What popular wine grape is Bulgarian variety Rubin similar to? Find out with this insider report on a recent masterclass for wines from Greece, Bulgaria and parts of Italy, held by Konstantinos Lazarakis MW.

‘What these regions have in common is not always easy to understand to start with,’ Lazarakis said as he began the tutored tasting. The focus would be on wines of Greece, Bulgaria – particularly the Thracian Valley – and Emilia-Romagna in Italy.

The session started with a video, which emphasised that these places share ‘a common wine tradition and culture.’

They are also all regions that have produced wine for a very long time: for around three or four millennia. Although they aren’t the oldest winemaking regions, these countries were the first to really develop a culture around wine and to enjoy with food, said Lazarakis.

Sadly they suffered from what he called ‘rock star syndrome’; too much success, too early and too quickly, to then sit on their laurels – so now many consumers have a confused idea about the quality of the wines.

The wines

Kicking off with wines from Emilia-Romagna, Lazarakis said that Italy has clear positive connotations about many things; wine, food, clothes, cars – ‘although, football…. Not so much’. Emilia Romagna is home to many of these positive things.

From an aromatic Malvasia di Candia Aromatica to a very food-friendly Lambrusco, what was clear was a great diversity of styles just from this one region of Italy.

Moving on to Greek wines, wines included an aromatic and acidic – almost 3pH – white wine, from Moscofilero, a variety similar to Muscat, and a red made from Xinomavro, similar to Nebbiolo that, according to Lazarakis, ‘proved that Greek wine can be top quality.’

The Bulgarian wines were mainly from the Thracian Valley, which is close to the Greek border. Again, unusual varieties were showcased, such as Rubin, a variety created post –World War Two, from Nebbiolo and Syrah – giving it both complexitiy and ‘guts’.

The final was a blend, primarily of Mavrud, prompting Lazarakis to tell the old tale of how Mavrud got its name; involving a man killing a lion after drinking some local wine.

Food and wine cultures

The idea of a shared culture around wine between these regions was clear; these are all places that want wine to be enjoyed with food – a point also emphasised by the producers showing their wines at the trade and consumer tastings.

‘This wine needs to go with rich Italian dishes,’ Beatrice Brighenti, of Monte dell Vigne told Decanter.com during the trade tasting, referring to their Lambrusco Selezione.

By keeping food in mind, places with these kinds of traditions have a ‘completely different approach’ to winemaking, said Lazarakis. ‘You don’t need to be spoon-fed all the flavours and structures.’

He then mentioned how a sommelier advised him that ‘matching colour is very important when matching food and wine’; think Italian tomato dishes with a red wine – with the acidity to stand up to it as well.

Food-friendly and to be enjoyed as part of the Mediterranean lifestyle, the wines of Greece, Italy and Bulgaria are definitely worth giving a chance.

The full masterclass wine list:

  • Torre Fornello, Donna Luigia 2014
  • Tenuta Santa Cecilia Croara Pignoletto Superiore 2014
  • Monte delle Vigne, Lambrusco Selezione 2014
  • Celli, Le Grillaie, Sangiovese Superiore  2014
  • Fratelli Bonelli, Gutturnio Riserva 2012
  • Domaine Skouras, Moscofilero 2015
  • Alexakis winery, Vidiano 2015
  • Mediterra winery, Mirambelo 2011
  • Vaeni Naoussa, Bios Ellinon 2008
  • Alpha Estate, Alpha Xinomavro Reserve Old Vines 2011
  • Brestovitsa, Rubin 2013
  • Kamenki,  Kamatan 2014

  • Nena WineOracle

    Right, and Macedonian wines like white Smederevka and red Vranec and Stanusina.

  • http://eklektikon.com Ares Tarchus

    Correct, many great PGI Macedonia wines from Greece are excellent examples of the versatility you mention, such as from Drama, Pieria, and Kavala.

  • Nena WineOracle

    There’s one wine region, that connects them all. Macedonian wines comes from the same region and without them, the story is not complete.

  • Dimitar Iliev

    There are many more Bulgarian wines not in this list, but better than listed