Thursday, August 11, 2016

Wine Review: Ivo Varbanov Merlot-Syrah "Sheherazade" 2011

August is The Return of Bulgarian Wine Month thanks to, following up last year's original Bulgarian Wine Month!

Ivo Varbanov Merlot-Syrah 2011

To read about the fascinating history of Bulgarian wine, check out Bulgaria - Part 1: Three-Thousand Years of Wine History. To learn about the grapes, wine regions and Bulgarian wine's place in the market, read Part 2: The Current State of Bulgarian Wine. And if you'd like to see what Bulgaria's national drink is all about, find out in Part 3: Invincibility of Rakia.

This is the first of six reviews of Bulgarian wine this month, and the first of three by Ivo Varbanov. Those wines by Ivo are this 2011 Merlot-Syrah "Sheherazade", his 2013 Chardonnay "Clair de Lune" and his 2011 Syrah "Feux d’artifice"

Ivo Varbanov was born in Bulgaria in 1972, and he started playing piano at the age of six. He grew up to become a famous, award winning concert pianist in his home country. In 2004 he started his own winery in Thracian Valley, in which he himself is the winemaker. After taking time off to battle and defeat leukaemia from 2009 to 2012, he got back behind the piano. And back into winemaking.

Ivo calls this blend "Sheherazade" after a symphony piece by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov about the legendary queen Sheherazade from One Thousand and One Nights. Listen to it on YouTube:

The wine is 80% Merlot and 20% Syrah. Both were fermented in stainless steel but the Syrah spent some time in French oak barrels after fermentation. Filtering and fining is minimal. Of course I'll be listening to the song while I taste this wine.

These bottles have a great, classic label design and an awesome wax covering on the neck. It's not easy getting the wax off of the cork but it's all good.

The color of the wine is a dark, dark crimson. The nose has plum, black olive, dried tobacco, and a graphite minerality. It's medium bodied with a chalky mouthfeel, firm and bitter tannin, and balanced acidity. The palate is fruit forward with plum and cranberries, and side notes of cedar and graphite. It finishes with a light taste of plum and bitter, cedary tannin.

It's a delicious bottle of wine that hits its $15 price point right on the head. I'm not sure if giving it some more bottle aging or a good decant will fix the bitter cedar flavor on the finish, but you can try it. Or pair it with cheese to cut it down.

You can buy this wine on!

Price: $15
Rating: 3/5 = Satisfying (what does that mean?)

The bottle used was supplied free of charge for the purpose of this unpaid review. To have your wine reviewed follow this link.


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