While there is no substitute for the experience of travel, one of the great joys of wine is being able to explore distant places and foreign cultures from the comfort of your own home.
The wines of Western Europe, France and Italy, in particular, have had a significant impact on American wine-drinking culture, both in what we tend to gravitate toward on a wine list, and what our domestic wineries choose to grow and produce.
Thanks to the efforts of wine importers willing to seek out wines beyond the standard canon, there are so many exciting choices to discover, particularly in southeastern Europe.
In an area roughly the size of Virginia, the states that emerged from the former Yugoslavia are home to a vast array of winemakers using indigenous grapes and winemaking styles. Many of the younger winemakers also are embracing organic farming and sustainable practices.
While the names might be difficult to pronounce, the wines are easy to love. Here are three that we will be drinking through the warm days of spring and summer.
Voštinić-Klasnić ŝkrlet 2021. Ŝkrlet thrives in the small region of Moslavina, Croatia, from where this wine hails. The winery Voštinić-Klasnić is run by Tomislav Voštinić, whose great-grandfather planted the first vines of ŝkrlet in the area back in 1936. The grape gets its name from scharlach, the German word for scarlet fever, due to the small red spots that often appear on the vine and fruit. It makes a lean, refreshing wine that evokes white grapefruit and golden tropical fruit. Fans of sauvignon blanc or other lighter white wines will find a friend in this selection.
Brkić žilavka 2021. Brkić was founded in the late 1970s by Pasko Brkić. After he died, his son, Josip, took over and has become a star producer in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is dedicated primarily to highlighting the native grapes žilavka and blatina. His version of žilavka (jhee-lahv-kah) is captivating, aromatic and fuller-bodied, with notes of baked apple and quince paste, as well as a subtle white floral note. It is a great stand-in for chardonnay.
Grape Abduction rosé 2022. Made by winemaker Peter Gönc, this is a secondary project to his eponymous Gönc wines (also worth seeking out). Gönc wines are made from his estate vineyards in Štajerska Slovenia, while Grape Abduction comes from neighboring vineyards. The primary grape in this rosé is žametna črnina, one of the oldest in Slovenia. It makes a dry rosé that is bursting with notes of fresh peach, salted watermelon and wild strawberry. It is sold in a 1-liter bottle, so there is plenty to share.
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