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Balkan Wine and Food Pairing in Amsterdam

This past Sunday we tasted the finest wines coming from the Balkan peninsula at the event organized by Terroir Journey and Once Upon A Wine, hosted by Bij Barba restaurant in Amsterdam.

wine and food pairing in Amsterdam

A wine and food pairing, and educative tasting by a WSET wine educator and also a tour through the glass as we discussed what does Balkan mean at all, what countries are considered to be Balkan, and what unites all the diverse countries under this geographical and cultural concept.

What countries are considered to be Balkans?

The concept - Balkan peninsula was created in 19th century by a German geographer, he mistakenly considered the Balkan mountains the largest mountain range of the South East Europe. Balkans was also a European synonym for what the Ottomans called Rumelia - the European provinces of the Ottoman empire.

Officially, the Balkan states are Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Slovenia, Albania, Northern Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, parts of Romania, Greece and Turkey. We included wines from almost all these countries in the first release of the Balkan Tales Wine Collection by Once Upon A Wine. On the tasting at Bij Barba on April 10th we started with a Slovenian skin contact white wine, continued with a special white wine from Bosnia-Herzegovina, tasted a Turkish orange wine, had two red wines from Serbia and Romania, and finished with a Croatian traditional method sparkling wine.

Malvazija Istrska by Guerilla Winery, Slovenia

Our first wine comes from the Vipava Valley in Slovenia. Slovenia as a wine country is like Burgundy of the East, just 16 000 ha but spread among 29 000 small producers. This wasn't like that always. In times of Yugoslavia all vineyards became state owned, indigenous grape varieties were practically prohibited and people keeping their local grapes in the vineyards were getting fined. But winemaking is part of Slovenia's history, they've been doing wine since 5-4th century BC. And after the country regained its' independence, a wave of young winemakers emerged in the region. They bring in new technologies that complement the traditions of their ancestors. So many of today's wineries are doing natural wines, either organic or biodynamic. And the wine we were tasting is a product of such estate.

Guerilla winery is an organic and biodynamic certified estate by Zmago Petrič. He was born in a family of farmers, and spent his childhood in the vineyards and cellar. The year he was born his father actually received an award for his Pinella wine (that's another Slovenian grape). A sign of fate, perhaps?

All their vineyards are like on the photo, terraced on steep slopes of the Vipava valley. This provides good sun exposure, cooling winds and high day and night temperature difference - a key for having fresh wines with sharp and mineral acidity.

Guerilla winery vineyards of Malvazija Istrska

The fermentation is always spontaneous using natural yeast, the harvest manual, biodynamic preparations are used to revitalize the soil and flora.

Regarding the grape variety, Malvazia Istrska is a grape that is native to three countries - Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, countries that share the Istria peninsula. It can make very diverse wines, from pure and sharp whites to intense orange wines.

Malvazia Istrska by Guerilla winery has light, sunny yellow and lively colour. Distinguished by its complex nose. Aromas of white flowers, peach, citruses, dried grass, spices, crushed rock. A full-body a