My currently favorite hummus bar in Budapest can be found on Alkotmány street, open since my favorite indian take away closed a year ago or so in the same place. That’s how I ended up at Beckett’s, Budapest’s most authentic Irish Pub right on the corner, watching Liverpool beating Manchester United last Sunday (not that any of these would be my favorite clubs, I must say). There I realised that a pint of Kilkenny costs more in Budapest than in London these days, with Hungarian Forint gaining momentum and sterling, well, remaining volatile. This made me remember an article I read somewhere (probably in the guardian) that in spite of the recession, the average price of a pint now stabilised above 3 pounds. Since I’ve become a converted Hungarian wine drinker 18 months ago I no longer follow international pricing (of course I heared about the Bordeaux price free fall and consequent rebound) but in Hungary domestic wine prices remained unchanged or tend to decline a bit since the credit crunch hit us all. In my constant bargain hunting efforts I found this cuvée, which costs HUF 990, down from HUF 1290 and I didn’t hesitate. It has a nice label, after all.
This Bolyki Zorróék 2007 doesn’t look particularily bad, a medium dark ruby with purplish reflections, and has a pleasant nose of mixed ripe berry fruits with a woody harsh accent. Not quite unexpectedly the wine is thin. It’s positively tannic, velvety, soft and all that. But it has a bit too high level of acidity for this body and a rather sour element to ennoy me a little, hardly compensated by hints of cinnamon. Otherwise it’s a very pleasant drink for EUR 4,and it goes well with a 4 seasons pizza (not the hotel chain, but the one sold by the former Ristorante Da Wally, now Da Raffaello since acquired by the Da Lello pizzeria people). It’s a optimal combination if you don’t want your attention to be distracted from a discussion while eating your pizza.
Score: 3+/4- (you wouldn’t expect more from a Hungarian red under 1 000)
Price: HUF 1 290 HUF 990
October is very cold this year but I couldn’t resist the sale at a retailer I often visit and I bought this Vörcsöki Furmint 2007 whose versison from 2006 I liked so much I chose it one of the most memorable ones I drank in 2008.
I was disappointed to see that one of the nicest wine labels has become a cheap replica of the previous year’s. Such a shame, I know it’s an inexpensive wine but I’d switch to screw cap first if I had to save some money. Let’s hope they didn’t compromise on quality inside…
The look has become a bit paler. The nose changed too although it remains very intense, but this time insted of fruity character it is rather floral, indeed honey-ish, more Furmint-like with hints of vanilla and salt – lot of it actually.
A little bit sweet on the palate, but this is well balanced by a salty mineral element and abundant acidity. Not too fruity, only some tanderine’s found there. Medium-large body and lot of pleasant acidity. There’s a bitterness brought in by Furmint, particularily accentuated at the finish. Very licvely acids.
We also finished off a bottle of Monarchia’s Chardonnay Battonage 2006 which I always looked at as something of fair value for the money, but this Kerkaborum, 60% cheaper and although beaten by its predecessor, is still not much behind it (and is still a best buy). And it is Furmint, which is not even taken into account, but important because it’s somewhat unique to this region (mostly accessible in Hungary and Slovenia).
Price: HUF 1575 HUF 1 350
I used to go to Il Terzo Cerchio a lot, until I discovered the much closer late Ristorante Da Vally and Donatella’s Kitchen’s pizzas (they’re not in the same league, but all very good and ran by Italians). I returned a couple of times and never left disappointed. The house’s wine was always good. This time it was a forgottable Montepulciano D’Abruzzo but our friend said he’d go for a white wine next so I picked Szászi’s Olaszrizling 2008, although the waiter warned me about it’s acidic character but it only confirmed my choice. The wine’s more than OK even after a full-bodied red, it’s retail price is just above HUF 1 000 (the restaurant apparently uplifts a lot) and all I remember is a lovely ripe apple nose and a firm, but pleasant palate.
I tried Kabócás (2006?) earlier this year and it was very good – although I tasted it hours afer it’d been opened. I need to try more from Szászi.
I now feel more comfortable buying Hungarian Pinot Noir, especially after the positive surprise of Gál Tibor’s from 2002, tasted recently.
This one’s a pigeon blood ruby Pinot from Pannonhalma. It has a creamy cherry compote nose with hints of raspberry.
Nicely composed palate, showing velvety tannins, elegantly styled, suppported by just enough, very subtle acidity. I miss fruitiness however, no extracts here. And it’s not exactly sweet but it feels like a dessert, yet, it’s empty. I’m not sure you think I now what I’m talking about. Very light, drinks fast. Later some oriental spices emerge. At some point the otherwise short length tastes hubba-bubba (candy), or tutti-frutti, later punch.
This wine doesn’t score high and it’s relatively expensive but it was a very pleasant one to drink.
Price: HUF 3 500
I stopped by a major Hungarian wine retailer (for the 3rd time this week, I’d call this a trend) to find out there’s a fall sale going on so I had no choice, I bought a couple of selected items. This is the first one of them, originally picked to be paired with Indian meal but ended up as an aperitif.
Not being a huge Tramini fan myself (I’m not sure if Tramini or Zöldveltelini is the one I like less, Irsai Olivér’s certainly beating both, downwards) I thought this was a good choice and Györgykovács always made good, if not excellent Traminis in my opinion.
The nose is very clean, mostly gooseberry flower syrup. The palate is a well balanced mix of lovely acidity and dry extracts. The gooseberry comes thorugh into a mouthfilling, intense falvor of the same bush. There are elements of medicine and herbs too, mingled with a rather interesting thermal water appeal (well, to some, I suppose). Later a gentle acacia-flower-ish element too, which brings back childhood memories of sucking juice from the acacia flower as a kid. And this wine carries mineral lembrances of Somló as well, of course.
Technically, this wine is super. I wish I could appreciate it more.
Interestingly enough to me, the wine gets better as the glass warms up a little.
Score: 5+/6 (people not so distant from this grape would appreciate it more)
One note: the said retailer has a cool shop near Lánchíd where not even the clerks can ruin the experience. It’s unbelievable we had to wait 20 years to have this in Budapest.
Next in the row in the hunting for good red wines under HUF2000 series this Kékfrankos was recommended by a merchant who’s very proud of his discoveries of unknown or smaller wineries (as a matter of fact Levendula Pince’s Cabernet Sauvignon is a best seller in his store ever since I introduced it to him but I wasn’t so lucky with his recommendations so far). I was a bit disappointed by a bottle of Losonci Kékfrankos the guy once recommended to me and other minor disappointments followed.
This Halmosi Kékfrankos has a good-looking bottle (I keep forgetting taking pictures lately). The nose suggests very ripe material, aged in large used barrel ( but that’s my guess only).The reality’s different. Clear nectarine aroma on the palate but the wine is too acidic which doesn’t suite this rather thin wine. Relatively long tannic-bitter finish.
Price: HUF 2 100
I just finished off this bottle, left over from before yesterday. I don’t usually keep the bottle open for so long (why would I?), but after 2 days uncorked the wine’s still very good.
This Rajnai’s color is quite dull. But the nose is quite not so much. It’s salted chalky-mineral character is charming, with almond-marzipan notes and a veggie stock accent. Well rounded on the palate, a bit sweet (it’s semi-dry after all) with very subtle acidity which will be more accentueted after 2 hours. Full-bodied but light, elgant but it has a character too – a quite mineral one, with very ripe apple and hints of pear. Soft, silky texture, thirlling. Surprisingly short length. Mature wine, probably at its best.
Price: HUF 3 500
This was an impulse buy today on my way home but I eventually ended up at a friend’s home with 2 pizzas and started to drink the wine hot as the room in this early October summer day in Budapest. The wine turned out to be in better shape at this temperature, with a color and texture similar to Sauska’s Chardonnay from the same year (somewhere in between the basic and the Makár, and just as full bodied as those), a fat, lovely move and a pleasant nose. Even the bouquet of this wine is silky, when cooler it felt a bit tired tough until we ruined the whole with the Canpagnole and the Calabrese. Nice wine, now on sale at HUF 2000 at a well-known Budapest retailer.
I don’t know the legal term for what the press decribes as “the cellar of the winemaker of the year is closed by the wine qualification (classification?) authorities”. The bottomline is that added gylcerin in test samples was found in Vincze wines recently and irregularities in storing the said wines (well, a few hectos, the whole lot actually, were simply missing…) during the investigation of the case.
Falsification of wines in Hungary is not uncommon, rumour has it. Ráspi once explained to me (and a zillion times to the rest of the world I guess) that techniques like that, and even legal methods of alterating artifiially the character of the wine is widespread practice even among the best winemakers in Hungary (he didn’t think twice to name a few of the best known winemakers of the country). This might be exaggeration, but let’s not pretend that Vincze’s case is unique. I doubt anyone thought this. What raises concern in my mind is how could this guy have gotten elected winemaker of the year? According to which criteria? And, let’s think a minute about who voted him this award…
You can read my opinion about Vincze’s wines here.