Laithwaites wines from India, Greece, Turkey and Georgia selected by buyer Cat Lomax, we were also invited to try a few of their current Eastern European wines.
Campanula Pinot Grigio 2011, Hungary, £6.99
Aromatic on the nose, this shows pear and green apple fruit. There is some mid-palate sweetness and a creamy texture.
A good, solid quaffer.
Albastrele Pinot Grigio Cahul, 2010, Moldova, £7.79
Moldova is something of a forgotten corner of Europe - historically and linguistically linked with Romania, it was annexed into a separate republic by the Soviet Union in 1945.
Although a poor, rural backwater, it is talked of as having viticultural potential and this Pinot Grigio was one of the best whites on show - pale golden yellow, it feels weighty, honeyed and full on the palate but also crisp and bone dry.
There is also ripe pear and melon fruit with white blossom aromas.
Scurta Vineyard Viognier Tamaiosa 2010, Romania, £7.49
Although Bucharest is a dirty, smelly, chaotic city, Romania's wines generally feel surprisingly clean and pure.
This wine shows peach and apricot fruit and has a pleasant rounded, peachy feel on the palate.
Solidly OK, but nothing special; the price seems quite ambitious for this.
Albastrele Sauvignon Blanc Cahul 2010, Moldova, £7.79
With good citrus fruit and ripe, tropical passion fruit, this shows typical Sauvignon gooseberry aromas; weighty and full on the palate.
It has an unspecified gold medal from somewhere.
Colina Piatra Alba Pinot Noir 2009, Romania, £7.29
With aromas of sweaty, damp animal and sawdust, this is hardly a "typically Burgundian" Pinot - though to be fair, it is hardly priced as one either.
There is some fresh red berry fruit, but I would rather look to Chile for entry-level Pinot than more of this.
Coline d'Enira Merlot 2008, Bulgaria, £9.79
Bulgaria in the late '70s and early '80s was a source of cheap, rustic but effusive reds before the New World took over that particular role and these days, I'm not really sure what Bulgaria stands for.
The role as a regional Finance Director that took me regularly to Austria, Hungary and Romania, amongst other places, only ever afforded me a single visit to our Bulgarian office (pretty much to close it down), so I have never really got to know Bulgaria's wines.
This 14.5% beast shows ripe sour-cherry and vegetal aromas on the nose; on the palate, there is more ripe plum and prune fruit, vanilla and sour-cherry acidity with ripe tannins and a grippy, perfumey finish - it feels rich, concentrated and surprisingly youthful even with four years' age.
Attention-grabbing more than classy and ambitiously priced.
This was a bit of a hit-and-miss affair - much as you might expect of a range of Eastern European wines from Laithwaites.
The surprise for me was how well the Moldovan wines showed and how middling the others were.
Hungary and Romania can produce some really good wines but they don't appear to be on the Laithwaites stock list.
By contrast both Moldovan wines from Albastrele - the Pinot Grigio and the Sauvignon Blanc - felt very well-made with real depth on the palate and at just under £8, they are also priced sensibly for the quality on offer, even if an £8 Moldovan wine is something of a challenging sell.
Laithwaites - http://www.laithwaites.co.uk/