Bordeaux imperialism? Well, not exactly… I prefer to see it as investing and sharing expertise in everyone’s best interest. And the “Bordelais” in question is, after all, German…
The von Neipperg family have been growing vines and making wines in the Württemberg region of Germany for some 800 years. The family began acquiring estates in Bordeaux in 1971 and Stephan von Neipperg came to live permanently in Saint-Emilion in 1983.
The family are part owners of first growth Château Guiraud in Sauternes, as well as full owners of six other wine estates in Bordeaux – Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere (Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé), La Mondotte (Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé), Chateau Clos de l’Oratoire (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé), Chateau Peyreau (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru), Chateau d’Aiguilhe (Côtes de Castillon), and Clos Marsalette (Pessac-Leognan) – along with the Capaia winery in South Africa’s New Philidelphia region… and the Bessa Valley winery in the Pazardzhick province of Bulgaria.
I visited Bulgaria for the first time two years ago (indeed, this was my first time in Eastern Europe) to attend the Digital Wine Communication Conference. This took place in Sofia and Plovdiv. I did, on that occasion, tour several wineries, but not in the Bessa Valley. Because of the Bordeaux connection, I very much wanted to bring back a bottle of the von Neipperg wine, but did not come across any in the wine shops I went to.
Well, lo and behold, I was delighted to see that Cave Briau (owned by the Borie family of Ducru-Beaucaillou), a 3-minute walk from my house in Bordeaux, are selling the wine, at the modest price of 10.50 euros!
2013 Enira consists of 55% Merlot, 21% Syrah, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Petit Verdot. It has a ruby-red color with some brown tinges on the rim. The nose features some simple, but attractive black fruit aromas and obvious oak ageing. The wine starts out on the palate very much like a New World wine (14.5% alc./vol.), but goes on to reveal Old World subtlety and restraint. A nice combination. The aftertaste is not particularly long, but this is a good, sound wine that constitutes a real conversation piece! And it is definitely good value for money. I’ll be interested to try this Bessa Valley wine in future vintages, and also to taste their top-flight cuvée.
I might add that Enira goes to show how foolish prejudices can be. Before I went to Bulgaria, I was expecting to find a poor, backward country stuck in the Stalinist period. How wrong I was! Although Bulgaria may have one of the lowest GDPs per capita in the EU, the standard of living seemed perfectly adequate. And Bulgarian wine, which once, and not altogether undeservedly, had the reputation of being cheap, but not particularly cheerful – a bit rough shall we say – is making huge progress. When I visited, I saw splendid new wineries run by well-educated, well-travelled Bulgarians, and tasted good wines. I hope to go back again and to see the von Neipperg estate (pictured below) one day