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Gastronomy and Wine Portal

Balkan International Wine Competition

Celebrating the excellence of Balkan wines

29.06.2023, News Автор: Anastasiya Sydorenko

The Balkan International Wine Competition & Festival determines the best wines from the Balkan region. The 12th edition of the competition was recently held in Bistrita-Nasaud, Transylvania, Romania, and the festival, as usual, was held in Sofia, Bulgaria. Both events celebrate the excellence and diversity of Balkan wines and provide attendees with unique opportunities to explore exceptional wineries.

Eng. Galina Niforou, Wine MBA, founded the Balkan International Wine Competition and Festival in 2012. In 2020 the organisers decided to hold a competition in a new country each time.

Balkan International Wine Competition

Eng. Galina Niforou, Wine MBA, founded the Balkan International Wine Competition and Festival

Last year, during the gala dinner in Greece, Galina Niforou announced that this year’s competition would be held on the other side of the Ukrainian Carpathians in Transylvania.

Balkan International Wine Competition

The castle in which the Competition was held

The 12th Balkan International Wine Competition attracted winemakers and experts from around the world to Romania, including 4 Masters of Wine: Rod Smith MW, Caroline Gilby MW, Robin Kick MW, and Thomas Curtis MW. 20 distinguished judges rigorously evaluated the wines based on their aroma, taste and overall quality. In 2023, a Ukrainian judge – Kateryna Yushchenko, director of WSET Ukraine, joined the competition for the first time.

Balkan International Wine Competition

All wines were evaluated on a 100-point scale and were eligible for Double Gold, Gold, Silver or Bronze medals. Trophies and Grand Trophies were chosen among wines awarded with a double gold medal in the same category and style. The results were published on the website of the competition on June 15.

Balkan International Wine Competition

Kateryna Yushchenko, director of WSET Ukraine

Ukrainian winery Odesos participated in the Balkan International Wine Competition for the third time. Odesos Merlot 2021 received the Best of Show Ukraine and a gold medal, Cabernet Sauvignon limited edition 2020 received a silver medal, and Cabernet Sauvignon Bourbon Edition 2019 received a bronze medal.

Balkan International Wine Competition

This recognition not only highlights the skill and dedication of the winemakers but is also a valuable guide for consumers looking for the best wines.

The jury members visited Transylvanian wineries during the competition: Crama la Salina, Jelna, and Liliac.

Crama la Salina (Romanian: “salt winery”) and vineyards are located near the Turda salt mine, about 100 meters from it, in the Durgeu hills in the Aries Valley. The winery was born in the heart of Transylvania, where the tradition of winemaking dates back to the Roman Empire when the settlement known today as Turda was called Potaissa. These wines, called ISSA, are a tribute to the thousand-year winemaking tradition.

The specific terroir of the Aries Valley gives the wines a unique aroma and exceptional freshness in taste.


Crama la Salina

The “Sarea-n bucate” restaurant awaits its guests at the foot of the vineyards. The attractive aromas of dishes prepared according to traditional recipes are harmoniously combined with ISSA wines. Tourists are invited to visit the winery hotel, which consists of 13 ultra-modern bungalows designed for 40 people.

Balkan International Wine Competition

Another winery visited by the judges is Jelna, located in the village of the same name in the Bistrita-Nasaud region. Wines have left their mark on this area of Transylvania since ancient times. The earliest mention of Jelna wines was found in the registers of the local church, which mentions that Petrus Murator, who painted the church and painted the Navicella fresco around 1520, was paid in barrels of local wine. Also, according to old maps, including the Josephine map (1766), large grape plantations are depicted on the Jelna hills.

Balkan International Wine Competition

Jelna Winery is known for its commitment to organic winemaking practices. The vineyard is located at an altitude of 650 meters. Focusing on organic viticulture, Jelna produces wines of exceptional quality that demonstrate the winery’s respect for the environment. Jelna wines are distinguished by their freshness and sophistication.

For visitors to fully enjoy the Transylvanian wines and experience, a restaurant, hotel & spa were also built next to the vineyards. Dealul Negru, the area behind the hotel, is a protected area with the highest density of wild animals in Europe.

Balkan International Wine Competition

The Liliac (Romanian: “bat”) winery, which the jury members also visited, is located in the picturesque Lechința wine region at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains. It is known for its innovative approach to winemaking, combining traditional technologies with modern achievements. Liliac Winery strives for the perfection of wines characterised by elegance, balance and a true expression of the region’s identity.

Balkan International Wine Competition

All three wineries combine international and local grape varieties such as Fetească Neagră and Fetească Regală, resulting in wines that reflect the unique Transylvanian terroir that the judges of the competition have come to know. Ice wine is found in the Crama la Salina, Jelna and Liliac lines. Among the three, Liliac Ice Wine with Pinot Gris, Muscat Ottonel, and Neuburger stands out the most. The wine has a bright golden yellow colour; an aroma of meadow herbs, delicate notes of peach and lychee; fresh and bright taste, with hints of pineapple and tropical fruits on the finish, complemented by a hint of honey in the aftertaste. Perfect for crème brûlée, cheesecake, pancakes with cherry jam, and blue cheese.

Balkan International Wine Competition

The Balkan International Wine Festival was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, for the 12th consecutive year. Unfortunately, the organisers were forced to postpone the event from June 15-17 to June 22-24 due to heavy rains. But still, the festival provided a vivid and exciting experience for wine lovers, allowing them to explore a wide range of exceptional wines from the Balkan region. Participants had a unique opportunity to communicate directly with winemakers, learn about various winemaking techniques and deepen their understanding of Balkan wines.

The 12th Balkan International Wine Competition and Festival embodies the spirit of celebration and appreciation for Balkan wines. These events provide a platform to recognise and celebrate the exceptional craftsmanship and diversity in the Balkan wine industry. In addition, visits to the Crama la Salina, Jelna and Liliac wineries added an even greater dimension, allowing the judges to see first-hand the passion, innovation, and pursuit of excellence that define these exceptional wineries.