When given a choice of drinking an unknown indigenous varietal from somewhere like Hungary or playing it safe with a Pinot Noir from France, most people would choose the latter. But a tremendously rich wine culture exists in “The Other Europe” and these lesser known wines definitely deserve some attention.
At restaurant Baba's Place in Marrickville, wines from Eastern and Central Europe have been spotted in Baba and Dedo’s wine cabinet since day one. Baba means grandma in many Eastern European cultures. Drawing influences from Sydney's suburban immigrant communities, Baba’s Place is a celebration of diversity but also an education into the abundance of food cultures that exist in the inner west and western suburbs.
On the 1st of May they teamed up with natural-wine-pop-up JUS to host ‘Baba’s JUS’. A selection of wines from Eastern and Central Europe were tasted alongside a Balkan-inspired lunch. Guests got to try wines from Slovenia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Georgia, Austria and plus a couple of wines from Aussies who are using winemaking techniques from their Greek, Croatian and Russian heritages. See the full wine up below and who’s importing these unique drops to Aus.
2020 Milan Nestarec, Bel, Moravia, CZECH REPUBLIC
Imported by Vivant Selections
Rockstar winemaker Milan Nestarec needs no introduction for those who are into natural wine, or as Nestarec would call it “normal wine”. Since the age of 16, he has held the reins of the family wine business and put Czech wines on the map, showcasing a wide range of varieties native to the land, as well as others from Central Europe.
2020 Christina Netzl, Christina Rosé, Niederosterreich, AUSTRIA
Imported by Fox Wine Company
Austria has an incredibly long and fruitful history of winemaking. From Niederosterreich, winemaker Christina Netzl produces playful, clean, biodynamic wines. Netzl grew up working on her family’s farm and her winemaking goals are to work in harmony with nature and express the uniqueness of native grape varieties.
2018 Pheasant’s Tears, Mtsvane ‘Tibaani’, Sighnaghi Kakheti, GEORGIA
Imported by Vinous Solutions
Iconic winery Pheasant’s Tears is the lovechild of American painter John Wurdeman and Georgian eighth generation vintner Gela Patalishvili. Made according to traditional techniques with qvevri (clay amphora) that is later sunk into the ground, the wines from Pheasant's Tears aim to express the authentic tradition, culture and creativity of Georgia.
Peter Wetzer, Sopron, HUNGARY - 2020 Sag Field Blend & 2020 Kekfrankos
Imported by Lo-Fi Wines
Working out of Sopron, Hungary, Peter Wetzer grew up in a winemaking family and is committed to bringing the old Hungarian techniques into the present day. He has resurrected one of the only Furmint vineyards in Sopron on an old volcano and works biodynamically with minimal intervention in the cellar.
2019 Heaps Good Wine Co, Offshoot Zweigelt Pet Nat, SLOVENIA
Imported by Felixir
New Zealander Nick and partner Marija Gee founded Heaps good wine company in 2010 in the cool climate area of Ritoznoj, Slovenia. The small, family-owned winery produces low intervention wines that are fresh, pure and elegant. Their aim is to make single vineyard, single varietal wines that express the terroir.
2020 Gabernik 23, Zweigelt, Starjerksa, SLOVENIA
Imported by Felixir
Janko Bogatic has been working his vineyards since the age of 10. His understanding of the land enables him to allow nature to do its bit and let the soul of the vineyard shine through. He is a fan of the underdog and likes to showcase the potential of unfashionable grapes like yellow Muscat and Zweigelt.
Ari’s Natural Wine, Southern Highlands, NSW - 2021 Pash & Pop & 2021 Retsini
Ari migrated to Sydney from Greece in the early 1960s. Missing the wines that he had grown up with, Ari started making his own in his garage. This family pastime has now grown into a family owned business with some seriously good wines being made. Many of them are made with Greek winemaking techniques, like the ‘Retsini’ that's fermented with pine resin from Greece.
Eleven Sons, VIC - 2021 A Thousand Plateaus of Chardonnay & 2021 Touriga Nacional and its discontents
Melbourne based Mitch Sokolin draws from years of knowledge in winemaking to now produce truly beautiful and distinct wines using techniques that can be traced back to Ukraine, Russia and Georgia. At the moment, Baba’s place is the only restaurant in Sydney that stocks these beautiful wines.
If you are keen on trying these wines head to the importers’ websites or book a table at Baba's Place where many of them are currently on the list amongst other fun drops.