Historically, eastern European wines have played second fiddle to their better-known equivalents in France, Spain and Italy. But slowly and surely, they are beginning to gain ground, with a huge variety of new styles and grape varieties that provide a welcome break from the norm.
Winemaking in central and eastern Europe has an illustrious history; there’s evidence of grape growing in Moldova as far back as 2800BC, while further south in Georgia and Armenia, archaeologists have uncovered winery artefacts even further back than that, more than 6,000 years ago.
Head to this part of the world and you’ll uncover intriguing grape varieties such as Saperavi, Furmint, Kadarka and Vranac – a far cry from the omnipresent international varieties.
This year’s IWSC results are a wonderful showcase of all that central and eastern Europe wines have to offer, with medals going to the likes of Croatia, Hungary, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia and many more. Croatia served up a brace of Golds, with Ravalico 1903 Malvazija Istarska 2018 and Degrassi Bomarchese Riserva Malvazija 2015, which wowed the IWSC judges with complex aromas of honey, almonds and citrus fruits.
Slovenia is a country to keep an eye on, too. It’s made great strides in the past decade or so, but its IWSC Gold this year is one of the oldest wines in the competition: the extraordinary Puklavec Family Wines Furmint 1971, 50 years young and boasting intense notes of flowers, herbs, spice and oak, with an amazingly smooth texture.
Turkey was a Gold recipient this year, too, thanks to Kavaklidere Saraplari Prestige Boğazkere 2018, a big-hearted red brimming with bramble, cherry, tobacco and sweet spice.
The wines from this category were organised by style and colour then judged blind by an expert panel led by Master of Wine Sarah Abbott. Other panel members included Master Sommeliers Isa Bal and Matteo Montone, Ocado’s Joseph Arthur, sommelier Valentin Radosav and Wine Society buyer Freddy Bulmer.
Central and eastern Europe has a distinguished winemaking heritage, as well as a treasure trove of unique grape varieties to explore. Here are the finest wines from this year’s IWSC tasting.
Top central and eastern European wine 2021
- Ravalico, 1903 Malvazija Istarska 2018. Croatia; 95/100
- Degrassi, Bomarchese Riserva Malvazija 2015. Croatia; 95/100
- Puklavec Family Wines, Furmint 1971 1971. Slovenia; 95/100
- Mád, Dry by Tokaj 2017. Hungary; 95/100
- Kavaklidere Saraplari, Prestige Boğazkere 2018. Turkey; 95/100
- JSC Telavi Wine Cellar, Marani Mukuzani 2019. Georgia; 93/100
- Kavaklidere Saraplari, Côtes d’Avanos Chardonnay 2020. Turkey; 92/100
- Estate Argyros, Cuvee Nykteri 2018. Greece; 92/100
- Teliani Valley JSC, Glekhuri Kisiskhevi Saperavi Qvevri 2019. Georgia; 92/100
- Argos Bağcılık, Nahita Dokya Emir 2019. Turkey; 91/100
- Balassa Bor, Betsek Kvarc 2017. Hungary; 91/100
- Royal Tokaji, Édes Furmint 2017. Hungary; 91/100
- Domaine Wardy, Château les Cedrés 2010. Lebanon; 91/100
- Bononia Estate, Gamza 2019. Bulgaria; 90/100
- SC Viile Budureasca, Vine in Flames Pinot Noir 2018. Romania; 90/100
- Tikves Winery, Alexandria Cuvée 2019. Macedonia; 90/100
How do we judge these wines?
We run a tightly structured, rigorous wine tasting process. That means that each wine sample is pre-poured into numbered glasses and assessed blindly by the judges. Most importantly, our IWSC wine judges are experts in their field, who work across all sectors of the wine industry. For evidence, see our full list of judges.
How do we score these wines?
Only the best wines sampled receive a Gold or Silver award. For example, to win Gold, wines have to score between 95 and 100 points. Meanwhile, Silver wines range from 90 to 94 points. Click here to read more on our scoring system.
More from Club Oenologique
Club O is an exclusive community and the go-to platform for wine and spirit lovers. Our flagship Club Oenologique magazine offers even more insights for enthusiasts and collectors. Based in London, our editorial team tells informative, inspirational stories from the world of wine and spirits, gastronomy and travel, as well as covering recommendations and the latest trends in drink. You can take a look at our Explained series, for instance, where we’re tackling grape varieties, regions and styles of wine and spirits. Alternatively, visit our Ask the Sommelier section, where experts answer your wine-related questions.
Top Rated Bottles
Ravalico, 1903 Malvazija Istarska 2018
Degrassi, Bomarchese Riserva Malvazija 2015
Puklavec Family Wines, Furmint 1971 1971
Mád, Dry by Tokaj 2017
Kavaklidere Saraplari, Prestige Boğazkere 2018
JSC Telavi Wine Cellar, Marani Mukuzani 2019
Kavaklidere Saraplari, Côtes d’Avanos Chardonnay 2020
Estate Argyros, Cuvee Nykteri 2018
Teliani Valley JSC, Glekhuri Kisiskhevi Saperavi Qvevri 2019
Argos Bağcılık, Nahita Dokya Emir 2019
Balassa Bor, Betsek Kvarc 2017
Royal Tokaji, Édes Furmint 2017
Domaine Wardy, Château les Cedrés 2010
Bononia Estate, Gamza 2019
SC Viile Budureasca, Vine in Flames Pinot Noir 2018
Tikves Winery, Alexandria Cuvée 2019
Wine Handpicked by IWSC
Six of the best Georgian wines
Wine Handpicked by IWSC
The Wine Society’s Freddy Bulmer selects eight top bottles from ‘The Cradle of Wine’
Wine Handpicked by IWSC
The best Hungarian wine to try right now
Will Loïc Pasquet of Liber Pater turn Georgia into a fine-wine frontier?
Get access to all our back issues via our free digital archive – and enjoy the best rate on a magazine subscription