Thursday, October 8, 2015

Discover Bulgaria Wine Tasting

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Did you know that Bulgaria is arguably the oldest wine region in the history of mankind?  We were invited by G&B Importers to discover the wines of Bulgaria and see the unique variety from this region that is offered for incredible quality and value.  Hosted at Chef Geoff's Downtown, an informational wine seminar was also provided by Balkan wine experts, Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, the World Wine Guys.

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G&B Importers explained: "Bulgaria has been producing wine since the time of Alexander the Great, and longer. Its rich fertile valleys were occupied by the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Ottomans for a period of more than 2,000 years. One of the reasons so many empires coveted this territory was the quality and quantity of the wines it produced. The valleys of Thrace, as well as certain other sub-regions in Bulgaria, have developed some unique grape varietals, such as Mavrud and Melnik, which trace their origins to 3,000 years ago; the wines made from these varieties, were praised in Homer’s immortal Iliad. While the names are new to many American consumers, the wines made from these local varietals either by themselves or in blends with grape types which are better known to current day wine enthusiasts make for some very intriguing, unique, and truly delicious wines."

We started with one of the newest Bulgarian wine labels, Bulgariana, that rivals in quality, and often far exceeds in value similar wines from more well-known regions.  The Bulgariana Chardonnay 2013 is unoaked with a long-lasting harmonious finish. It is golden in color, with a delicate aroma, intertwined with citrus, exotic fruits, and hints of ripe peach. This wine pairs well with baked salmon, most sea-food dishes, chicken, pasta with cream sauces, Brie and Gruyere cheeses.

I much preferred the Bulgariana Sauvignon Blanc 2013, which recently won 89 points and was delightful with a fresh, fruity, citrus-like and youthful nose, completely lacking in oak due to its having been aged only in stainless steel tanks.  On the tongue there are hints of exotic fruits and pineapples, with a gentle acidity and a highly satisfying after-taste.  We sampled these wines with some passed hors d'oeuvres like zucchini crostinis, mini crab cakes, smoke salmon canapes, ham and cheese croquettes, melon & prosciutto skewers, spicy shrimp skewers, and mini lamb chops.

For the red wines, we enjoyed the Bulgariana Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 that is well-balanced with a smooth finish. Jeff Jenssen notes: "It is a vivid dark purple color with violet nuances, and an elegant and fruity nose that hints of black cherry, blackberry and a spicy earthy character. This wine is fresh and juicy on the palate with pleasant accents of cherry, nuts and pepper, and traces of fine tannins." This wine pairs well with tomato sauce, and a wide variety of meats and steak-like fish (think grilled salmon or tuna) as well as with full-flavored cheeses.

My favorite wines of the night came from K Cellars.  The K Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 recently won 90 points and has aromas of blackberry, ripe cherry, black pepper and espresso bean delight the nose. Jeff Jenssen notes: "Deep ruby red, this wine has flavors of black cherry, blackberry, cinnamon and nutmeg that are supported by a soft grid of velvety tannins."  If you prefer a sweeter wine, the K Cellars Merlot 2012 was surprisingly full of juicy berry notes and was very light, and easy to drink.  A more medium-bodied interesting blend that we enjoyed was the K Cellars Cabernet Syrah 2011. Another 90 point winning red wine that was a favorite of Keith's was the K Cellars Pinot Noir 2011.  Jeff Jenssen notes: "Rich aromas of boysenberry, cranberry, pipe tobacco and dark chocolate prepare the palate for flavors of cherry syrup and pomegranate. Soft but persistent tannins are apparent in the mouth, and the finish offers lingering flavors of dark chocolate and coffee."  All of these K Cellars wines would pair perfectly with any meal.

We ended with a 91 point white wine called Chateau Burgozone 2012 Collection Chardonnay from the Danube River Plains.  Jeff Jenssen notes: "Pale straw in the glass, this wine has a nose of pineapple and lemon blossom with a strong dose of vanilla. It is round and full in the mouth, with rich flavors of green apple, guava and tropical fruits with a slight hint of toast that carry on through the long-lasting finish."  The unoaked wine provides a crispier finish that was very enjoyable.  I had given up on Chardonnay's lately, since most were very buttery or oaky that I found hard to drink.  But these Bulgarian versions were so different, that I would definitely add any to my collection.

Chef Geoff's proudly serves Bulgarian wine as his "house" option at his restaurants.  This region is often overlooked by the more popular areas of France, Italy, and Greece, but the flavors and value coming from Bulgaria should not be missed.  Have you had Bulgarian wine before?  Share your favorites in the comments below.

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