02/04/09 – the wines of Eastern Europe

By Jesse on February 2, 2009

In just one week’s time, we’ll be testing out the theory that the Young Winos of LA are better blind-tasters than the judges at the California State Fair. Yes, it’s time once again for March Madness, the bi-annual blind-tasting tournament that separates the serious rummies from the mere lushes.

The only real problem with the March Madness event is that we there’s not much variety in terms of… well, varieties. For eight weeks, we’ll be tasting only six different grape varietals: three whites and three reds (followed by two weeks of championship play). I thought this might be a great opportunity to get the varietal heebie-jeebies out of our system by tasting some seriously bizarre shit.

With that in mind, off to Eastern Europe we go! Some timid wine drinkers never venture east of Germany or Italy, but there’s a whole host of unique and interesting winemaking going on behind the Iron Curtain and along the Adriatic. Here are some countries to check out:

Croatia. In a recent post that’s well worth reading, Alder of Vinography tasted through a sampling of Croatian vino. The grapes he discovered included familiar varietals like Riesling and Malvasia, as well as Debit, Posip, and the rising red star of Croatia, Plavac Mali! If you’ve got 15 minutes or so, watch Gary Vaynerchuk drink three delicious(?) Croatian bottles.

Greece. Major players include the white grape Asyrtiko and the red grape Agiorghitiko. Greece isn’t just for Retsina anymore (although I certainly won’t complain if you’re inclined to go crazy and bring one of those resin-infused oddities). Click here to watch Gary drink an Asyrtiko with legendary wine writer Jancis Robinson.

Hungary. Hungary is well-known to American consumers for its “Bulls Blood” red and its phenomenal dessert wine Tokaji. The latter can get a bit expensive, so if you want to split one with a friend, that’ll make it more accessible.

Cyprus. Really? Cyprus? Oh hell yeah. Gary loves ’em!

Feel free to pick another country from Eastern Europe and blow our minds, if you’re so inclined. No France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, or Germany, please. (Austria’s debatable, as they share a lot of varietals with Germany. If you decide to go Austrian, just make sure it’s a varietal you’ve never had before.)

We’ll be meeting at Mary and John’s place in Culver City. The RSVP system functions like this: if you want in, you click on this link and tell me so (don’t forget your full name, e-mail address, and a cute message conveying to me your intentions). Priority is given to long-term members but seats are also reserved at each and every meeting for new people. If you’re denied entry due to a meeting exceeding capacity, don’t worry — you’ll be at the top of the list the next week.

Once you’ve gotten your confirmation e-mail, go out and find yourself a delicious bottle of Eastern European wine (or bring a $10 donation, if you prefer). We’ll see you crazy kids on Wednesday at 9pm.