Exploring Novel Wines
Updated: Aug 31, 2019
So, leaving the January blues and more importantly, dry January well and truly behind us, February’s MWS delighted us with Ben Franks of Novel Wines in Bath! Ben founded Novel Wines 2 years ago with this Hungarian business partner. They boast a personally tried, tested, visited, you name it, selection of 274 delicious wines from Eastern Europe to Asia. They specialise in wines that you won’t necessarily be familiar with at all, whether that’s from Austria or Serbia… what a wonderfully refreshing way to enjoy the fruits of the vine.
We kicked things off with a 100% Keknyelu grape, Badacsony, Hungary. The producer, “celebrity boutique wine maker” Sabar Winery only produces 20,000 bottles per year so you know you’re getting their full attention... Very delicate with a slight pithy whiff on the nose. On the palate the weighty sensation came from the grapes ripeness and you get an aromatic, well-balanced citrus taste.
The second offering was described by Ben as “A savoury Gruner” from Kamptal, Austria. Weingut Peter Schweiger produces only single vineyard wines including this 2016 100% Gruner Veltliner. It had a wet/freshly cut grass nose with a floral hint which was pleasing for most, yet on the palate whilst perfectly pleasant was described as “light and inconsequential” by one member.
Moving east towards Macedonia we encounter Tikves Winery. Here, grape varieties of a 50,20,30 blend of Smederevka, Chardonnay, Rkatsitekli respectively have created the Tikves Cuvee Cyril Belo or literally translated, “Beautiful Cyril.” With a pure, pale yellow appearance, the nose offered melon and cucumber. With this country being completely landlocked, it benefits from good amounts of sun exposure resulting in papaya, melon, herbs and fennel being reflected on the palate. It was generally agreed by all that this was an easy drinking wine and at just under £10 a bottle it certainly encouraged the few remaining doubters to give it the thumbs up…!
On to Romania now and we say hello to the Budureasca Winery. Although we have the pleasure of trying their young 2018 Budureasca Premium Tamiaoasa Romaneasca this winery is the oldest on Ben’s books. The nose was strong and comparable to “very upmarket socks” commented one of our members. This wine was 33% fermented in second use oak, and on the palate we got pineapple and fleshly orchard fruit.
The first of the reds took us back to Austria, Wagram to be exact and a 2015 vintage of 100% Zweigelt. Weingut Anton Bauer usually produces wines that are 1-2 years old so this vintage at 4 years old was softer than others of his. The nose was nice and clean, with hints of cherry and pepper and being affectionately recognised by one of the members who couldn’t quite place what it reminded him of but saying “There’s an old friend in there somewhere.” On to the palate and it was generally received as pinot noir-esq and slightly bitter. Ben shared that this wine would be super with fattier meats like Lamb as the smoky acid flavours would set it off well.
We headed over to another landlocked sunny country next, Georgia. This 100% Sapervari grape variety is the oldest in the world, dating back to 6 BC. “Was 6 BC a good year?” enquired one of our members. This 2015 vintage JSC Tbilvino ‘Iveriuli’ Saperavi from producer Tbilvino had the Society completely divided…. We had half the room were getting vegetables on the nose and the other half were getting fruit, with a member offering “The nose on this is gorgeous.” The palate brought forward comments from a couple of members to the effect of “It’s got everything but length” and “Its buttery, its punchy.”
Moving over to Stefan Voda in Moldova we had a 2015 Limited Edition Maluri de Prut from what was Queen Victoria’s favourite winery, set up in 1827, Chateau Purcari. Ben told us that Moldova has overtaken Macedonia as the wine of Eastern Europe and it remains on the Royal Household approved list. On the nose we were met with powerful dark fruits, and chocolate one member suggested “It’s got a perfume to it that I would associate with airwick.” The palate continued the strength of the nose with stewed fruits and a good juicy body with less residual sugar. Ben shared that this wine has the structure to age for 10 years and that it is a really good full bodied yet Beaujolais style red.
We topped off the evening in Serbia with a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from 2008. The producer, DiBonis, located in Subotica is the first Serbian producer to be retailed in the UK in 10 years- by Novel Wines. This wine, DiBonis DiCabernet Sauvignon, is mid-level for DiBonis who loves Old World Bordeaux with New World Cabernet and as a result this wine has spent 24 months in French oak and 12 months in US oak… and then 7 years in bottle. The result is a smooth and leathery caramel nose with a very well structured and smooth blackcurrant finish on the palate. This was a clear favourite in the room, and at just under £30 a bottle, there was almost unanimous agreement that this was exceptionally good and well worth its premium price.
Novel’s presentation was clearly a big hit overall as four society “records” were broken with:
· 10 members ordering wine
· A total of 60 bottes ordered
· At least one bottle of all 8 wines presented on the night were ordered
· 14 different wines, not tasted on the night, were ordered by members