Two wines this week, from the same region, which is basically the whole of southern Bulgaria and whose name is perhaps deemed rather more glamorous.
Damianitza, Uniqato Rubin 2010 Thracian Lowlands by Richard Hemming
From £12.99, €9.80
The chatter about alternative varieties grows increasingly clamorous these days as wine lovers sniff out ever more obscure grape varieties. And few are more alternative and obscure than Rubin, a 1944 cross of Nebbiolo and Syrah from Bulgaria.
Wine Grapes tells me that it is vigorous, fertile and fairly productive with small, thin-skinned berries that nonetheless have high levels of anthocyanin, the wine colouring compound. Just to confuse matters, the word Rubin is also applied to superior Zweigelt from the Carnutum region of Austria, but this is totally unrelated.
I was struck by how the 2010 Uniqato from Damianitza managed to meld some of the best qualities of its parent grapes, showing the firm structure of Nebbiolo with the savoury, meaty flavour of Syrah and an aromatic floral quality common to both. While not unfamiliar by themselves, the combination makes for a most unusual experience, with an additional rubbery sort of texture that is very particular.
I loved it for its individuality and esotericism, which may be too oddball to appeal to mainstream wine drinkers, but which I fancy will really pique the curiosity of the wine savvy. Furthermore, it is showing attractive, mature complexity, helped in part by 10 months' ageing in 50% new French oak.
In the UK, it is being sold online for £12.99 by Vaskovino, a specialist retailer of indigenous Bulgarian grapes set up by former Oddbins employee Vassil Rachkov. His mission can't be an easy one, but kudos to him for championing wines like this. I also liked the Melnik 55 and Borovitza Pinot Noir that they stock, should you feel moved to buy several wines from them. Elsewhere, wine-searcher shows that this wine is available in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.
Edoardo Miroglio, Soli Pinot Noir 2011 Thracian Lowlands by Jancis Robinson
This mature Pinot really has quite remarkable finesse for the money. I first tasted it under Wine Society auspices when their staff pointed out that it had shown better than most other Pinots on their list at this bargain price. Purple Pagers will find three tasting notes on vintages 2009 to 2011 of this wine, all of them creditable enough but the 2011 seems to be the best so far. I found it very clean and pure on the nose and sweetish on the palate – though far from sickly. It was aged in small French oak and I'd guess some of the sweetness comes from oak, but overall the balance is impressive and I think any burgundy lover would be impressed by this wine's delicacy – and its price. The Wine Society ask just £9.95 for it, while online retailer Swig is offering it at £11.50. I tasted another blend, Soli Terra 2012 sold by The Vintner of Chelsea at £10.95, which is a bit less generous than The Wine Society's/Swig's, though is admirably correct and dry rather than sweet - and would also be a fiendish wine to give someone blind.
Soli wines are made in the Bulgarian village of Elenovo next to an ambitious hotel complex, the lot owned by Italian businessman Edoardo Miroglio, an early investor in the reformed Bulgarian - sorry, Thracian - wine scene. You can find out more here. I asked those in charge of sales how wine lovers outside the UK could find this exciting bargain and was sent this list of importers:
Canada: SAQ (Société des Alcools du Québec)
Denmark: A Vinsouw,
Brazil: Rede Oba (São Paulo, Campinas e Brasilia), Verdemar (Belo Horizonte), Nova Fazendinha (tel 021 2471 3654)
Japan: New Nichibu Corporation
Germany: Bossev Weinmarketing Dresden (tel 0351 4724663; firstname.lastname@example.org)
Belgium: Texavino; email email@example.com
Italy: Tenuta Carretta
USA: Texavino (firstname.lastname@example.org; tel 302 2950829)
Taiwan: Aneco International Company Ltd (email@example.com)
Romania: SC Vinibuoni Trading
Hong Kong: Rhyton