I recently wrote about the Puklavec Sauvignon Blanc from Slovenia available in Waitrose. I’m a huge fan of the folks at Puklavec having met them at the International Wine Festival last year. It’s such a shame that the likes of Waitrose have only picked up one bottle from their impressive range. I tried out the Puklavec & Friends Sauvignon Blanc & Furmint and it really is a notable wine.
With the sauvignon comes all those renowned citrus fruit aromas and notes. However, the furmint’s mineral and aciditiy characteristics gives the wine a more mellow and crispy note. Think the aroma of lime and the taste of elderberry. This pale and delicate wine is a great wine for summer. Team with a salad or fish, or just enjoy as an aperitif.
When my Laithwaites wine package turned up I was excited to see yet another East European find – this time, Albastrele Sauvignon Blanc 2009 from Moldova. As expected this is a really zingy wine, full of citrus aroma and flavours but more subtle than New World Sauvignon Blancs which tend to be overly grapefruity.
Should the sunshine make a reappearance this summer, you’ll want to be sipping on this as an aperitif, or alternatively, with bold flavoured food, particularly spicy dishes.
A Pinot Grigio is also available from the same winery for those who prefer a lighter, crisper wine. You can check out my review of that wine, here.
When I was at the London International Wine Festival this year I had a chat to the people behind the Puklavec & Friends Sauvignon Blanc from Slovenia. It was nice to see them back in town and it was a good reminder of how unique this Slovene wine is. The region is usually noted for its Malvasia grape, however, this Sauvignon Blanc is something a bit special.
This a fabulously fresh wine, and as expected has flavours of grapefruit and lime, though they are more subtle than a new world Sauvignon Blanc, with a twist of minerality that the soil in Jeruzalem is renowned for. Sauvignon Blanc is a great wine with spicy dishes, such as Thai curry, but you could enjoy it with a more traditional dish from the region such as river trout wrapped in prosciutto. The wine’s acidity cuts through the salty meat perfectly.
What you need to know:
Alcohol by volume: 12.5% vol
Bottle size: 75cl
Closure type: Screwcap
Grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc
Region: Other Countries
Suitable for vegetarians: Yes
Wine colour: White
Price: £8.54 per bottle
The winter is the best time to indulge in mussels on the Adriatic coast of Slovenia and Croatia. This is a very simple recipe for steamed mussels and ensures the taste of the fabulous, succulent mussels shines through and is not dominated by any other ingredient.
Here’s my foolproof recipe…
1kg mussels, with the beards and any barnacles removed, any open mussels should be disguarded
250ml white wine (Malvasia would be ideal)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp parsley, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
Put oil, wine, parsley and garlic into a stock pot and heat until it reaches a simmer
Place the mussels into the pot
Put a lid on the pot and allow the mussels to steam for 4 to 5 minutes
Serve when the mussels are open, with bread to mop up the sauce
When I first visited Slovenia the Detela family took me out to a restaurant one day for lunch. This was the dish I ordered and I love it! It’s fresh, tasty and as I found when I tried to make it recently, not actually that difficult.
Check out my recipe below…
1 trout per person gutted, cleaned and patted dry
4 slices of proscuitto ham per fish
1 clove of garlic per fish, crushed
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley per fish
250ml white wine
Generously butter a roasting dish large enough to fit the fish laying flat
Place the garlic and parsley into the fish
Wrap the prosciutto ham around each fish to seal it, season with salt and pepper
Place fish into roasting tin
Pour wine over fish
Place in oven on 180°C and roast for 30 minutes
Remove the fish from the oven and keep warm
Simmer the juices until slightly thickened
Serve the fish with the sauce poured over it and a generous wedge of lemon
I love this mackerel dish, it is really easy to make and you can serve it in individual dishes which makes it ideal for dinner parties. Ensure the fillets have some bones in them otherwise the fish may fall apart.
4 mackerel fillets, with tails and butterflied
50ml olive oil
1 white onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
250ml dry white wine
Lemon slices and parsley to garnish
Preheat the oven to 180ºC
Dry the fillets with kitchen paper
Heat oil and gently fry onions until soft
Stir in the garlic
Spoon in the tomatoes and season
Add fillets of mackerel (it is best to do this one or two at a time to avoid overcrowding the pan)
Cook for 5 minutes on one side, remove and keep warm
When all the fillets are cooked, place them into individual dishes
Whenever I discuss what I do for a living, most people say in amazement, “Surely the cuisine of the region is no more exciting than meat and carbohydrates?” I spend hours explaining just how varied the food is across Central and Eastern Europe. When I talk about former USSR countries, such as Georgia, people are truly shocked how fabulous the traditional dishes are. However, there is nothing wrong with some basic meat recipes such as shashlyk skewers of meat. These are popular, in some form, in many countries, Turkey for one, but for me, they will always remind me of a wonderful meal in Ket in St Petersburg. Shashlyk can be served with a variety of sauces but they key is to get the meat tender and charred. Here’s my easy, cheap, recipe, inspired by the people of Georgia…
500g cubed meat (this can be chicken, beef – though make sure it is not stewing steak or it’ll be tough as old boots – or pork)
2 large white onions cut in quarters
4 bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
Pinch of salt
100ml white wine vinegar
50ml Georgian white wine
150ml cold water
Put the all the ingredients into a large bowl and leave to marinate for at least 3 hours
Rinse meat under tap to take away any harsh acidic taste of vinegar
Put meat on skewers (metal work best but as you can see from the photographs, wood will work too, just ensure they have been thoroughly soaked in water to prevent them burning)
Either put on a barbecue/hot coals to seal the outside of the meat for a minute on each side
Heat a griddle pan until it’s steaming, add a teaspoon of rapeseed oil (or vegetable oil but NOT olive oil) and seal the meat for a minute each side
Place in a hot oven (at about 180 degrees Centigrade) and cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until cooked through but still tender
Serve on a plate with a sauce of your choice, buckwheat kasha and salad
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!
Some days, some weeks, can be tough. I’m spending nearly every minute of every day, bar the six hours (if I’m lucky) sleep I may or may not get each night, working, writing or studying. However, while my days may be busy, they can still be satisfying. This evening I returned home to find 12 random bottles of wine which I have delivered from Laithwaites every four months or so. I love the fact that in most of these boxes, Laithwaites will usually include at least one bottle of wine of Central or East European authority and this month was no exception.
At this time, Pinot Grigio is the world’s most popular white grape. Its most sought-after wines are those from northern Italy, which while are available come at a price. However, go a little further east and one finds the historic vineyards of Hungary are also producing some excellent value, appetising Pinot Grigios like the elegant Baron Lazare.
This crisp white comes from a cellar in the Pazmand region of Etyek founded in 1949, and thoroughly modernised since the fall of communism. This cellar is well-equipped with cool fermentation equipment essential for producing fresh, modern whites, and has won many awards for its efforts. Gabor Laczko is the dynamic young winemaker.
Baron Lazare de Schwendi brought back from Hungary young vines after besieging the town of Tokaj in 1565. He cultivated them on his own land in Kientzheim, near Colmar, where his castle still stands. Baron Lazare de Schwendi is made by veteran winemaker of 40 years, Bardos Benjamin, from the finest Pinot Grigio grapes carefully selected from vineyards surrounding the Nagyrede winery.
The wine itself is medium-bodied, with an attractive, aromatic, floral nose. Well balanced, with lemon notes, Baron Lazare de Schwendi is an ideal aperitif and the perfect accompaniment for poultry or fish. I enjoyed a few glasses with a gorgeous prawn, smoked haddock and salmon fish pie – yum!
This Hungarian recipe is traditionally made with a Balatan wine called Badacsonyi Kekryalii (Blue Handled) which had a full body and distinctive taste. Unfortunately, it’s a bit tough to get hold of Hungarian wine in the UK and I decided to substitute the wine with a dry white and thankfully, due to the wonders of Waitrose, I did managed to get hold of a Hungarian bottle, albeit not Badacsonyi Kekryalii. To find out more about the wine go to Eva’s Wine.