This is my first foray into Bulgarian wine, and as with most of my recent experiments with the roads less taken through European vineyards (i.e. anywhere but the Big Four), I decided to trust in the competitive buying power and good taste of Waitrose.
Waitrose very rarely lets me down. In fact, few supermarkets let me down when it comes to wine-purchasing nowadays, because I’m so well-versed in what to expect in terms of quality and value-for-money from each of the major players that I no longer really have any justification for complaint if, say, I spend a fiver in Asda and don’t find the wine meets my lofty standards.
Still, I feel I’ve been sailing close to the wind (not literally of course) with these recent ventures into terroirs unknown. Especially with the majority of the bottles being under a tenner a pop. (Not a lot to lose perhaps, but in danger of skimping on quality.)
Speaking of pop, I popped this cork (well, drilled it actually) during the second Eurovision semi-final with a good friend from university days who happened to be visiting all the way from far-flung Edinburgh – AKA the Athens of the north.
But Bulgaria have been at it for much longer than a lot of the world; certainly longer than England or Wales, who only compose half of one of the Big Four (actually, five, now I come to think of it) countries in Eurovision terms, not really in wine terms. In wine terms, Italy has sat there with France, Spain and Germany for ages in collectively holding that dubious honour of occupying the mainstream. (The UK is probably on a par with the Netherlands.)
The thing is though – yes, I’m yammering; humour me! I’ll be done soon – in Eurovision, the “big” countries do almost uniformly badly. Not so in the wine world, where most punters won’t take a punt on anything with a funny name from a country they can’t place on a map.
I guess the point of this exercise is to find out if there’s any point buying from less ubiquitous sources.
The short answer is yes. And this Bulgarian red, Enira, is a first-class example of that. Okay, I was already a little drunk on Austrian Gruner Vetliner when I undrilled the cork, and I maybe didn’t give it much breathing time before I set about it, but from the off I was impressed by the depth of character in each sensory wave that the drink had to offer.
It was a deep purple like many of my favourite French wines from Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley, with a bluish freshness about it that hinted it’d be on the bitter side of fresh, maybe – heaven forbid – a bit “closed“. But any hint of dryness or bitterness was subtle and pleasant – a sort of savoury licorice, like those odd Nordic sweets, that hinted toward oak and spice. There was little if any of the verdant vegetal notes that I personally don’t mind in moderation, but which for many can ruin a young red by dominating the flavour.
The fruits were full and fearsomely dark: like elderberries and damsons, quite foresty and fermented. It felt like a fairly heavy-going wine, but had enough flavor and complexity to keep you coming back for more.
Post write-up research (always the best way around to do this, I feel) reveals the mix is 80/20 Merlot/Cab Sav; so this is very Bordeaux-style in terms of ingredients. I felt it was somewhat pricklier and less smooth than the equivalent-priced claret, and… well, better, to be honest. More interesting, at least. A bit boozier too, for those who value their alcohol-per-pennies ratio.
Buy now from Waitorse for under £10 a bottle.