Caroline Gilby abandoned life behind the microscope after a degree in Botany and a PhD in plant sciences to join Augustus Barnett as a trainee wine buyer in 1988. After receiving the prestigious Master of Wine title in 1992, Caroline traveled the world to taste, buy, and write about wines. She currently runs her own consultancy, is part of the Circle of Wine Writers, is affiliated with Wine Educators International and is a frequent wine judge across Eastern and Central Europe. Caroline has been working with Hungarian and Bulgarian wines for over 6 years and is a Balkan wine aficionado.
What inspired you to focus on the wine of Eastern and Central Europe, and more specifically, the Balkans?
I started traveling in the region in the early 1990s just after the Iron Curtain came down, when working as a wine buyer. This was a fantastic opportunity to see the new beginning for countries in the region and I have enjoyed following the complete revolution from collectivized state wineries to dynamic private estates making exciting and individual wines.
How would you rate the quality of the indigenous grapes of the Balkans?
As everywhere quality varies, but there are many exciting and high quality indigenous varieties that were neglected for various reasons in the past (e.g. too difficult to grow or too low yielding when the emphasis was all on volume) that are re-emerging. And it’s thrilling to see local winemakers learning what some of these grapes can offer in a world bored by yet another Chardonnay or Merlot.
Do the varietals of the Balkans reflect the diversity of climate and soils and therefore differentiate particular wine regions?
There are many Balkan varieties that show off the diversity of climate and soils, selected by growers over the years to suit local “terroir”
What can you tell us about the blending principles of the Balkans?
Still work in progress as winemakers learn what their native grapes can do, and whether they are better solo or giving a sense of local identity in blends.
What are some key characteristics our noses and palates should be ready for when tasting wine from the Balkans at this year’s IWINETC?
Be prepared for some exciting new flavours and styles of winemaking that truly show a sense of place.
What one idea would be most important for attendees to take away from the grand tasting you will lead on Friday March 15
That wine is a great way of exploring the distinct cultural identities across the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Each country has its own grapes, styles and attitudes to wine, and it’s the perfect partner to enhance the local food experience too. And vineyards tend to be on great scenic locations so a great excuse for a bit of exploration of the countryside
Since making the interview and in light of the apparent lack of interest in most of the S.E European countries to promote themselves as grape escape destinations, the organisers of the event took the decision to change the title of the tasting to Wines from Croatia Grand Tasting led by Caroline Gilby MW which will be held in the delightful Emerald Ballroom at the Espalande Zagreb Hotel at 17.30 on Friday 15th March.
Wines and wineries included in the tasting include: Aries (Capo), Malvazija Bomarchese (Degrassi), Teran Ré 2007 (Roxanich), Plavac Mali (Korta Katarina), Silvanac Zeleni (Orahovica), Goldberg Grasevina (Vina Belje), Traminac (Ilok cellars), Malvazija, (Agrolaguna), Riesling (Bolfan Vinski), Plavac mali (Jako Vino), Graševina de Gotho (Kutjevo).
Also included in the tasting are: Sauvignon Breg (Marof – Slovenia) and Biancosesto (La Tunella – Friuli).