Red wines in these regions have a bit of a reputation. Especially the local varieties. What wine makers have tended to do in the past is to grow as many varieties as their land will cram in, and blend most of them together. The result of this is a fairly lush and full bodied red wine, with little varietal (individual tastes from individual grapes) flavours.
The most famous one, or so my parents tell me, is the Hungarian Bull’s Blood. This was fairly popular as an import in the UK in the 70s and 80s, but more recently the low cost varietals from the new world have edged it out. The modern wine drinker apparently only wants easy drinking, young, and fruity wines. Who am I to argue with marketing? But on the local scene, there’s clearly still a demand for the heavy blends.
I guess in one way it’s done in order to keep vintage variations at a low point. Throw it all in the pot together and the chance of the shit one shining through is a bit more limited. It’s also a way the local co-ops deal with all the different grapes that flood in from the smaller growers in the hills. “Waste not, want not” as my mother used to say.
One of the more famous ones in Serbia is called Ždrepčeva Krv (translation below) from the Čoka Winery, a semi sweet table wine. It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Gamay, Vranac, and Muscat Ottonel (a lot right?). It comes out rudy red, hence why they called it Stallion’s Blood. So what’s it like? Well, I found it quite hard to explain. It smells of violet petals, and a funny blend of jammy fruit. Now before you stop reading, there are lots of wines that have hints of violet in there, I’m not just going weird. You can get these sweets in the UK called Purple Violets. Think of that kind of smell. To taste, it’s just very full bodied, fairly acidic but not unpleasant, and again you really want to say there’s some fruitiness in there.
These “blood” blends are simple, inoffensive, and damn cheap. About £1.50 a bottle from the local supermarket (in Serbia). And as much as I would prefer, if I had the choice, the young, fruity, new world varietals, this is something different, which in the world of standardised farming and production goes a long way for me. There’s plenty of reasons the locals and further afield love them.