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Discovering the Balkan Sparkling Wines

Written on 06-12-2014 by Marinela Vasilica Ardelean, Italy & Romania

Marinela Vasilica Ardelean, the Best Sommelier of Romania in 2014

Discovering the Balkan Sparkling Wines

A sparkling wines master class at BIWC 2014 that I presented showed us the great array of the Balkan sparkling wines. It was an exciting task for me as the region is well known for the viticulture and winemaking since the ancient Thracian times. The Balkan territory is an amazing scenario, not only for still wines, but also for sparkling wines. The essential features thereof are variety, authenticity and above all high quality.

For this master class we tasted a total of 8 sparkling wines: 2 Romanian, 2 Bulgarian, 2 Greek, 1 Serbian and 1 from Croatia, and all made as a single varietal wine. Two of them were made by Charmat method and the rest with the traditional method. We had 2 rose sparkling wines (from Romania and Greece) and the rest were white sparkling wines.

The Italian touch is much appreciated - for instance a great producer Edoardo Miroglio from Elenovo (who won the Trophy for the best sparkling wine at BIWC 2014, with Blanc de Blanc Brut) and Petro Vaselo with Bendis Nadir (Pinot Noir 100%, produced by Charmat method). Both are Italians, who moved to Bulgaria and Romania respectively many years ago.

The varieties used were: Novac (from Romania: Prince Stirbey Winery), Xinomavro (from Greece: Kir Yanni Estate and Domaine Karanika) and Malvazija Istarska (from Croatia: Misal Winery). These 3 local grapes showed us the very original taste of the Balkan terroir. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (used by 4 of the wineries available on this Master Class), showed us also the huge potential of the Balkan terroir when it comes to the international grape varieties.

Novac in the sparkling wine version is produced only by Prince Stirbey Winery, which is royal not just by name; the producer is Princess Ileana (granddaughter of Princess Maria Stirbey) and her husband, Baron Jacob Kripp. This sparkling wine has a unique personality, very elegant color, generous on palate and strongly invites us for a second glass. The ancestors of this grape variety: Negru Vartos from southern of Romania and Saperavi from Georgia are bonding together two of Europe’s very oldest wine cultivation regions in an indigenous grape variety which first saw the light of day in Dragasani.

A Xinomavro grape, a native red grape from the Greek province of Macedonia (meaning ‘acid-black’), express very well itself in Greece as well. The wines from Xinomavro are known for their superb aging potential and their rich tannic character. Both sparkling wines from Greece were made with Xinomavro grapes.

Malvazija Istarska got the name after peninsula of Istria which is shared among Croatia, Slovenia and Italy. Most ampelographers believe that the Malvasia family of grapes is of the ancient origin, and most likely originating in Greece. Istria doesn’t have the classic climate for sparkling wines as it is far further south than the Champagne region in France, and closer to the sea. But by planting suitable clones and experimenting with the process, Mr. Đordano Peršurić started in the early 1990s producing some excellent sparkling wines, under the Misal brand and run today by his daughters, Ana and Katarina. Misal is the only winery from Croatia specialized exclusively in sparkling wines.

We have tasted Misal Istra Brut, a unique experience, a result of 3 vintages (2007), ageing in a big oak barrel. Grapes have cold maceration 7 days, and fresh young Malvazija Istarska was aged on yeast 3 years and 6 months. The taste was very rich, and wine is bursting with personality and noble oxidative notes.

Aleksandrović winery Trijumf Noir 2009 was made from the Serbian Pinot Noir grapes. The wine is a crystal clear with active and intensive bubbles. On the nose there are fruit aromas of peach and green apple which are in a subtle harmony with herbaceous tones. It is rich and complex, with pleasant minerality and fruity character. Aleksandrović Trijumf Noir 2009 is a very elegant and silky wine with the lingering aftertaste.

All the wines had something in common, namely fine bubbles, elegant taste and a very pleasant aftertaste.  

Starting with Prosecco & Champagne, the demand and the appreciations for the sparkling wines, is incessantly growing. In 2011, sparkling wines accounted for 7.7% of all wines drunk in the world. Sparkling wine consumption is expected to grow by a further 8.52% between 2012 & 2016. In this master class we picked the pedigreed array of Balkan wines. We tried to explore the varied styles of sparkling wine from Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Croatia & Greece, tasting wines made with indigenous and international varieties, from Charmat Method to the Classic Method.


Here is a list of all sparkling wines that we tasted:

1. Bendis Nadir Sparkling 2013, Petro Vaselo, Romania (100% Pinot Noir)

2. Brut Blanc de Blancs Sparkling, Edoardo Miroglio, Bulgaria (100% Chardonnay)

3. Karanika Brut Sparkling 2012, Domaine Karanika, Greece (100% Xinomavro)

4. Brut Villa Yustina Sparkling 2011, Villa Yustina, Bulgaria (100% Chardonnay)

5. Trijumf Noir Sparkling 2009, Aleksandrovic Winery, Serbia (100% Pinot Noir)

6. Misal Istra brut Sparkling, Misal, Croatia, Vintage 2007, 2008, 2009 (1/3 of each vintage)(100% Malvazija Istarska)

7. Spumant Prince Stirbey Rose Sparkling, Prince Stirbey Winery, Romania (100% Novac)

8. Akakies Sparkling Rose 2012, Kir Yianni Estate, Greece (100% Xinomavro)


Note: Originally from Transylvania (Romania) and based in Italy, Marinela Vasilica Ardelean has an infectious enthusiasm about sharing & enjoying the pleasures of great food & wine. After graduate studies in Economics & Law, an MBA program at MIB School of Management in Trieste, the Sommelier Diploma in Italy, studies in Bordeaux at l’Ecole du Vin, an important stage in Champagne & travels in more than 50 countries around the world including study tours, she is well qualified as a professional sommelier. She won the title of 'Best Sommelier of Romania' in 2014. She was also a finalist at 'The Best Sommelier in the World' in 2013 (London, UK) and the Italian finalist for the competition 'Ambassadeur-du-Champagne' in 2013.