaji—were once revered as the coveted darlings of kings and counts and royal courts. It was by virtue of their sweetness, in fact, that they first gained international fame. Not only did high sugar contents prevent spoilage during the days before refrigeration, allowing wines to enter the export market as global commodities, but sugar also enjoyed luxury status at the time: The kind of intense sweetness found in a bottle of port or Tokaji was inseparable from its aura of aristocratic splendor….What’s next? Faced with declining sales and a wine culture that increasingly prizes the savory, the saline and the mineral, will these regions take the necessary steps to remain relevant? Or are they destined to survive as mere museum pieces?

Our own Stetson Robbins weighs in on the shift away from traditional wine styles in Tokaj:

Even at the sweetest levels, producers in Tokaji are moving towards a brighter, modern style. Hopefully, the traditional oxidative style won’t get lost along the way.

Samuel Tinon, a Tokaji producer we work with, had this to say:

During the first years after privatization, when we were starting new estates, we believed that everyone would be able to survive on sweet wine. Now most of the estates are playing in both fields, making at least as much dry wine as sweet, if not more.

Do your part to keep these traditional wines alive!

Continue reading the article here.

Browse Hungarian wines, including Tokaj, here.

Forget Red, White, and Rosé—Orange Wine Is What You Should Be Sipping This Fall

Photo: Courtesy of Sergio C. Bindel Jr. / @surge_jr
Photo: Courtesy of Sergio C. Bindel Jr. / @surge_jr

Fashion alert! “Orange” wine is in for fall says Carson Demmond for Vogue Magazine.

Five years ago marked the entrance of “orange wine”—an obscure category that has stirred some very vocal proponents and riled some very vocal detractors—into the international wine scene. Though the style has been produced for quite some time, the “orange” description was purportedly coined in 2004 by a U.K.-based wine importer who encountered a bottle in winemaker Frank Cornelissen’s cellar in Sicily. It refers to certain white wines (yes, they’re made from white grapes) that fall somewhere on the color spectrum of fall foliage. Their flavors also have great autumnal appeal, since many can be downright and broodingly earthy.

This style of winemaking, which involves extended periods of skin maceration, is very traditional in some countries like Slovenia and the Republic of Georgia. The article suggests a few must try wines for fall, including one from Kabaj, a winery we have worked with for some time now.

2011 Kabaj Rebula
Goriška Brda, Slovenia
Since very little has been written on the ancient methods, Kabaj’s winemaker—Jean-Michel Morel—opted to study at a Georgian monastery to fine-tune his craft. This rebula (the Slovenian name for Italy’s ribolla) ferments with the skins for thirty days to attain its rich texture and glowing amber hue while retaining vibrancy of fruit—like ripe peach and apricot reined in by savory herbal tones. It calls for sipping outside in the cool fall air and pairs impressively well with anything from tuna crudo to veal sweetbreads.

Read the whole article here.

A Danubian Thanksgiving

Danubian ThanksgivingIn preparation for this year’s holiday we have shared our favorite wines sourced from along the Danube river to enhance your celebrations. All of these wines are distinct in their own way but sure to pair beautifully with everything on your holiday table

Eugenie CabotI first learned of the significance of cranberry sauce to the Thanksgiving table while skating on frozen cranberry bogs in Massachusetts with my then young children. I’ve since traded the bogs for the backyard orange trees of California. The best cranberry sauce is a simple and quick relish made with fresh cranberries, freshly-squeezed orange juice, peels, and sugar. No wonder the orange Kabaj Rebula wine from Slovenia pairs so well with that dish! Falling somewhere between a white and red, the wine has intense tannins contrasting with a funky, spicy orange-blossom aroma. It has excellent minerality, and a very enjoyable rich long finish. No need to switch to red for me. This wine is a perfect match for the Thanksgiving table for the recognized 100 Top Winery of 2015!” — Eugénie Cabot

Eric DanchIn the interest of eating and drinking for as long as possible on Thanksgiving, Cviček (Tsvee-check) is a promising option. Apart from Tuscan Chianti, Cviček is the only wine in the world with a legally protected blend of local red and white grapes. What sets it apart is the low alcohol (8.5-10%) and it’s completely dry. It’s also refreshing, has the weight of a white wine, the texture of a red, and great acidity. If you already have grapes like Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc on the roster, this is a perfect “tweener” wine for everyone (and a liter!). One of the main grapes in the blend is Žametna which also happens to be same grape as the oldest living vine in Europe. At just over 400 years old, this puts its first harvest right around 1621 when the first Thanksgiving took place. And much like the Pilgrims and Indians introduced one another to new flavors, Cviček seems like an appropriate wine to continue this tradition with your friends and family. — Eric Danch

Gisele CarigBlaufränkisch is a perfect varietal for Thanksgiving: it produces red wines that are fresh and juicy. This one from J. Heinrich in Austria’s Burgenland region is uncomplicated yet bright with characteristic spiciness. The wine is an outstanding value as recently noted by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, where it is listed as one of the “Top 100 Best Buys 2015”. The dish I absolutely have to make for Thanksgiving is stuffing, so that is what I recommend to pair with this wine. When it comes to stuffing, I am a purist. I don’t really do much to it. My “recipe” is a loaf of whatever type of bread strikes my fancy, turkey broth, vegetables, fresh herbs, and a ridiculous amount of butter. Since the wine is bright, fruit-forward, and medium-bodied, it has the winning profile for my weighty dish. — Gisele Carig

Frank DietrichThis Plavac Mali wine made by Frano Miloš and his children is my first choice for Thanksgiving. It comes from the Pelješac Peninsula that connects with the Dalmatian mainland less than 50 miles north of Dubrovnik. It is where the Miloš family tends their organic vineyards. The main reason that Miloš Plavac fits so well on our Thanksgiving dinner table is its versatility. Naturally, Plavac pairs well with BBQ meats of all kinds. More surprisingly is that it also works very well with Turkey, Chicken, and even more gamey fowl. Most visitors to Dalmatia are amazed when they experience that Plavac also is a great match for Oysters regardless of how they are prepared: fresh on the shell with just a touch of lemon juice, or baked with bacon, hot sauce, and other flavorful condiments. Plavac also reminds us that there is an immigrant in every American. Keep in mind that Zinfandel is a direct relative of Plavac Mali and came originally from the Dalmatian coast to California. — Frank Dietrich

Catherine GrangerWe are lucky to have among our friends a wonderful cook and it is a feast when we spend Thanksgiving with her. One of my favorite Thanksgiving dish is her gravy. The base of the gravy is a turkey stock that she prepares a few days in advance with roasted turkey wings and necks and vegetables. The broth is then slowly reduced to enhance the flavors. Spoon the gravy in the well of a mashed potato mound and you’re in heaven! The flavors are rich and savory, just like the Plantaže Vranac Procorde. Vranac, a relative of the Zinfandel family of grapes, originates from Montenegro and the nearby Republic of Macedonia. Deeply colored, it develops with age savory and unctuous aromas combined with vivid acidity. The winery’s reserve wine is the richly textured ProCorde, which means “heart healthy”. I shall add “heart happy”. Santé! — Catherine Granger

Zsuzsa MolnarAs a Hungarian I am interested in exploring Hungarian wines for the holidays. Tokaj is a fabled Hungarian region that has been producing legendary wines for centuries. I was thinking of something to go with the pumpkin pie that we love to end Thanksgiving dinner with. Pallas of Athens is the patron saint of knowledge and Füleky Winery named their smart and clever Late Harvest style sweet wine after the goddess. It’s made from overripe shriveled grapes creating a sweet but well balanced with acid wine. Hints of butterscotch and ripe fruit. Long finish of residual sweetness. The Russian Czars deployed a division of Cossacks each year to accompany their Imperial shipment of Tokaj back to the Imperial Cellars. Luckily we don’t have to send the troops out to enjoy the Pallas Late Harvest Furmint. — Zsuzsa Molnar

Purchase our Thanksgiving 6-Pack for only $99 to try all our recommendations. Sign up for Club Vino Danubia, and you will feel thankful to receive free shipping on your order!

“Great Wines from Slovenia” by Now And Zin Wine

Winemaker Jean-Michel Morel of Kabaj Winery at Hatchet Hall
Winemaker Jean-Michel Morel of Kabaj Winery at Hatchet Hall. Photo: Randy Fuller

Last month we had the privilege of hosting Jean-Michel from the Kabaj Winery for a few action packed weeks. Jean was here primarily to attend the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries event in San Francisco. Kabaj Winery, located in Goriška Brda, Slovenia, was listed as a Top 100 Winery for the second time. To celebrate this achievement we arranged a number of events throughout California and New York. One such event was a reception at hot new restaurant Hatchet Hall in Culver City. Wine blogger Randy Fuller, who writes Now and Zin Wine, was able to join us, and has now graciously allowed us to repost his blog post about the event here for you! Many thanks, Randy!

Randy Fuller, wine blogger at Now and Zin Wine
Randy Fuller, wine blogger at Now and Zin Wine

Trust Your Importer – Great Wines From Slovenia

Blue Danube Wines is one of those importers you want to check in with from time to time. For those who don’t have an extensive knowledge of wines from countries other than the US, a good importer is a good thing to know. Importers tend to find the wines they like, and bring them home to the rest of us. So, if Slovenia, for instance, or some other Central European country catches your fancy, Blue Danube Wines has a full portfolio of wines that are uniformly great.

When I was invited by Blue Danube to attend a tasting reception with Jean-Michel Morel (pictured) of Kabaj Wines, how could I refuse? They had never steered me wrong before. The event was held at Culver City’s Hatchet Hall, which has a great tasting bar in the back of the restaurant.

Morel is described as a “bad ass” winemaker. He is actually quite personable and very friendly. His wines lifted Kabaj (ka BYE) to be included on Wine & Spirits Magazine Top 100 Wineries list for 2015. The winery is in Goriška Brda, Slovenia, right across the border from Italy’s Collio region. In their respective languages, Collio and Brda mean “hills.” Brda’s hills of marl and flysch, are the remains of an ancient limestone seabed. Their steep slopes offer quite a range of micro climates.

For generations, the Kabaj family has grown grapes, but it was not until winemaker Morel married into the family that they started making their own wine. The first vintage of Kabaj wine came in 1993.

The Kabaj wines are produced mainly – 70% – from white grapes, and all wines are aged at least 12 months. When used, French oak is preferred. Morel is nothing if not passionate about his cellar techniques. “Step by step. We do it the right way. It is not to rush out the wine to the market. 2015? No. No.” He was pretty emphatic about that, so I would take it as his winemaking philosophy.

All the Kabaj presented at the tasting showed intense minerality and great acidity.

Kabaj Wines. Photo: Randy Fuller
Kabaj Wines. Photo: Randy Fuller

2008 Rebula – You might know this grape better as Ribolla – it is Morel’s signature grape. Lovely savory apricot honey. Great acid, savory lime and lanolin. Fresh, lots of vigor. Great, unusual flavor.

2011 Ravan – This white is flinty from the limestone. Savory saline palate.
2012 Ravan – Less flinty, more apricot and pear.

2012 Sivi Pinot – We would call it a Pinot Grigio. Showing a pink blush, muted strawberry, cherry and lime flavors are persistent.

2010 Luisa – This white wine – orange, actually – shows a beautiful copper color in the glass. Mineral-driven, savory nose, earthy palate.

2010 Merlot – Smoky black cherry and coffee on the nose, with a palate of tart cherry and raspberry. Huge minerals.

2009 Cuvée Morel – Merlot,Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot make a nose of minerals and black cherry. There is a tart edge on the palate with earth, fine tannins and a raspberry finish.

2006 Amfora – This wine stays in contact with the grape skins an amazing one year. The beautiful, golden color is deep and rich. A nose of honeyed apricot, flint and limestone lead to a palate of savory apricot. Lots of age here, showing beautifully. A massive white wine.

Amfora wine has a history dating back thousands of years to the Georgian culture. Ribolla, Malvasia and Sauvignon Vert (Tokai) grapes are destemmed in clay pots and held with the skins after fermentation. In the first month, the wine is stirred six times a day, then the pots are closed for ten months. Then, it goes into oak barrels for another year.

See the original post here.

Fascinating Fact from WineSpeed: Botrytis Beginnings

Grapes affected by noble rot, or Botrytis cinerea, produce the world's most sought after sweet wines.
Grapes affected by noble rot, or Botrytis cinerea, produce the world’s most sought after sweet wines.

Karen MacNeil, author of the Wine Bible and Director of the Wine Program at the Culinary Institute of America, recently wrote this “Fascinating Fact” on the history of sweet wine production:

The world’s most highly prized dessert wines actually got off to a rotten start. The Sauternes region of France is best known for these wines today, but the practice of using botrytized grapes (those infected with the fungus Botrytis cinerea)to make unctuously sweet dessert wines actually began in Hungary’s Tokay region around 1650. (By comparison, the first Sauternes is thought to be an 1847 Chateau d’Yquem.) As the story goes, the Hungarian harvest was delayed that year due to a Turkish invasion. After several weeks of battle, Hungarians returned to their vineyards to find their grapes shriveled and rotting on the vine. They harvested them anyway, and, much to their surprise, found that, thanks to the fungus, the tiny amount of concentrated liquid left inside each grape tasted like honey!

Sign up to receive more fascinating facts with Karen MacNeil’s WineSpeed at

Try this “highly prized” wine for yourself! We have examples from several producers in Tokaj:

Dorogi Eszencia 2008
Füleky Pallas Tokaji Late Harvest 2012
Füleky Tokaj 6 Puttonyos Aszú 2007
Patricius Katinka Late Harvest 2012
Patricius Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2004
Tinon Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2005

Austria also produces famous sweet wines from botrytized grapes. The wines from Rosenhof in Burgenland are simply delicious:

Rosenhof Chardonnay TBA 2010
Rosenhof Welschriesling TBA 2010

Inside Perspective: Talking Wine with an Insightful Croatian Wine Writer

Nenad Trifunovic_DSC4014
Nenad Trifunović: wine enthusiast, writer, and educator

Over the past few months, we have been fortunate to get to know Croatian wine writer, Nenad Trifunović, a bit better. He has also been so generous in allowing us to repost many of his translated wine reviews on our blog to share with all of you. We thought it would be nice to formally introduce him and get a better idea about his perspective on wine. I also encourage you to check out his blog Dnevnik Vinopije (Wine Drinker Journal). It is in Croatian but his insights our worth the effort of translating!

1. Tell us more about yourself. Where are you from? Where do you live? What is your “day job”?
I was born in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital city. I had a great childhood growing up here. Upon finishing university, were I majored in Economics, I decided to stay in Zagreb. I work as a creative director at a marketing agency. Fifteen years ago I started as an entry level accountant, fell in love with being a copywriter, and today am a partner at the same agency.

2. Why are you so passionate about wine?
My work requires me to have a business focus and writing about wine provides me with a sort of getaway. It is humanizing to be able to produce stuff “for yourself”, meaning the way you believe it should be done and not driven by market expectations. However, the truth is that wine occupies my attention, keeps me calm and focused, inspired, as well as nourishes my soul every moment I spend swirling the liquid in my glass. It is a relationship with a living product and wisdom it provides that I admire as well.

3. Have you always enjoyed writing?
Yes! It began with a love for reading and understanding, which helped evolve my sense of empathy for different perspectives, then came technique, form, structure and joy. Even though I do write about wine a lot, I don’t consider myself a writer per se. But its the wine that stimulates my writing. I simply interpret my impressions of the moment, what the wine tells me and what I am able to hear. Of course, there is a lot of me in there, in a way my writing really exposes my true self.

Nenad's review of Brkić Plava Greda from Bosnia-Herzegovina on his site Dnevnik Vinopije
Nenad’s review of Brkić Plava Greda from Bosnia-Herzegovina on his site Dnevnik Vinopije

4. What inspired you to create your blog site Wine Drinker Journal (Dnevnik Vinopije)?
As I mentioned earlier, I needed to write down my thoughts in order for them not to be forgotten 🙂 Now I think journal is not the best translation because it implies journey. I complete most of the writing from my sofa, and only just recently started to do more traveling, which is important. “Dnevnik” can translate as a diary. That is a more accurate word, a personal diary available for everybody to read and comment. Miracles of the modern age I guess 😀

5. Besides writing for your personal site, do you write for other publications? Do you teach classes on wine or act as a judge on tasting panels?
I have written some contracted articles for publications, and participated in a few tasting panels for wine evaluations. Now my focus is much more on wine education, specifically as it relates to wine culture. Instead of just swirling the glass and laughing to myself while using exuberant aromatic descriptors, or hiding behind a Powerpoint slideshow preaching a class to boredom, I actually spark the passion within participants so they can approach wine with the right mindset, enabling them to educate themselves.

6. Which wine regions are you interested in the most?
My mind could explode right now. I could just have a nervous breakdown! Off the top of my head, and just naming a few, in the Old World: Santorini (Greece), dry Furmints of Tokaj (Hungary), Carso (Slovenian/Italian border), parts of Friuli and Alto Adige (Italy), Sicily and Etna especially (Italy), classic Bordeaux, the Aube region of Champagne with their Blanc de Noirs, Bekaa Valley (Lebanon), Vinho Verde & Douro & Dao (Portugal), Spain, the entire Loire valley from Muscadet to Sancerre where I especially adore Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc. Plenty more comes to mind and of course Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Croatia. Obviously, I think I am too young to focus, right?

View of Croatia's capital city, Zagreb. Photo:
View of Croatia’s capital city, Zagreb. Photo:

7. What is your process for evaluating a wine?
Is it alive? Does it have depth? Does it have a soul? Valorization of a wine is not my thing. One thing is appreciated though: The wine can only be properly assessed once it resting comfortably in your belly 🙂 🙂 🙂 The “process” is always the same.

8. What are some grape varietals or wine producers, particularly from Central/Eastern Europe, you think Americans should know about?
For serious wine crowd in search for the Holy Grail, I will recommend what I prefer. To focus on Croatia: a good Plavac Mali, a good Teran, a good Malvasia Istriana, a good Graševina and a good Pošip or Vugava will do the trick. However, above all else I especially admire the work of wineries like Miloš, Tomac and Coronica in Croatia and Brkić from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Živjeli!

9. What are some of your current favorite wines?
This seems like a logical question with expected answer in a manner of Miles in the movie Sideways. Sort of “lately, I`ve been really into Rieslings” thing, but this is too difficult a question for me. Its crazy I know, but I would prefer not to answer. I appreciate the wine I have in my glass at the moment.

Special thank you to Nenad!
Read his reviews on:

Bibich R5
Piquentum Blanc
Brkić Plava Greda

Champagne’s Cooler Cousin: 5 Pét-Nat Sparkling Wines to Try Now

Štoka Rose Peneče , or pétillant naturel
Štoka Rose Peneče , or pétillant naturel

Vogue magazine knows that pét-nat is so hot right now. See this recent article by Kristin Tice Studeman on “Champagne’s Cooler Cousin”.

So what is pét-nat exactly? It’s a natural sparkling wine, made from red or white grapes, bottled during the primary fermentation process. This means the wine reflects the natural sugars from the grapes and the native yeasts, so the result can vary quite a bit…In short, pét-nat is a whole lot of fun because you never quite know exactly what you are going to get, except that it will be light, effervescent, and easy drinking (it is typically low in alcohol).

One of the five recommended pét-nats to try now, according to restaurateur Joe Carroll, is Štoka Bela (Vitovska) Peneče from Slovenia:

“I think that’s one of my favorite wine regions in the world; they are doing some very exciting things right now,” says Carroll of Slovenia. This particular wine, from the Štoka Winery in Kras (near the Slovenian-Italian border), comes from an iron-rich terroir. The resulting wine is a little more acidic and high in minerality than most of the pét-nats on this list. Overall, its also one of the more straightforward offerings here.”

Read the whole article here.