Northern Europe

There is important production in the Balkans and dynamic wine industries in Austria and Hungary. The poor quality wines of communist Eastern Europe are now largely fading from the memory as wineries and vineyards are returned to private hands, and investment is flowing into winemaking facilities which have been crucial in improving quality.

Romania is an example and is producing many excellent value varietals which can form a stepping stone to the top quality wines the country also makes. Hungary has a long wine tradition, not just from the famous Tokaj region, and neighbouring Austria has dedicated itself totally to quality. Visiting here is perhaps the most consistent tasting experience as it’s very difficult to come across a bad wine. Grüner Veltliner is also one of the world’s most underrated grape varieties. The wines of England and Wales, both sparking and still, will be more familiar to many and have seen huge increases in sales and international recognition, particularly the hugely impressive sparkling wines.


The success of English wines looks set to continue through finer autumns and interest in all things local. Sparkling wines are at the forefront of this success and vineyards, especially on the chalky South Downs, are expanding and attracting considerable investment. The vineyards local to Tanners in Wales and the West Midlands are not on the same scale! Madeleine Angevine is by far our favourite grape variety for still wines, making, to our minds, the fullest and most balanced whites. Seyval Blanc is the most widely planted, followed by a host of other grapes led by Huxelrebe, which are all crossings specifically bred for cooler, wetter climates.

While generally the best wines in England are sparkling, there are some very good still whites, especially those that contain some Madeleine Angevine which gives almost Sauvignon-like aromas and flavours. Sharpham, on the Dart Valley estuary in Devon, make a particularly good example.

Reds in England are improving as varieties such as Triomphe and Rondo are giving some good results.


Welsh vineyards are small in number and struggle with the climate, but there are some great successes. Ancre Hill near Monmouth is in full bio-dynamic production and expanding rapidly while Glyndwr, near Cowbridge, makes aromatic wines alongside keeping llamas!


Hungary has a wide range of vineyards from the famous Tokaji region in the North-East of the country, to vineyards producing a lot of sparkling wine around Budapest, to Sopron and Lake Balaton further east. Hungary’s most famous red is Egri Bikavér or Bull's Blood, based on Kékfrankos (Blaufränkisch) grape.

The Tokaj area actually straddles the border with Slovakia, with a small number of wineries in the latter country, but the best known are from around the Hungarian town of Mád where the Classic winery makes a fine example. Here autumn mists allow botrytis-affected Tokaji Aszú to be produced with an extraordinary balance between tingling acidity and sweetness. The late harvesting of grapes, in this case Hárslevelű, Furmint and Muscat, was employed here before it was in Sauternes or Germany.

Dry White
Furmint is one of the main varietals used in Tokaji but produces an interesting dry white in its own right.

Bull’s Blood, from around the town of Eger, is a well-known name which had fallen out of fashion but is making a comeback. Törley is an old established producer, principally of sparkling wines, but more recently of successful table wines.


The wines from here are little known in Britain but the vineyards are generally in the south of the country parallel to the Hungarian border. Vineyards have returned to private ownership and a new generation of growers, such as Martin Pomfy, is energetic and experimental.

Dry White
Devin is a variety which is similar to Gewürztraminer while Vlassky Rizling is what used to be called Welsch Riesling. Both make interesting and full white wines.

Reds from classic varieties tend to do well, especially Pinot Noir which can be very elegant and full of flavour.


Sandwiched between Bulgaria and Ukraine, this large country is on the same latitude as Bordeaux and Burgundy. The resulting climate, combined with a culture that is Latin and therefore more conducive to wine than its Slavic neighbours, points immediately to fine wine production. Post-communism however, the transition from quantity to quality has been slow. One beacon of virtue is Cramele (Winery) Recaş which makes well-packaged, modern-style varietal wines at very reasonable prices. This winery was formerly owned by the state but was bought out by its management and is now as advanced as any in Western Europe. It is found near Timișoara which is in the furthest west of the country near Serbia, a mere seven hours’ drive from the capital, Bucharest! Pinot Noir is perhaps the best known variety for reds in Romania and Recaş makes a fine example, full of bouncy red fruit.


Moldova is next door to Romania and its wines are very similar using the same range of varieties. For example, someone from Moldova will claim that Feteasca is a Moldovan variety while Romanians claim it for themselves!