Wines from Eastern Europe
As a wine producer, Austria is very similar to Germany, but with more sunshine and just a hint of eastern promise. This means that many of the wines are from similar Germanic grape varieties but taste just a bit richer and spicier. They would doubtless find great favour with British palates it they were easier to find and just slightly cheaper.
The Schluck brand is a respectable, medium-dry wine made from Austria’s grape speciality, the Gruner Veltliner. This nicely sums up the combination of pungency and crispness that characterizes the wines of Austria. Welschriesling, a soft aromatic grape that lacks the staving power of Germany’s Riesling, is also widely planted. Sunshine is not at such a premium in Austria as in Germany, so very sweet wines labelled Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese are rather more common, and rather less steeply priced.
Hungary’s most famous wine is Tokay, a heady golden wine matured almost to a sherry-like state in small barrels called gonci and sweetened with hodsful, or puttonuoss, of Aszu, concentrated grape juice. The more puttonyos, the sweeter the wine so that a five-puttonyos wine is very sweet indeed. Tokay Szamorodni is usually dry, but still quite sherry-like.
The Hungarians, quite understandably, favour their own grape varieties, whose names, and sometimes flavours, are highly individual. The most successful exports are blended reds, such as the robust Bulls Blood of Eger, and Hungary’s version of Welschriesling, Pecs Olasz Rizling.
Welschriesling is known as Laski Rizling in Yugoslavia and is widely grown in Slovenia, notably around Lutomer, to produce inexpensive medium-dry whites, Each of Yugoslavia’s six member states has a strong regional identity and this is reflected in the wines. In the south in Macedonia the wines tend to be fiery, alcoholic reds, while some piercingly crisp dry whites are made on the Dalmatian coast. One of the most promising areas, along with Slovenia, is in the cool Fruska Gora mountains of Croatia where the hills rise up towards Transylvania. An interesting range of wines is inspired by varieties such as Sauvignon, Rajinski Rizling (Germany’s Riesling), Cabernet and Traminec (Gewurztraminer).
Bulgaria has set her vinous cap squarely at the western European market, with a great deal of export success. Bulgarians are able to offer extremely inexpensive versions of varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay which, if they hardly rival Chateau Margaux and Montrachet, nevertheless offer very good value. As the vines become more and more established, the quality should improve – provided the producers can resist the commercial temptation to let standards slide. Her own specialities such as the intense red Mavrud deserve attention too.
It is rumoured that some excellent wines are made in Romania, but foreigners are rarely given the chance to find out. Some very cheap blends are occasionally exported and they may be supplemented at some stage by a wider range of goods from this prolific wine producer. USSR The Soviet Union makes wine in a quantity that is already enormous and seems likely to increase every year. However, few examples are seen outside the USSR other than some rather sweet sparkling wine, red as well as white.