The Balkans refers to a region of Eastern Europe, although the definition of which countries should be counted among that group varies somewhat depending on whom you ask. The list of Balkan countries seems to always include:
- Republic of Macedonia
- Republic of Serbia.
Other countries sometimes included are:
- the European part of Turkey.
When it comes to the wines of the Balkans, however, all of those countries can be counted as part of this region.
Wine in the Balkans
The Balkans region produces some wonderful wines, especially along the Adriatic Sea. In some parts of the Balkans, wines have been produced for thousands of years.
Unfortunately, this rich history was interrupted in the last century by two world wars, the fall of communism and the civil war, which led to the disintegration of Yugoslavia. As you might imagine, all of that wreaked havoc on the vineyards.
Even though the recent years of conflict have made it difficult for winemakers, this area is once again on the rise and more and more wines from the Balkans are entering the marketplace.
Wines from the Balkans: The Former Yugoslavia
The earthy, dark reds produced by this region have become the best known, with Zilvaka ranking as the most famous. Some wine critics describe Zilvaka as an acquired taste, but others greatly enjoy it.
By contrast, the Brda region in Slovenia is a continuation of the famous Venetian wine region Friuli, and it produces some of the best Slovenian wines. Among them is Avia, which can be found in many major supermarkets among the lower-priced bottles of Merlot and Chardonnay.
In fact, many wineries around the world actually use barrels made of slow-growth oaks from Slovenian forests to age their wine.
Both Slovenia and Croatia have a cool, continental climate, which enables white wines to flourish. The vineyards in both of these countries take advantage of this fact to grow grapes that are popular worldwide, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. But they also produce some wonderful local white wines, such as Rizling, Malvasia and Grasevina, which all have the potential to become popular dessert wines.
Croatia also has the advantage of the Dalmation coastline along the Adriatic Sea, where the Mediterranean climate allows red wine grapes to flourish, including Merlot and the traditional grape variety Plavac.
Wines of Bulgaria and Romania
Did you know that Romania is one of the great wine-consuming countries of the world? Some historians also name Bulgaria as the birthplace of winemaking.
Two famous Bulgarian wines include Pamid and Gamza. Unfortunately Bulgaria has to export about 80 percent of its wines, including the well-liked Pamid and Gamza, due to its predominantly Muslim population.
Wines of Hungary
Hungary has remained faithful to its traditional winemaking methods rather than adopting the French method, as many other countries did. Perhaps this is what has made Tokay, a sweet wine made from grapes with noble rot, so popular. Ranked among Port and Madeira, Tokay has become a prized after-dinner wine.
Along with Tokay, Hungary has also become known for its fiery red wines and the strong flavor of its white wines.
Wines of Greece
For over 4,000 years, wine has been a part of Greek culture. Modern technology has only enriched this long history. As Greece moves into the 21st century, Greek wines are receiving some of the highest awards in international competitions.
Approximately 300 indigenous grape varieties grow in Greece. According to some of the world”s most discerning wine critics, the distinct flavors found in these grapes help serve as a strong marketing tool for the Greek wine industry.
Why does wine grow so well in Greece? The moderate climate, low rainfall levels and abundant sunshine all contribute to an ideal wine grape climate.
Balkan Wines Overall
From Greece to Macedonia to Slovenia and Croatia, many consider the Balkans region to be the birthplace of civilization. While turmoil may have slowed down wine production, you should expect to see some high quality wines emerge in the coming years.