Don’t fool yourself, you can’t. I thought that a Tramini would do the job especially a semi-sweet one but my inner sommelier failed me. Again. I first chose a Györgykovács Tramini but I found it too expensive to sacrifice, so I went back to the store (one doesn’t keep Tramini at home, right?), and bought two bottles of Tramini from St. Ilona of Somló, or Kreinbacher, if you like. The 2008 is a dry one which for no apparent reason got sweeter by 2009. And I mean it, because the two wines are almost identical except that tiny difference which is residual sugar. Still, whilst the 2008 is barely drinkable, empty, watery and boring the 2009 is equally thin, watery, empty yet a bit less boring due to the fact that it is somewhat sweet (it doesn’t feel semi-sweet though), and that sweetness leverages the fruityness which is found in the 2008 in tiny portions, hence displaying apple and pear aromas in the 2009, and an ultra-light perfumy acacia nose. It also reveals a thin layer of chalky minerality, so it’s an overall more complex and pleasant wine. But it’s not to be paired with a ginger chicken, although I recommend you to try out this recipe (it’s in Hungarian unfortunately) which is a delicious wine repeller.
The first bottle I opened was suspiciously wrong, not corked but oxidated and bitter (oddly enough the very same open bottle smelled elegantly 2 weeks later). But this review is based on a new bottle.
From grapes picked from 10-20 year old Olaszrizling vines this wine was aged in new oak for 10 months in contact with some of the lee. Or aged for 9 months in 3-5 years old barrels of different sizes, depending on which information you trust from the website of the merchant (finding them will be easy, both versions are on the same page).
Here’s a thought, so just skip the next few lines and jump to the review if not interested in something personal. One of the reasons I stopped reading Hungarian wine reviews is that most reviews were either repeating too many clichés (Kreinbacher’s minerality, Olaszrizling’s almond finish, or an ideal food pairing is a Paprikás-Turul) even when they weren’t there or trying too hard to be original and to show off to my taste (other reasons include their authors often being too biased and narrow-minded). I must confess I didn’t find the above elements in this wine but this time I checked the bottle in due time and I can confirm I made no mistake taking proper note of the varietal like the other day.
This Olaszrizling is medium pale golden yellow with faded greenish reflections. Light nose with celery and a floral accent. Similarily styled palate with a rustic tartness from the midpalate. Dim acidity gone quickly, the wine has a short finish. Fairly buttered when chilled. Dry character with restrained fruity notes of grapefruit, pineapple and apple.
Score: 4+ points
Price: HUF 2000
My first encounter with Kreinbacher wines didn’t impress me and I still couldn’t get used to their (sometimes overly) high prices although I now at least appreciate their efforts to find Somló’s new old character.
They embraced old grapes through their lower-end label Szent Ilona too. Entry-level cuvée Taposó-Kút is, every year, an Olaszrizling-based blend which in 2006 produced a more Furmint-like character instead. I at least attribute that sour-bitter element on the mid-palate (not at the finish as often seen in Furmint) which is so dominant in this wine to Furmint.
But let’s have a look at the color first: brigh hay hue, not very deep and very lively. Complex, yet friendly floral nose mingled with hints of honey and ripe tropical fruits having a vanilla undertone and a mineral accent. The palate has a mineral and bitter character because of the Furmint I suppose which also leaves its mark on the taste spectrum (along with marzipan).
Aged in mostly used large oak barrels during which the wine had a long contact with the lee (so characteristic to Kreinbacher wines) which is at least partly responsible for the lovely acidity being overshadowed by that bitter taste and texture. This wine would be very exciting without that, but it’s still a very decent effort and a good introduction to this side of Somló.
The wine’s not young and I don’t expect it to get any better with time.
Score: 5 points
Price: HUF 2 500
It is widely believed that the Somló wines have a strong local character, the terroir providing foundation for it. Tasting some of the the most respected local winemakers’ wines side by side will give you another impression though. Others even question whether Somló, already the smallest of Hungary’s historical wine regions, can be regarded as one single region proposing that Somló mountain (a hill, actually) could be split into upper (more volcanic rocky ascent) and lower (more flat, with sometimes powdery soil) regions of very different local climate, not to mention that only the south-western slopes with bigger solar exposure should be really considered as part of the Somló region.
With two persons on average sharing a square meter of the beautiful Festetics Palota in Budapest, the Somló Évjáratbemutató 2008 was far from being an ideal place to find answers to my questions.
These young wines are barrel samples so they’re still expected to change and develop a lot, so the following notes are just impressions rather than result of careful analysis. The scores are hopefully reflecting this potential but I may have made more mistakes this time than usual. Also note that all wines are from 2008 except otherwise stated.
Bazaltbor – Olaszrizling: This Olaszrizling has a fruity nose with apple and pear aromas also on the palate. Fresh, young with lively acids. Score: 4
Bazaltbor Olaszrizling Válogatás: Now this one has a powerful, fresh and clean elderberry bouquet and a more elegant character in general. Still a medium-bodied wine but much better integrated and well-balanced. Score: 5+
Györgykovács – Olaszrizling: This Olaszrizling has an intense, complex mineral nose. On the palate it’s more simple with a small bitterness, and it’s very dry. Score: 5+/6-
Dénes Hegybirtok – Olaszrizling: Vanilla and melted butter aromas on the nose, quite intensely. Has not been filtered yet so its very dense in color and on the nose too. Good texture, creamy but low acidity. The sweet sensation on the palate is a result of the malolactic fermentation as it has no residual sugar. Score: 4
Spiegelber – Olaszrizling: Complex pear and floral aromas on the nose but more simple on the palate, although full-bodied. Very dry with pear notes and a bit of minerality. Score: 4+
Kreinbacher – Olaszrizling: A distinguished bright, lively color. Great nose, very complex of clean elderberry and gooseberry elements and a sulphite and city gas underpinning. Later on the nose: Veggie and spicy chicken stock with lovage and flint, lot of flint. Less intense on the palate, gentle and rounded, the wine has a more mineral and ripe character. Full-bodied with an appealing structure and nicely textured. There’s promise of finess too already. Score: 6+/7
Hollóvár – Olaszrizling: An appalling city gas nose with sulphit and flint and a chalky mineral undertone. Light-medium bodied wine with a nice structure. Very dry. No wine will divide people as much as this one. Score: 6+/7-
Somlói Apátsági Pince - Olaszrizling: Rich bouquet with an unusual Veggie soup with lovage on the nose and very pleasant apple-pear aromas. Firm on the palate, with the same Veggie soup with lovage! Boiled, spicy vegetarian notes with a mineral undertone. Very good one. Score: 6+/7-
Szent Ilona – Olaszrizling: Intense, lively floral nose but very simple on the palate. Score: 4
Kolonics – Olaszrizling: It’s very closed on the nose and it has this handicraft character with a large barrell element. On the palate salty-bitterness, interesting. Score: 5
To wrap up, it’ll be interesting to see how these wines will develop, especially Hollóvár. One thing is certain: the styles are more relevant here than terroir or the grape. On the other hand, there might as well be a Somló terroir, but it’s not yet the time to discuss this.