Wines of Balkan to discover at Winelover X on 28 June

Szerző: Ágnes Németh
Interview with Richárd Labancz of Pannon Borbolt
There is only one company in Hungary, which imports, distributes and sell wines from several countries of the Balkan – with great success. Pannon Borbolt is one of the exhibitors of Winelovers X, the trade wine exhibition organised along Winelovers Wine Awards international wine contest. As Richárd Labancz sommelier, winemaker and expert of the company commented, Pannon Borbolt will present about 13-15 wines, from the great value ones to the top ones.

– Pannon Borbolt has always been a pioneer in offering wines from countries that other importers do not work with. Am I correct?
– Yes, partially due the nationality of the owner, Dusán Filákovity – his parents are Hungarian belonging to the Croatian minority group in Hungary. At the beginning, when Pannon Borbolt began in 2011, the concept was to have a range of Pannon wines (Villány, Szekszárd, Tolna, Pécs wine regions). Since we are in Pécs, in the south of Hungary, it was an obvious choice, and the other side of the border, the Croatian Baranya region fit into the concept.
– Now you have Croatian wines not only from the neighbouring region, but also from Istria with some big names.
– Yes, in 2018 we did a tour in Istria, and even though Istria is expensive, we decided to list some outstanding wineries. In spite of the relatively high prices, wines made of Malvasija grape variety are getting more and more recognition.
– What was the next country?
– Slovenia with Jeruzalem Ormož by Puklavec family, a relatively large estate with a wide range of wines. It is a trustworthy, old partner of ours, and their products are quite popular. Their Sauvignon Blanc Estate Selection is our most sold sparkling wine among the non-traditional method bubblies. Plantaze from Montenegro has been another important partner for many years.

– Is there a demand for wines of these countries? 
– Since we are the only source for wines from these countries, yes, there is a demand. Croatian wines are easy to sell locally, because there are so many Croatian people living in and around the city of Pécs. Then there is the embassy of Croatia: when they celebrate something, they order from us. The restaurants specialized in Balkan cuisine are also important clients.​
– So, is everything smooth and easy when selling wines of the Balkan?
– Well, not exactly. We tried with Romania, Avincis is a boutique winery with great wines, yet, it did not work, now we have only Géza Balla wines from Transylvania. The North Macedonian Tikves winery is just being introduced, this country is a bit too "exotic" at the moment, we have to work a lot to gain recognition. And Serbia will be the next country in our range.

– Can you increase the sales of Balkan wines?
– I would say we sell the ordered amount confidently. This market has limits, there won't be more Balkan restaurants, the embassy will not buy more. The price rises do not help either. There is a small increase from the customers, who are simply open to everything new, but it is not significant. 

– Yes, I have realized that there is a nostalgy towards the "Monarch", the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its former countries. And Pannon Borbolt offers wines of these countries.
– Indeed, and in this aspect, we do not have competitors.
– What wines would you recommend to a beginner in Balkan wines, what to start with?
– I really like the wines of Malvasija, this is my No1 suggestion. And if it comes to red wines, Vranac is a good choice.

Tikves vineyard in North Macedonia
– Apart from the wines of Balkan, what are your most sold products?
– The sparkling wine boom continues. We are the only company to have crémant from all the 8 crémant regions – they are extremely successful. Spanish cava and corpinnat sparkling wines are also big hits. And besides crémant, alcohol-free wines are super successful.
– Really? Alcohol-free wines? How come?
– We simple checked google searches, and we found out that the demand for alcohol-free wines is growing rapidly. This year we have already sold a lot... Every restaurant wants to have one alcohol-free wine for drivers, pregnant women, people with health issues, so yes, the alcohol-free wine by Torres, Spain is our top sold still wine.

And how about you? You are clearly a devoted wine person, where does this passion come from?
– My story is not a usual one with several generations in the wine business and childhood in the vineyard. I started to be interested in wines as a young adult, I went to wine clubs, tastings. I have a degree in history and in winemaking, and worked in several countries as a winemaker: South Tirol (Austria), California, New Zealand and Bulgaria. When I returned home, with a friend we founded Eleven, the only wine bar in Pécs. And now here I am, I left the hospitality sector behind, I am responsible for the import at Pannon Borbolt, and I am proud of this company. We are glad that we can present more than a dozen exciting wines at Winelovers X.

Upcoming key dates

  • 18 June 2024 Entry deadline
  • 28 June 2024 Judging
  • 28 June 2024 Masterclasses and exclusive tastings
  • 29 June 2024 Judging

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