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Wines from Central and Eastern Europe – The Ultimate Next Big Thing in Wine

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After a complete revolution in quality, there's so much for the adventurous wine drinker to discover in these ancient winemaking regions.

Wines from the heart of Europe and onwards towards its eastern edge are barely known in the UK but there’s so much to discover for the adventurous wine drinker. Wine here is built on a on deep authentic roots, certainly going back to Thracian, Illyrian and Celtic tribes nearly 3,000 years ago and possibly much longer, as there’s evidence of grape growing from Neolithic times. Indeed, the world’s oldest winery (around 6,000 years old) lies on the eastern edge of the region – the eerie and fascinating Areni-1 cave in Armenia’s highlands close to its top wine region of Vayots Dzor.

Indigenous Žilavka grapes grow in vineyards of stony limestone karst in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Indigenous Žilavka grapes grow in vineyards of stony limestone karst in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In today’s search for authenticity in what we eat and drink, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and its neighbours have so much to offer and of course what really matters is how the wines taste today. Three decades of independence have seen the development of a private, smaller scale but better wine industry which has undergone a complete revolution in quality. And the best wines today are simply world class (demonstrated by two recent best-in-show winners from the region at Decanter World Wine Awards: St Andrea’s superb Nagy-Eged Bikavér 2017 from Hungary in 2021 and the amazing Vinčić Grašac from Serbia in 2023. And there’s an honourable roster of numerous gold and silver medal wines too.

Furmint and Vranac grapes from Central and Eastern Europe

Local grapes such as Furmint (pictured left) and red Vranac (pictured right) are now proving themselves capable of great wines.

Indigenous heroes

It’s particularly exciting to see local grapes that had become volume workhorses in the past being rediscovered and transformed from ugly ducklings to graceful swans. Grapes like Furmint, Graševina/Grašac, Prokupac, Teran, Babić, Kadarka, Kékfrankos, Rara Neagra, Vranec/Vranac and many more, are now proving themselves capable of great wines – in the right hands, the right places and with attention to detail. And what these grapes can bring is close connection to the landscapes where they grow – and the culture of the people that shaped them – whether this is the stony limestone karst of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Croatian coast or the extinct volcanoes of Hungary and Armenia.

The forthcoming first edition of The Ultimate Central and Eastern European wine fair in London will bring together 14 of these CEE countries and an incredible diversity of unknown grapes. Wineries have been handpicked by the organisers to showcase this incredible wine revolution and the wine discoveries that can be made in the heart of Europe and its close neighbours. Trade and press only.

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