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Hillary Zio (http://www.hillaryzio.com/) is a Wine Writer and Educator based in New York. She has worked in the wine industry in NYC for almost 10 years (restaurant, retail, wholesale, etc). She is currently assisting brands and retailers with Social Media management and provide them with creative written content and photography. Hillary was part of the Fine European Wines tour this April and we asked her a few important questions.

  • What does the NYC crowd like to drink in terms of wine? What is popular nowadays?

I think that most of the people my age (30s) are interested in drinking natural, organic and even bio-dynamic wines. I don’t have any friends that always look to a particular region or producer, as they are interested in what they haven’t tasted. At wine bars, we all seem to gravitate to the weird and/or unknown. For example, Orange Wine has become very popular, as well as Sherry. Rose is always popular in the summer, especially among my few friends who don’t care for white wine. Many of them have just had bad experiences with oaky whites, but I’m always trying to tell them that and get them to drink more (unoaked) white wines

  • What do you think of the Fine wines you just tasted during the Fine European Wine tour in the wine regions of Bulgaria this April? Which wine sorts stood out the most to you and you would recommend to your friends and/or customers?

I was very blown away with the wines in general. I thought that the international varietals were spot on and tasted “as they should.” I was also very pleased with the minerality and acidity. I think that the wineries we visited did Merlot very well and I would recommend it to anyone. I was also very impressed with the Melnik and Mavrud, although they tend to taste very different depending on who made them, where they are planted, etc.

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  • When you choose wine, is it important for you to know more about the region it comes from? The terroir?

Yes, that is usually the first thing I ask. I like to know that I could identify the terroir when drinking the wine. I am a nut for minerality, so I always try to picture the nearest body of water, and ask about the soil types and climate. If the vineyard is near a river, I want to taste that river.

  • If you have to describe our Fine wines with one sentence or a few words, what would they be?

Interesting, approachable, experimental, natural.

  • What do you think is the future of our Fine wines in the United States? Do you think there is potential for them and is the crowd ready to welcome them as something new and hip?

I believe that there is a huge potential with the younger crowd (age 21-40). Many young people don’t care where the wines come from as long as they are practicing without chemicals, taste good, and in their price range. The wines I tasted are perfect for someone seeking new and hip wines, especially with more social media influencers enjoying them in photos and videos. Unfortunately, I don’t see a future for the older segment of the market. My experience selling, buying, and discussing wine with people older than 45 has been a struggle. They likely won’t get out of their comfort zone long enough to know, love, or even purchase Bulgarian wine. I think that the best move would be to put Bulgarian wines in hip and trendy wine bars in NYC and Brooklyn. The whole reason people go to these places is to try something they’ve never had, and millennials have gotten very wine knowledgeable. They’ll order a Melnik just because they don’t know what it is.

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If you wish to taste some of our fine European wines, you can do so by visiting select restaurants in Washington DC or New York or simply check out our website www.fineeuropeanwines.com for more information.

The Balkan Peninsula is definitely gaining respect, not only on the restaurant stage in the DC Metropolitan area, but also on the drink menus. The Balkan concepts are in the beating heart of the dynamic restaurant scene in Washington, D.C. and Balkan grill trucks are circling the streets, offering fast food and the taste of Eastern Europe.

Broadleafed Melnik is a low extract local grape with a tricky character — much like Sangiovese in Italy — called the “tricky child” by specialists. It is a late ripening and not easily vinified grape. Last year, members of the promotional project, “Fine European Wines”, presented some really memorable Melnik wines to the Washington, D.C. area. If you get the chance to taste them, here is what you will remember, among other characteristics: spicy, herbal, and earthy notes, topped by a pinch of berries.

Melnik 55 is a successful hybrid developed in the 1970s. It is a crossing between the Bulgarian Melnik and the early ripening French grape Valdiguie. The wines come with more power and juicier fruity notes, yet the earthiness is present and the spice and tobacco tastes develop with aging.

The wines from both varietals would go perfectly with Mediterranean cuisines: pasta with sauce, lamb tartare, tuna tartare, lamb kebab and grilled earthy veggies.

If you wish to taste some of our fine European wines, you can do so by visiting select restaurants in Washington, D.C. or check out our website www.fineeuropeanwines.com for more information.