A few week’s ago we were delighted, and honoured, to welcome the Ambassador of Republic of Kosovo, his Excellency Mr Ilir Kapiti, along with the Rt Hon Stephen Doughty, Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, and Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development) and the Rt Hon Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour MP for Torfaen and Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade.
To get this trio of dignitaries in the room was no coincidence, but a glittering endorsement of a burgeoning trade relationship with the Republic of Kosovo and our company.
We have started to import wines from StoneCastle in Kosovo, after our founder Nigel O’Sullivan visited the country last year.
Again, no coincidence, as his driver Kastrio, had been banging on about the winery in his home country for years, and after the hiatus due to the pandemic, Nigel was finally able to go.
Nigel discovered, not only a beautiful country whose people welcomed him with open arms, but a top-notch winery with ambitious plans for the future.
But first, a little bit of background for Stone Castle vineyards and winery
When Rrustem Gecaj, an Albanian American who immigrated from Yugoslavia in 1974 to escape communism and the hardships that came with it, took over StoneCastle in 2006 he had a vision to give something back and support his homeland by creating a destination winery that would boost the local economy and bring tourism to the area.
The estate that comprises more than 2,247 acres (over 900 hectares) of premium vineyards and land with two-thirds of vineyard plantings are red grape varieties that include Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and indigenous varieties such as Vranç, Prokupac, and Zhameta. White grape varieties include Chardonnay and Riesling, with the most planted and indigenous white grape variety, Smederevka.
To date, the company has a winemaking capacity of ten to thirteen million litres a year and the capacity to process approximately 70,000 tons of wine grape annually.
The wines’ storage is done in stainless steel containers and specific environments (mainly in underground tanks). The white wines are stored in stainless steel tanks. In contrast, red in a mixture of stainless steel tanks and wooden barrels. They have a huge underground cellar with a capacity of 5,000,000 litres, where temperatures are constant throughout the year (between 13 to 16ºC).
StoneCastle Vineyards and Winery export its products in Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Croatia, Albania, Canada, and now the United Kingdom, thanks to that fortuitous meeting with Nigel.
So to have the support of our local politicians, both with trade portfolios, and the Kosovan Ambassador at the launch of the wines at our tasting room on Penarth Road, Cardiff was recognition of the significance of this endeavour.
After a tour of our warehouse and a brief presentation by yours truly, we began to taste some of the wines that we stock from the StoneCastle range.
Needless to say, our esteemed guests were blown away by the range and quality of the wines with the Kosovan variety Vranc coming in for particular interest.
We started with the StoneCastle Chardonnay (Fine Wines Direct UK, £11.99) which shows plenty of fleshy stone fruits throughout. A lovely drop of chardonnay.
And then moved on to the top-notch Gecaj Estate Owners Choice Chardonnay (Fine Wines Direct UK, £47.99). This is a wine aping the style of the great white wines of Burgundy, a style that is rich and elegant, carrying its oak aging credentials politely.
There followed a deep dive into the reds including the Vera Vranac i Lashte Gjergj Kastrioti (Fine Wines Direct UK, £13.99), a great all-rounder red that tippy-toes between a rich pinot noir and a juicy malbec showing loads of crunchy red fruits plus the blockbusting trio of Gecaj Estate Owners Choice Petit Verdot (Fine Wines Direct UK, £47.99), Gecaj Estate Owners Choice Shiraz (Fine Wines Direct UK, £47.99) and Gecaj Estate Owners Choice Petit Vranac (Fine Wines Direct UK, £47.99).
For more details of our StoneCastle range of Kosovan wines visit our website for details.
Former columnist for the Western Mail and is now working for Fine Wines Direct UK. Hosting tastings, building client relationships, and writing about his experiences in the wine trade.