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Article: Your Guide to Beautiful Balkan Wines - This Month's Novel Wines Explorer's Club

Your Guide to Beautiful Balkan Wines - This Month's Novel Wines Explorer's Club

Your Guide to Beautiful Balkan Wines - This Month's Novel Wines Explorer's Club

Welcome to this month's Novel Wines Explorer's Club, the UK's most exciting wine subscription for the curious drinker. Each month, we will introduce you to a new wine region as part of our promise to deliver no two wines the same for a whole year. Not a member yet? Subscribe here.

Looking for an older guide? See all the Explorer's Club guides here.

What's in this month's Explorer's Club?

This month we take a deep dive into one of my favourite places, the Balkans. An area consisting of around a dozen countries across southeastern Europe including Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Albania amongst others. With over 2000 years of winemaking tradition and influences from multiple major empires, there is diversity and quality to be found from all corners.


For our journey into the Balkans, we’ll discover 6 wines from 5 different countries, each one with its own unique identity and profile, chosen to help you take this exciting foray into these wines from some places you may not have considered as wine producing countries before. Zelen, Zilavka, Vranec… get ready to be blown away by our brilliant Balkan Beauties!


We start in the beautiful Vipava Valley in Slovenia. The first wine is produced by Tilia Estate who were founded in 1996 by Matjaz Lamut whose sole intention is to make world class Pinot Noir. He makes a great Pinot Gris as well, but also wants to respect where he’s from and do his part to champion the local grapes. This is why we have this great zippy, fresh Zelen. Zelen is a pretty rare grape that only really exists here in this small part of Slovenia and its name comes from the wine’s green appearance, especially before filtration (Zelen means green in Slovenian). There is a lovely texture to this wine which helps to showcase the delicious peach and pear flavours, and it has a lovely finish full of apples, lemon, and a nice tart hit of pink grapefruit.


Next up is a scrumptious Zilavka from Bosnia. Zilavka is a very light skinned grape with great acidity and can develop some attractive nutty characteristics as it ages. The winery, Vinarija Citluk, is the largest in the country and located in the heart of Bosnia’s wine production centre in the southern Stony region. There is a pleasant floral profile on the nose to this wine along with hints of peach and bruised apple. A bit more apricot appears on the palate along with a touch of almond to compliment the peaches. It’s nice, zesty, finish makes it a great paring for seafood, especially with a bit of lemon.


Over to Croatia next for a fun white Posip from the family-owned Matusko Winery. Only founded in 1997 but by a family with a wealth of winemaking experience, they like to ensure their wines always show the family’s charm, personality, and playfulness. They forged a reputation not only for more rustic and dusty reds, but also fresh white like this little beauty. Posip is a bright and lively grape found almost exclusively here on the stunning Adriatic coast with these grapes coming from the winery’s vineyards on the Island of Korcula. Lemon zest, apple and pears, as well as an attractive note of honeysuckle make this a great wine for seafood – especially garlic prawns!


Our first red this month comes from North Macedonia’s amazing Ezimit winery. Another exceptionally modern winery, integrating new technologies with their traditional methods, producing a range of both international and local grapes. Vranec, the ‘Black Stallion’, is the champion here. Deep purple, juicy, and spicy, it has become the country's flagship grape for good reason. This Vranec is not as big and brash as some can be, its fruitiness compliments the luxurious chocolate and spices on the nose and in the mouth and the waves of blackberry make for a really pleasant experience. A great red meat wine, or one to match with a slow cooked stew.


We continue the tour of the Balkans with a trip to Romania. Founded in 1999, Dr Geza Balla’s namesake winery can be found on Minis Hill not too far from the Hungarian border on the banks of the River Mures. The long sunshine hours and cool evening temperatures help the vines here to really thrive. Blaufrankisch is much more well known in Austria and Hungary, and by its many synonyms such as Lemberger, Frankovka, and Kekfrankos to name but a few. But here it ripens so well, and you can find a black fruit dominated, brooding wine, with some tell tale blueberry and peppery spice. It’s a perfect choice for lamb, or Italian tomato-based dishes like some pastas and pizza.


One final trip back to North Macedonia completes our Balkan Beauties case, this time with an international variety – Cabernet Sauvignon. Imako Vino is located in the heart of the country’s wine hub, Tikves, a stunningly beautiful region perfect for grape growing. This is a lively Cabernet, easy drinking but with those typical black current and cassis flavours we love. Enticing aromas of sour cherry and plums are prevalent too, this translates onto the palate as well along with a lovely spice and soft, velvety tannins. A great wine for BBQ pork, and also goes great with a nice roast beef dinner.