The great thing about meeting up with old friends when you haven't seen them for a little while is that you instantly pick up where you left things from last time. Such was the case for me last week when I was looking forward to seeing a friend I hadn't seen in over 18 months: the Theatre of Wine in Tufnell Park...
Readers who have been following my posts for a little while will remember that I occasionally organise wine tastings for members of my orchestra (the Camden Symphony Orchestra) at this rather lovely, independent wine store that specialises in unearthing interesting and unusual wines. Somewhat embarrassingly it had been at least 18 months since our last tasting, due to my organisational deficiencies (wrist duly slapped), so the group were in high spirits for our tasting.
The theme that Jason from Theatre of Wine and I agreed on was a "Balkan Bonanza". The Balkan regions are enjoying a recent renaissance as they are rediscovering grapes and regions that historically were renowned but had been forgotten in the troubles of the recent past. This is the kind of theme that the clever clogs at Theatre of Wine really excel in so I was very much looking forward to seeing what they had in store for us.
We started with a 2015 Verus Furmint (Slovenia). Furmint is the grape that makes the King of Wines, Tokaji, but it is also used to make dry whites, particularly in Slovenia and Hungary. This wine had a nice, grassy nose with a lemon zinginess to it. On the mouth it had a certain juiciness to it that reminded me of a lush red apple. 6.5/10.0; £13.10/bottle.
Next up was a 2014 Avincis Vila Dobrusa White (Romania) which was made from a blend of Fetească Regală, Pinot Gris and Tămâioasă Românească. This wine was more floral and more aromatic on the nose, with a very nice pink grapefruit taste. I liked this wine a lot. Exceptional value too. 7.5/10.0; £8.90/bottle.
After this we moved onto a 2013 Coronica Malvasija (Croatia). The aroma was sweeter, more honeyed, but on the mouth it had a slightly flabby, waxy structure that I wasn't too enamoured with - not my favourite wine of the evening. 5.0/10.0; £15.00/bottle.
Our penultimate white was the 2013 Adzic Grasevina (Croatia), which was made from the grape Welschriesling, a relation of my beloved Riesling. On the nose it had a bright and juicy pineapple note to it that was definitely reminiscent of a Riesling Kabinett. On tasting I found that it had a very nice weight to it, with a complex apricot compote profile. 7.0/10.0; £16.80/bottle.
Last up on the whites was from one of my favourite producers, the 2013 Hatzidakis Nikteri Assyrtiko (Greece). Hatzidakis are renowned for their elegant wines that express the best of Greek terroir and local grapes and this wine made from Assyrtiko grapes was no exception. There was a touch of smoke on the nose, which was coupled with zesty lemon and crunchy green apple. On the mouth there was a lovely weight and complexity to the wine with a hint of that smoke from the nose. One of the standout wines of the evening. 8.5/10.0; £22.40/bottle.
We started on the reds with a 2012 Edoardo Miroglio Pinot Noir (Bulgaria) which had very pleasing red fruit notes of strawberries and red cherries on the nose. On the mouth it had a surprisingly developed level of elegance to it. This was a lot of people's favourite wine of the evening and was certainly one of the best value. 7.0/10.0; £13.80/bottle.
Next up was the 2012 Tetramythos Agiorgitiko (Greece) which had a plummy and menthol nose that reminded me of a Cabernet Franc. On tasting there was a rather surprising kick to it. This wine didn't really do it for me. 5.0/10.0; £10.90/bottle.
We followed this with another wine from Avincis, this time the 2011 Avincis Merlot (Romania) which had a stewed red fruit nose. On tasting there were some bitter chocolate notes that gave it a little depth. 5.5/10.0; £14.80/bottle.
Jason upped the ante with the next wine, a 1999 Oikonomou Sitia (Crete) made from Liatiko and Mandilaria. The nose had just LOADS going on with cherry flavours mixed with a bit of aniseed and a whiff of leather. I remember not wanting to start drinking it as the nose had so much to take in. When I finally did summon up the courage to try the wine I found it unbelievably fresh, there were plenty of savoury notes going on with pepper and dark, meaty salami. This was a truly excellent wine and represented fantastic value. Jason rightly pointed out that to get a wine of this quality and age from Bordeaux you would have to pay at least double. 9.0/10.0; £41.50.
Our last wine of the evening was another stunner: the 2009 Coronica Gran Teran (Croatia) which had a slightly perfumed nose plump with juicy blackcurrants. On tasting it was nice and full-fronted with plenty of juicy and plummy notes. This was a very enjoyable wine to drink. 8.0/10.0; £31.80.
This tasting did exactly what I was hoping it would. It showcased the excitement and glamour that one can find in the Balkan region, if only you know where to look. There are interesting indigenous grapes, innovative wine makers and some very special terroir.
I should also comment that the Theatre of Wine team once more did an excellent job in hosting us. They put up with some of our more "unusual" queries and provided plenty of fascinating wine trivia. I only hope that it won't be another 18 months until our next tasting!
Note: prices quoted are the prices available from Theatre of Wine