Today I happened to try two budget white wines to re-open the season in Sofia.
Bulgarian whites have never been much of a thrill. Yes, we have a white variety typical to almost every of the five local wine regions, including unique varieties such as Tamianka, but also including Chardonnay, Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc and Traminer. But the country generally boasts the red army of Mavrud, Melnik, Gamza and the close to perfect symbiosis of Cabernet and Merlot to the local earth and climate. Lately, we are witnessing a wave of intriguing Pinot Noirs, Syrahs and even Sangioveses springing out of Bulgarian soil and making up a new palette of nice exogenous produce.
A couple of weeks ago the white wine season kicked off for me in Varna with a white Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 by Kaynardja of Silistra, northeast Bulgaria. Yes, white. It was my debut with whites coming out of a red grape. The Kaynardja was something special. It had the strong forest fruit nose and soft aftertaste of violet candy, a product we kids loved in Bulgaria during the 1980s, and an asserting 14% of alcohol. As I came to know afterwards, this wine is not sold in stores. It can only be consumed in this special place in Varna. And this Cabernet was my transition to the white wines this season – a perfect transition, I would say.
Invigorated by the Varna trip, I decided to revisit Bulgarian whites in Sofia and put one of them at test with a white from a controlled region in Southern Europe, both from approximately the same price range. I bought a Preslav Chardonnay 2007 and a Riff Pinot Grigio delle Venezie 2008. The Preslav winery, in northeast Bulgaria, is famous for its white wines, and the closest white wine from an “indicazione geografica tipica” was Pinot Grigio from the Venice region.
The Chardonnay hits with a deep, meadowy, fruity nose reminding me of Albarino and northwest Spain. I am shattered. I would never think this was a Bulgarian white whine. The body is quite full and responding to the initial impression. Alcohol content is 13.5%, way beyond the typical Bulgarian dress code.
The Pinot Grigio kicks in with tunes of mountain forest and the sea mixed together. The nose is definitely more impressive, salty a bit, rocky, yet the body is more transparent. It is a little sparkly and stands at 12%. Kind of bleaker, less distinguishable wine, at least for my laic palate. Maybe it’s due to the price range I have chosen for an Italian wine, but is it? On the other hand, may we compare Chardonnay with a Pinot Grigio? It is the opening of the season and I surmise we may.
Preslav Chardonnay, 2007, Bulgaria, 13.5%, price 3.00 euros
Riff Pinot Grigio delle Venezie, 2008, Italy, 12%, price 7.00 euros