From €15.90, CA$24.95, HK$205, £17.95, 29.55 Swiss francs
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How Bulgarian wine has changed! This is a deeply satisfying wine on any level. If it carried the same appellation as the St-Émilions of
Count Stephan von Neipperg of Ch Canon La Gaffelière, one of several owners of this estate west of Bulgaria's historic (once Greek) city Plovdiv, you would be asked to pay at least twice as much money for it, probably more. The producers write in their notes about this warming red blend, 'the Reserva 2008 is the wine Bessa Valley was waiting for for some years! The harvest data were great for this vintage (perfect time of harvest, perfect skin maturity and perfect alcoholic degrees).'
I loved this special bottling, Domaine Bessa Valley, Enira Reserva 2008 Thracian Lowlands, a fully mature blend of 42% Merlot, 25% Petit Verdot, 20% Syrah,13% Cabernet Sauvignon. Nick and I enjoyed it over two nights and kept coming back to it from several other open bottles. I wrote this about it:
'Intense, warm and baked fruit with a lightly charred but supple finish. Very sweet start but then lively and with beautiful richness. Not so unlike a good Clos de l'Oratoire, to which it is related by ownership. Very satisfying and well balanced. Sophisticated use of oak. Light years from the Bulgarian norm. I think this wine may qualify for a word I don't think I have ever used on this site before: tasty.' Odd that punter's word, but I think it's the lightly savoury note that the Syrah brings to the blend and prevents the wine from being yet another copycat red bordeaux from eastern Europe. And the six years' maturity bring considerable complexity to this 14.5% wine that hides its potency well. I suggested 2012-2016 as its drinking window, but I suppose neither I nor the producers can know how long a top Enira from a top vintage can last (although see below).
Here's the technical stuff: 'The grapes are hand-picked, then carefully selected on sorting tables. Cold maceration of whole berries is performed from 5 to 8 days at 16 ºC. Alcohol fermentation with addition of selected yeast strains is controlled at 26-28 ºC during 8-10 days, in order to reach 3-4 g/l residual sugar, followed by maceration from 5 to 8 days in 10 cubic metre [looks a bit small?], temperature-controlled concrete tanks. Malolactic fermentation continues in oak barrels, then ageing for about 16-18 months in oak barrels. The vintage was so good that the selection of the lots of wine aged for this specific Reserva 2008 had to be more serious than ever! Nevertheless, the Bessa Valley team succeeded to deliver this 17 months barrel-aged wine, with a higher percentage of new oak (40%). The aromas on the nose are red fruits, vanilla and menthol. The attack in mouth is sweet, followed by wood tannins still present, but which would meld in the future, allowing this wine to age for at least 10 years [ah…]. The aftertaste is also with many red fruit flavours, and ending with long and thin tannins!' So there you have it.
The project was started back in 2001 with the selection of 250 ha of gently sloping, south-facing land shown above left, of which 140 ha have so far been planted with Bordeaux red wine varieties plus Syrah. A large, ecologically inspired winery was built in 2005 with the capacity to produce one million bottles of wine although total production is currently just over a third of that. China and Japan are the major export markets with Germany (the base of another of the owners), Switzerland, Hong Kong, Austria, the US and the UK having progressively smaller allocations. The American importer is
Texavino USA (www.texavino.com) but I could not find any US listings on wine-searcher.com. Bessa Valley's aim is to increase shipments to the UK and US. The new British importers Alliance Wine of Scotland cite The Fine Wine Shop and Salisbury Wine Co as stockists, and the London restaurant Gautier also have it on their list. There is a (rather out of date) list of distributors on the producer's website.
This is far from the only exciting producer on the new Bulgarian wine scene (Edoardo Miroglio is an obvious example of another), but it is one with an enviable track record. Way back in 2005 the regular bottling of Enira 2004 was a wine of the week
here - just £8.99 at Waitrose then.