I haven’t been following the winery as closely as I used to since the new generation of Figulas took over Balatonfüred’s possibly best winery, which certainly used to be the best ten years ago. I paid a visit in 2009 and what I found can be summerised as follows. They’re still strong in the lower price category but with an increasing focus on full-bodied and more complex white wines. The red wines are getting somewhat better but there’s nothing to be too excited about. The use of new oak is less obvious, but still important.
Figula – Olaszrizling, 2009
Bright lemon yellow with greenish reflections. Fresh nose of parsley and celery. Further on more vegetable notes on the palate supported by moderate (too little?) acidity and a hint of salty minerality. Later more juicy mouthfil adds to the already silky texture. It’s light, yet fairly complex wine with a medium-long finish, a lovely wine, very good drink but a bit pricy (HUF 3500).
I can’t say much about the winery, Franz Weninger’s wines are everywhere and I still didn’t drink almost any of them.
This Kéfrankos has a very pale hue in the glass. It is very restrained on the nose with hints of chocolate mingled with sour cherry, and it’s a little bit woody-tannic. Very empty on the palate, suspiciously textured. It drinks well, tastes nothing.
Price: HUF 2 000
Footnote: in my clearing the summer stock I ran into a Figula Rosé 2008 which even at room temperature was still enjoyable, with a fresh character and full of raspberry. A pleasant surprise at the start of the heating season.
Sauvignon Blanc is one of my favorite grapes and I believe that Hungary would be able to produce good Sauvignon Blancs but so far little effort has been made to fill in a gap on the market left by a virtually non-existing supply of foreign wines, including SB. Where is Hungarian Sauvignon Blanc standing compared to its European and new world competitors? Do we stand a chance as long as quality is concerned, especially when price is taken into account? Is New Zealand really better than France? Should Hungary destroy all its SB plantations once and for all? Are we ever going to export Sauvignon Blanc?
We’ll not necessarily give an answer to these questions, perhaps we’ll be only scratching the surface but at least we’ll try: Peter from borwerk.de and I decided to try to taste as many Hungarian SBs as we can put our hands on and taste each of them in pair with a foreign Sauvignon Blanc. Here’s the first sprint’s result.
Domaine Des Corbillieres is a family winery from the Loire (Sologne wine region) near Blois, Tours and Chambord (boy, do I love the Loire castles!) with a long history and consisting today of 23 hectares of which 13 are Touraine Blanc Sauvignon. 2008 was excellent year in Touraine, on the South-bank of Loire. The Touraine 2005 was a Wine Advocate 90 points wine.
2007 was a year in Balaton described by many winemakers as “rather difficult” but the Figulas didn’t complain. So let’s see.
The tasting was blind but not for long. After the first sniff when our noses got near the glass there were no secrets any more.
The Touraine has pale lemon color with greenish reflections. Very intense nose, soft and gentle with lot of litchi, papaya and maracujá (passion fruit) aromas. On the palate very fresh and firm with lot of grip, metallic (and grapefruit flavored) acidity and perfectly integrated structure. Crisp, buoyant, young but elegant acidity with a salty accent, flowing into a virtually endless finish. Very zippy wine. Goodness, what a wine this is for the price of a small pizza. Score: 6+/7-
In my eyes it’s a real bargain not just for everyday drinking.
The sauvignon Blanc from Balatonfüred (Balatonszőlős, actually) has a slightly deeper hue and a it’s closed on the nose with green apple, salt cured and spiced Iberian ham (or pancetta?) and veggie soup notes, definitely more closed than the Touraine. Shows also little on the palate with some greenish freshness and veggie notes with a softer texture. Medium acidity but structurally much inferior to Touraine. Score: 4
The wines, believe it or not, are both priced at around HUF 1800 even with the recently week forint and shipment cost included (well, the Touraine was brought from Germany free of shipment cost, but still). I always feared that I’d been a little bit biased in favor of Figula which may have been the case but this blind tasting reveals I’m afraid what the real value of this wine is.
Touraine Corbillieres facts sheet andquotes from their website:
AGE OF VINE
-13 to 43 Years
TYPE OF SOIL
- Sand on a clay bed of the Sologne region.
-No chemical fertilizer, only organic matter, controlled production by a very strict debudding. Leaves thinned out.
-Steeping for 1 month with natural ferments, at a temperature of 16 – 18º, then left to lie until spring.
-Delicate and with a floral aroma, this wine is rich and fruity, well balanced and give a lasting freshness to the palate.
Goes well with Asparagus, fish and all shellfish
Serving temperature 10º.
I noticed that lately I hardly miss the chance to taste one winemaker’s rosé as opposed to only a year ago. Have I become a converted fan of rosé wines or I just like them more because they’re mostly rich in red berry fruits flavors and warm aromas, they’re mostly bigger-bodied than their fellow white wines from the same price category but in the same time they drink extremely well in hot spring and summer days? And in most cases they’re better balanced than reds/whites from the same price category. Moreover,while most Hungarian red wines are still overpriced in international comparison, rosés tend to be competitive in international perspective. So no wonder that I didn’t resist Figula’s only rosé wine, the Kékfrankos rosé 2008.
Medium-deep pink color with light brassy reflections. This Kékfrankos has a friendly, warm nose full of raspberry with a strawberry accent. Small-medium bodied and well balanced, this Kékfrankos is firm and well integrated on the palate with the help of a hint of saltiness to rebalance the hint of sweetness. There’s some gas smell element on the nose too which I find rather interesting.
Rosé wines are extremely favorable from cash-flow point of view. Take this Kékfrankos for instance. The grapes were harvested in early October and by the second week of November you could fully enjoy the wines. It’s a pity that by November most wine lovers turn to something more enjoyable at higher temperature.
Három (I I I), 2007 is a blend of 25% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot. The wine has spent 5-6 months in Barrique. It has a nice purplish-ruby color with a rosé pink rim.
Surprisingly elegant on the nose, fairly dense but light in the same time releasing fresh forest berry fruit aromas. Medium acidic with slightly unripe but pleasant tannin. Medium-bodied, firm with a hint of warm sweetness. This wine will improve over the next two years but it’s already a pleasant cuvée.
Score: 5+ (/6-)
Figula Winery has been my top pick from the north bank of lake Balaton for many years. But this was my first visit to their Balatonfüred cellar since the “boys” took over the family winery after the tragic death of the winemaker of the year 2000.
Founded in 1993 by Budapest Kertészeti Egyetem’s graduate Mihály Figula the winery today has a bit less than 30 hectares – the founder had no plans to expand it, he believed that 25-30 hectares are more than enough for a family winery, he once told me. Most plantations are quite old located in the Balatonfüred, Balatonszőlős and Pécsely areas. They embraced the technology in winemaking relatively early but never abused them. Indeed, my perception is that they’re using less new oak today than they used to around 2001-2002. The press is operated at 1 bar to obtain a clean juice and the controlled fermentation and aging in stainless steel helps only to preserve the fruity character of the grapes. Figula took his winery to the next level with Szilénusz which, in better years, is made as a blend of changing vineyards and varietals but always giving exceptional cuvées.
Sauvignon Blanc, 2007 comes from the Gella “dűlő”, the highest point of Balatonszőlős with Southern and South-Western exposure. It’s quite windy too which increases quality while decreases loss for rotting. The yield from this area had been decreased from 3 300 hectoliters to only 1 800 today. This means 1-1,5 kilos per vine (which are planted in rows of 2,7m distance from each other and at 70cms within the row). The vines here are very old, around 48 years most of them.
The wine has a bright, medium yellow golden color. The nose is medium intense nettle and lovage with a floral accent. Nice and warm, very friendly.
The palate is less fruity than I expected with apple aroma supported by a Traubi-acidic underpinning. Slightly sparkling, the wine is well balanced and has a fresh character with a hint of salty-minerality. It’s a bit short on the finish with apple-bitterness (like cider). Small-medium bodied.
Score: 5 points
Nyerges, 2007 is a selection of Pinot Gris. Fermented in large oak (“Ászokhordó”, for those willing to learn the Hungarian terms) and bottled after 12 months but before that it spent one month in second use Barrique. The grapes come from western slopes. The wine has 14% alcohol and around 6 g/l acidity.
This Pinot Gris has a brassy-onion skin hue in appearance and a relatively heavy nose with herbs, honey and spices. Later with crust of bread aroma! and dried tropical fruits quite densely. Soft, velvety with good acidity. Upper-medium bodied wine with a hint of bitterness.
Szilénusz, 2006 is the flagship blend of the Figulas. In 2006 it was made of 50% Olaszrizling and 50% Chardonnay, Szürkebarát and Semillion. Fermented in Ászok barrel, then half of the wine was moved to Barrique after 4-6 months for another 2 months, then they’ were poured together again.
This cuvée has a medium yellow golden color. It has a light, yet penetrating flinty nose, quite perfume-y with a vanilla accent. Very interesting.
Fresh, soft but crispy acidity spiced up with a hint of salty-minerality. Light and elegant, in a certain way, the wine’s well integrated and this along with its harmony is the key strength of the wine. It has also hints of vegetable and greenish notes but it’s not as fruity as one might expect. It’s a very good wine though.
Score: 6, 6+
The post would be too long, so I’ll write another entry with the red wines of Figua Winery.