There has been (and certainly will be) endless discussions about what should be the Hungarian wine like, instead of examining first the perception of the consumer (not the domestic market). After decades of debate this job remains undone and the place for the Hungarian wine in the world of wines is yet to be found. Some suggested diversity for key selling point of the Hungarian wine, which is, of course, almost as brainy as if Starbacks started working on his image as an authentic local coffee shop.
Do I know the answer? No. But I’d be very happy if the widely neglected Turán played a somewhat major role in shaping the Hungarian wine’s future. For skeptics, I’d like to refer to Szecskő’s, and Luka Enikő Turán 2009 is not much behind either.
Luka Enikő – Turán, 2009
Deep ruby with a dark core, but not as dark as one might expect from a grape that is widely used for giving other wines a darker tone. The bouquet is dense but not too intense, with elderberry(!) and a hint of mulberry marmalade.
On the palate dense but well-balanced with well integrated subtle acidity. Although very young, this Turán has ripe, soft and tasty tannins. Full-bodied wine with a tasty gentle sour tannic finish.
Good wine with an aging potential of at least a 3-5 years.
Unfortunately like good wines of countries with limited gastronomic and wine culture as ours, this comes at a price, reinforcing Luka as one of the most overrated winemakers.
You hopefully just read the debut of Pfneiszl on this blog so I don’t need to tell once again how I feel about organic wines (my opinion didn’t change that much since last week).
This Merlot is medium ruby with purplish reflections. Fairly fruity and fresh nose with blackcurrant, sour cherry and some spices (I think cinnamon mainly). Similarly, the palate is fruity and fresh with acidity that only doesn’t cross the line if I think of almost any other red wine from Sopron in this segment. Very short finish. It’s an overall very similar wine to the Kékfrankos, a decent organic effort from a region which often disappoints but nothing to be too excited about.
Score: 4 points
I love good food, I have a passion for fruit and vegetable markets everywhere from France to Italy, now I even have my own tiny little spice production which will hopefully turn organic next year. Still I find buying organic products in Hungary an unpleasant experience. Why? The organic food and beverage movement has a very different lifecycle and in fact meaning in Hungary than elsewhere. The organic scene is more like a sect and products always (and I mean always) come in a bundle with some esoterism. Hungarian regular markets are already very different from their Western-European peers. But organic producers make it one step further: they make me feel uncomfortable. Wines are a bit of an exception, the methods used are not over-emphasized and they’re not (exclusively) sold in specialized markets.
Moreover, “fortunately” in winemaking the current buzzword in Hungary is artisan winemaking (and has been for some years now), making organic wine making sound just a foolish exotic hobby of marginal importance. Even worse, bio-dynamic sounds like a tropical disease or a disinfectant to the average consumer.
The Pfneiszl Kékfrankos 2009 is clean mid-pale purplish with a strange bouquet of petroleum. On the palate it’s very fresh like a Beaujolais with pleasant soft acidity and restrained tannins. Fresh, yet ripe fruity character with notes of sour cherry and wild berry fruits with a chocolate accent later. Well balanced wine and this is very important to me in this segment.
Score: 4 points
I lost a minor fortune on faulty Ráspi wines already. If you’d buy Ráspi wine despite my cautions you have to take serious risk management measures, like I do. For those new to the world of faulty wines: Ráspi wines are often more like tricky, obscure structured financial products (sometimes very high yield attractive assets but sometimes toxic rubbish in your wine portfolio). In fact, I believe there should be regulated market for a derivative product like CDS (credit default swap) to hedge your disposure to corked Ráspi wines, supervised by both PSZÁF (and possibly FSA) AND the a committee consisting of the big4 audit firms, chaired by Attila Gere or some other member of the community Ráspi hates so much.
Now you may think that I’m against Ráspi as a whole. Well I’m not. I’m a fan of the maniac actually but I refuse to buy his wines (well, no longer apparently). He’s hard working, runs a good restaurant in Fertőrákos (and a not so good one in Budapest) where he’s chef of cuisine with a philosophy I happen to like very much.
I bought Kopár Cuvée 2007 (two bottels actually) because i) unlike in the past, this time I bought them in Budapest so I can return them to the merchant if I want to and ii) a pair was on sale at discount at this particular merchant. An anticipated surprise: I didn’t regret it (although, one bottle is still intact).
This wine expresses elements of a well defined Ráspi style. Like all Ráspi wines I’ve ever seen this cuvée (whose grape composition is a mistery) is blurred brownish, of a medium deep tone. Stuffy bouquet, instead of clean aromas. Earthy notes, soil mingled with apricot, almond and pomegranate, later it’s sweet with a chocolate accent.
On the palate it’s rich with a salty minerally character supported by sour tannins and rustic acidity. I like the beet flavour and the juicy pomegranate sweetness mingled with salt and minerals, not so much the underpinning. Soon the wine evolves peppery aromas and I suspect it doesn’t stop there but before I know it we finish off the bottle.
This wine doesn’t score 6- points because any sip from it would be so good (because it’s not). But because it’s misterious, predictably unpredictable so in every sip of it you’ll discover something new.
Price: HUF 2000 (HUF 1800 with a discount)
Kékfrankos is probably the second most abused widely used varietal in Hungarian post-war winemaking (Zweigelt tops the list). Oddly enough, in Sopron nobody seems to care as it’s still the flagship grape in the area but I must admit I’m still waiting for the Kékfrankos that will prove they’re right. Most experts put Luka among those who are to (or have already) proved my skepticism unfounded.
Pale ruby. Warm, spicy nose with notes of cranberry. Thin body but with some extract sweetness supported by a light salty mineral element and a fine string of tannin. Well rounded wine, with a bit loose structure but well balanced. Mineral texture. It’s an overall pleasant wine but evidently overpriced.
Score: 5 points
HUF 4 150
There are more people out there who are recently more interested in Ráspi’s new restaurant about to open in Budapest than his wines. I’m now inclined to be one of them. When I first visited him in Fertőrákos a new wave of cool restaurants started to emerge in Hungary which are now well established trendy places. So now Ráspi’s no longer so unique although the high-end restaurant business was hit hard by the recession (I just went to Onyx the other day and we had the whole place for us only for an entire hour), and Lou Lou’s closure for instance must be painful for many of us. Anyway, Ráspi’s performance in the kitchen has been less volatile than in the cellar so I’ll definitely be there (maybe I’ll still be able to afford a tasting menu, unlike his Máté cuvée for instance).
I reviewed this rosé already when it was still a young, fresh rosé and I iked it. And I still do. It still has a fresh, mineral character with a brassy color and many many mineral notes. And some unusual notes too, not so unusual from Ráspi though: something it feels closest to a refinery’s smell and the taste of a detergent. And it tastes a bit of a raw turkey breast too (don’t ask me how do I know how that tastes). Firm structure and crisp acidity. As you see, it’s a good wine.
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.
The same Ráspi wine is usually described by the divided wine society (including regular drinkers and serious professionals) as either i) extremely complex ii) dull iii) simply faulty. I spent, I may say, quite a sum already on trying to understand the hype behind Horvát József’s wines. After several blind tastings, a visit to the master himself, a dozen bottles consumed at home I now tend to agree with the latter group in most cases. Despite all the expressed fanaticism with which Ráspi arguably dedicates himself to winemaking and his obvious efforts to distinguish himself from almost all known winemakers in the country (not to mention the rest of the world) I came to the conclusion that buying Ráspi wines doesn’t pay off. Yes they can be complex and pleasant.Yes I understand how important handicraft winemaking is to him and I admire his work and sophistication in the kitchen. I also used to think that I’m very unlucky in selecting the right bottles. I also came to a point when I thought I may not appreciate enough the exotic finess of the really good wines. After so many purchases and having drank really fine wines I now know that neither of these was the case, or not entirely. Still, I let you decide. This Kékfrankos, although being one of the cheapest wines of Ráspi, has many of the typical elements of 90% of the Ráspi wines I’ve tasted so far, including some of the most expensive wines you can buy in this country.
It has a pale brownish-ruby color. The nose is a mix of different fungi and not just the ones you appreciate. The wine is thick and lacks substance. It’s too acidic for such a small body and the wine becomes more and more sour as time passes. The palate has no clean fruity or mineral elements, it’s a muddy mixture of undefined ones. It’s short on the finish except an appalling sour sensation.
One might simply say that the wine I opened was corked. But then 9 out of 10 Ráspi wines are corked in my experience, regardless of the vintage.
I still have a bottle of Máté Cuvée 2006 left which now sells for a fortune. I’m afraid I may never get to know why.
Budapest Daily Review is one year old.
I started to publish my tasting notes a year ago but it wasn’t meant to be a blog. I just wanted to make my notes searchable and (why not?) available to those who are interested in a second opinion, other than the merchant’s or the winemaker’s him/herself in English. Interestingly enough, another guy went through similar thoughts in the same period of last year and started a blog about Hungarian wines in German language.
I never asked Peter (writer of borwerk.de wine blog) why he started his blog but there are two major differences in the result, as far as I can judge using babelfish and google translator because my German knowledge is hardly sufficient to survive in an Austrian hütte. First, Peter doesn’t give out scores. Second, he makes proper research of the wineries and writes intelligent introduction to the tasting notes. The most important similarity however, may be that we are independent, not qualified wine lovers, passionates, who would like to see a dramatic improvement in the quality of affordable Hungarian wines. We decided to celebrate a year in wine drinking and sharing tasting notes with a joint tasting of two “cult “wines. Here’s what we found.
Ráspi – Kékfrankos, Öreg Tőkék Szelekció, 2005
After 3 hours in a decanter/open bottle, this Kékfrankos has a spicy nose with a smoky accent. As almost usual, this Ráspi wine won’t have clean fruit or other clear elements. Instead, it has a complex bouquet which is more interesting than elegant or anything else, with notes like sour cherry stewed in Cognac. Well, cherry cherry too but not in its pure form either. The color of the wine is just as unclear as the rest of it: medium ruby with brick color and an almost watery rim. On the palate cherry with a mineral underpinning. Small bodied with an acidic character and firm tannins. As we compare it an hour later to Weninger’s Kékfrankos Barrique 2000, the wine has a quite unusual Cognac-like perfumy nose that is so not Kékfrankos… but very interesting and distinguished.
Weninger, Kékfrankos Barrique, 2000
This Kékfrankos has a dark ruby color with black reflections. Quite intense on the nose, still fresh, with cherry aromas and a steady Kékfrankos character with a smoky accent once again. Unlike the Ráspi wine, this is Kékfrankos on the palate too but in a larger body and more syrup-like. More concentrated, cleaner and more straightforward. Much less acidity, slightly imbalanced just as Ráspi’s only the other way around. On the palate this wine has a blackberry character.
Peter’s notes are published on his blog. (Just for the record: Peter speaks English fluently (as well as Hungarian, at least one Scandinavian language and only Rozi knows what else) but he doesn’t intend to write neither in Hungarian or English.)
Note: photo is courtesy of Peter Klingler.
Ráspi wines are more alive than Rolling Stones on tour but Ráspi wines change much more in a few months than Charlie Watts’ mimicry over several decades. Here’s another testimony of this. I tasted this Mágus Cuvée 2006 once at the master’s restaurant at Fertőrákos and then again in late 2008. You can read the tasting notes here from back in November.
Medium pale ruby color with an almost watery pink rim. Unlike most Ráspi wines this one has a relatively rich bouquet already at opening, complex but not very intense with earth, chocolate and smoky elements. Quite warm. Even a sour cherry stewed in Cognac and wrapped in dark chocolate (called Konyakmeggy in Hungary). Now this wine has a small-medium body almost empty and watery through to the midpalate. The wine has pleasant powdery tannins which become silky after an hour. Later on the nose asian spices. The palate is quite interesting once salty then with a grappa accent. The wine appreciates decanting and it changes a lot even in matter of hours.
Score: 6, 6+
Price: HUF 4 500