Recently my sister gave me a bottle of La Umbra Merlot 2009 Dealurile Munteniei, Romania, she had purchased from Waitrose. It’s always exciting to try a new wine available in the UK from the region so I didn’t hesitate to crack it open.
Despite being unoaked, this is a punchy red wine, with a fabulous ruby red colour, making it a great wine for your decanter at your dinner party. There is an intense aroma of ripe plums and blackberries. A touch of tannin just gets the back of your tongue making it a great wine to serve with a traditional Romanian hearty dish. You could eat it with red meats but I’d personally recommend with my Romanian Pork and Bean Stew.
Romania’s presence at this year’s London International Wine Festival was certainly bigger and better than before. It seems that with the launch of the La Umbra range, Romanian wine is finally getting the attention it deserves, particularly after the recent mass investment in replanting, primarily led by Halewood Romania.
What you need to know:
Alcohol by volume: 14% vol
Bottle size: 75cl
Closure type: Screwcap
Exclusive to Waitrose: Yes
Grape varieties: Merlot
Style: Full Bodied
Suitable for vegans: Yes
Suitable for vegetarians: Yes
Wine colour: Red
Price: £5.69 per bottle
This New Year I was excited to see yet another East European wine on sale at Waitrose; it’s no wonder Decanter deem them the best supermarket supplier of wines. I saw in 2011 with a bottle of Enira 2006 Thracian Lowlands Bulgarian red wine. This fabulous, spicy red wine is produced and bottle by the Bessa Valley Winery in Ognianovo village.
This wine is a blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The deep, vibrant, ruby red colour is further complemented by its rich flavour. Boasting flavours of plum and blackcurrant, this wine is particularly smooth. Unlike most East European wines, it is ripe, and equals any bottle of cabernet sauvignon from France or the New World. It would not be impossible to enjoy this wine chilled as is a popular trend in Balkans and Greece.
Most excitingly I then found out this wine won a Bronze Award at the International Wine Challenge. I couldn’t agree with the decision more. It’s certainly a worthy punt for wine enthusiasts!
So my other fabulous purchase from Belgrade Airport was a bottle of Carica Milica Stono Polusuvo Vino, a Serbian red wine. With equally ornate label as the bottle of Car Lazar and a matching cheap price tag (just 300 Dinar or about £3) I thought it only fair to give this bottle a go too. It’s a lot less intense than the Car Lazar. For one thing, it is only 11% vol. alcohol in comparison to the Car Lazar which is slightly more at 12% vol. But the flavour, aroma and colour also quite different.
This is a paler red, more comparable to a Beaujolais. The taste and aroma, while fruity, are less intense. This is no bad thing. It just depends on your preferance. In fact, the fact that this particular vineyard makes two wines, quite contrasting but both of fabulous quality mean that there is something to please everyone. This is epitomised by my very own family. My Mother loved the Carica Milica, and not just because of its name! Whereas, my Father particularly enjoyed the Car Lazar. I, typically, liked both.
While at the London International Wine Festival I was privileged to meet the family and team behind the Jurjević (De Georgiis) vineyards. The Jurjević (De Georgiis) family wine story is quite unusual and not based on century-old traditions. It begins in 2001, as a continuation of the Silba inhabitants’ work and traditions. By merging the old and the new the family’s goal is to make high-quality wines by the sea of pristine silence and wooded vegetation on the island of Silba.
The process begins in the vineyards, where the grapes are carefully nourished in order to preserve their best qualities. Everything is done manually, from preparing the terrain, pulling up weeds, digging, planting, spraying, to grape harvesting and pressing in clear ecological conditions, in accordance with world ecological standards.
The family produces bottles of chardonnay, posip, merlot and syrah and I was lucky enough to sample these last week. The latter was my favourite wine, not simply of the Croatian offerings but the entire festival. The Syrah was bottled in 2009 so it is still quite young. Although you could age it, it was already simply a divine bottle of wine as it currently stands. It’s not the richest red colour, but it is bright, with heady, fresh, fruity notes. The taste was ripe, smooth and enticing. After one sip I was hooked!
The family land also boasts incredible olive trees, from which they make delicious extra virgin olive oil. If you happen to be sailing in the region, moor at one of the 20 moorings owned by the family in the Draga Bay and pop into their restaurant to enjoy some homemade food. Each dish is baked in an iron oven or grilled. No doubt the cevapi served with ajvar is delightful!
Yet another East European find in Waitrose, this time a bottle of Croatian red wine! Croatia is renowned for its wine, particularly its red which is hearty, rich and intense in flavour and colour.
Plavac Mali is produced at the Svirče Winery on the island of Hvar, located on the Adriatic. The vineyard is noted for its quality wines. This particular bottle is a ripe, smooth red, from the Plavac Mali grape. This grape variety, indigenous to Hvar, is closely related to Zinfandel and so the wine has a very similar style.
The Plavac Mali is soft enough to drink one its own but makes an ideal pairing to beef dishes such as cevapi served with ajvar. Alternatively serve with a delicious Sunday lamb roast. Packed with notes of punchy berry fruits this bottle is simply delicious and would not be a poor accompaniment to an abundant cheese board.
I have visited Purger twice now, and on neither occasion have I seen a non-Croat there. One waiter speaks no English and the other only understands the basics which for me, is always a good sign. I tend to believe that if the locals like a restaurant and it is not full of tourists, you are probably guaranteed a good meal. With Purger, this is definitely the case. From the outside one may be hesitant to enter but on negotiating your way through the restaurant one is finally met with a secluded courtyard, the perfect city getaway. The only problem, and it really is not a problem, is that this restaurant’s menu is not merely vast, it is excessive. It is difficult to decide which type of the seemingly endless options of veal, pork, beef, fish, chicken to choose.
The portions at this restaurant are comparable in size to that of the menu. The Vinksi Gulaš, a veal goulash unusually made with white wine and less paprika than the traditional Hungarian or Transylvanian goulash. Served in a large metal bowl, it is easy to think it would be impossible to finish every morsel but, as is the case with the food served at Purger, it is simply too delicious to leave a mouthful. The goulash is served with potatoes but you will want to make use of the dense, cornmeal bread to mop up the excess thin sauce.
The Naravni Samobor is a thin veal escalope doused in garlic and grilled, apparently a tradition associated with the nearby village of Samobor. The veal was beaten incredibly thinly and required very little effort to eat and the meat simply flaked apart on entering my mouth. For a garlic lover, this platter is simply heaven.
The only slight disappointment was the Svinjski Kotlet, a grilled pork cutlet which while was rich in flavour, was unfortunately a little tough. Nevertheless, the great taste made up for the minor disappointment.
Side dishes include potatoes, french fries, rice, croquettes, and a variety of large individual salads which add a useful, refreshing element to one’s meal. The beetroot is fresh and will make one never want to return to that pre-prepared from the supermarket, and the tomatoes are juicy with thick flesh and a truly wonderful taste.
The wine list boasted all the usual local wines including Vinarija Dingač, Pelješac, Kvalitetno vino, Vinogorje Pelješac, 2007. The wine was heady, smooth and velvety, a perfect accompaniment to the rich meal.