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Grape Treasures from the East

Just as the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean were new, exotic frontiers for more intrepid yacht charterers a mere decade ago, today, the wines which are produced from the coastal territories of Eastern Europe are now captivating the taste buds of wine lovers around the world.

Made from unusual (and often hard to pronounce) grape varieties and offering new drinking experiences, it is becoming easier to find wines from countries such as Slovenia, Croatia and Greece in fine wine cellars and on restaurant wine lists from London to Los Angeles.

These countries have long established winemaking traditions and produce high quality wines, which, of course, pair perfectly with local cuisine. So, if you are planning an Adriatic yacht charter this year, why not steer away from an imported wine selection and open a few bottles of the local drop instead?

Slovenia
Vineyards on Vinji Vrh, Dolenjska Region, Slovenia

Vineyards on Vinji Vrh, Dolenjska Region, Slovenia

The presence of varieties such as Friulano and Zweigelt reflect the fact that Slovenia shares borders with Italy and Austria (along with Hungary and Croatia) and many of their wines share similar cool climate characteristics; refreshingly crisp and a herby/minerally profile. This is an overwhelmingly white wine producing territory, and whilst international varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris are grown, local grapes such as Pinela and Zelan make light and easy to drink wines. The Koper district, which extends along the yacht-friendly Istrian peninsular, is Slovenia’s warmest wine region. Malvasia and Refosco are the most planted grapes here; look out for Teran, a deep and acidic red wine made from the latter and a great match with a plate of local prosciutto.

Croatia

Cross over to the Croatian side of the Istrian Peninsular and it’s no surprise that the aforementioned Malvasia is also widely planted. An aromatic variety, it makes a fresh and fruity wine when young, with a delicious hint of bitter almond appearing when aged. A chilled glass works a treat with a plate of freshly caught fish enjoyed on the aft deck of your luxury charter yacht.

The Island of Brac in Croatia

The Island of Brac in Croatia

As you head further south, the wine style changes; gone are the light whites, replaced by big, hot, Mediterranean style reds usually made from the variety Plavac Mali. High in alcohol, tannins and flavour, open a bottle of this with a smoky grill or a beachside bbq.

Some fine wines are made throughout the islands off the Dalmatian coast, where some distinct local varieties make for intriguing discoveries. Particularly recommend is Stina Vineyard on the island of Brač, with a fabulous tasting room just across from Bol’s pretty fishing port.

Greece

Greece is an evocative name in a variety of contexts; such as history, culture, politics, travel, and cuisine, and, thanks to her mythical islands, is an eternal favourite when it comes to Mediterranean yacht charter destinations. Yet it’s a little known fact that Greece boasts one of the oldest winemaking traditions in the world, and in the past few years this industry has undergone something of a renaissance, a very welcome development for wine lovers around the world.

The island of Santorini in Greece

Santorini

Greek wines are world class, made from indigenous grape varieties that are not grown anywhere else. Take, for example, Assyrtiko, the white grape of Santorini. This variety, grown in the island’s volcanic soils, is a real treat. Late ripening, it manages to keep its acidity despite the heat of a Greek summer, so is both wonderfully fresh and flavoursome! A must for your Greek Islands yacht charter. Other great grapes of Greece to look out for are the spicy red Agiorgitiko (which calls the Northern Peloponnese home) and the ‘Greek Nebbiolo’ Xinomavro, with high tannins and high acidity traditionally grown in the north of the country.

The monthly wine blog for Bespoke Yacht Charter is written by Chrissie McClatchie, an Australian freelance wine professional and writer who has been selling fine wine to superyachts since her arrival in Nice in 2007. Today she also teaches WSET wine courses and conducts guided visits through Nice’s AOC Bellet. You can follow her travels at rivieragrapevine.com

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