30 Oct Hidden Gems for Wine Lovers in Eastern Europe
If you think about Europe and wine, you must automatically say Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Tuscany or Rioja. Although these well-established destinations have plenty of charm and should be on any wine lover’s bucket list, there are some wonderful emerging places which deserve some attention, especially in Eastern and Southern Europe. Countries like Hungary, Romania, Moldavia, and Bulgaria are putting their pins on the international wine map.
Even if they don’t have much experience in tourism and some of them are still struggling to get over a sad communist legacy, the ambition to create something from scratch deserves some attention. Here are a few places you won’t find on most tourist maps. The great news is that due to the cost of living in these countries but you’ll have a blast on a budget, without overcharging your card, just be sure you have an international one (https://www.crediful.com/best-debit-cards-for-international-travel/).
The Tokaji region is included in the UNESCO Heritage since 2002, and it was one of the first appellations of origin. This place is the home of the legendary dessert wine Tokaji Aszu. This ambrosia comes in a wide range of varieties and sweetness degrees, called “puttones”, ranging from one to six. If you are not a fan of sweet wines, don’t cross it off the list just yet, it also has wonderful dry and mineral wines, from Furmint and Hárslevelű varieties.
The great news is that although this is a historic wine region, you will find other attractions here, such as festivals, and great sport for outdoor activities: cycling, power-walking, horseback riding and even hunting if you are into that.
You can expect to spend about $300 for a tour of 3 wineries, tasting about six wines at each, complete with festive lunch and other regional food during the tasting and of course, a specialized guide and transport. Accommodation via Airbnb starts at about $30/night, which means that you can save your money to take home some wine. By the way, this is a great legacy, as the sweet Hungarian wines can be kept for decades.
Romania is the 13th largest wine producer in the world, but you have probably never tasted one of their wines because most of the production is consumed domestically. So, there is only one thing you can do, pack your bags and go on an adventure in Dracula’s land. However, you have more chances of finding delicious red wines than blood-sucking vampires.
A few wineries offer all-inclusive packages, but you can build your holiday like a LEGO by booking nearby accommodation and exploring the cellars. A tasting trip runs about $15, and you should take about half a day for each winery you intend to visit to have an enjoyable experience.
Some regions like Dealu Mare and Dragasani have more cellars which are very close by; you can visit them while taking a stroll or cycling through the vineyards. Others are more isolated, but offer lavish accommodation facilities and different ways to spend your time.
If you are on a tasting trip, don’t forget to ask for local food pairings, but expect more dishes on the more substantial, fat, meaty side. Pork is a national favorite, and there are plenty of local wines to match any recipe, from roast to stews.
Although Romania has some good reds of their own, Bulgaria is the place to go for jaw-dropping prices for Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, as well as some local Eastern European varieties like Kadarka.
You can find very low yields here, which shows that there is a focus on quality.
The revival of the wine industry after communism means that all the estates you can visit are entirely new and modern and that you can expect top service and care for the customer. Even if you don’t find anything comparable to a Margaux, you can spend a great holiday enjoying outdoor life and refining your knowledge about wine, as most winemakers will be happy to share some inside secrets.
This small country is home to some fantastic places related to wine, as 25% of the inhabitants have some connection with the industry. Here you can find the largest and second-largest underground cellars in the world, at Milestii Mici and Cricova and a full-sized, Italian style castle of wine.
Here you will find excellent examples of international grape varieties like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, next to some indigenous grapes like Rara Neagra, wine that is even enjoyed by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
The coolest thing here is that the country is so small you can visit many places in just a few days, as long as you have a designated driver (good luck finding one with so many good wines around). If you need more good news, the prices for a good bottle of wine start at just $2-3.
We hope we got you excited about these places. Share with us your impressions if you’ve been there or plan to go.