Blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Olaszrizling and Riesling, this wine is pale lemon yellow. Fairly fruity on the nose, light and fresh. On the palate it’s small-medium bodied with fresh, young and crisp acidity which will smoothen with time. Fair amount of pear and apple over a thin layer of vegetable notes of parsley and kohlrabi. A light scratchy tartness at the finish.
In February 2011 for the first time ever I chose to buy a Pezsgő (Hungarian sparkling wine), it was entirely my decision without being suggested by my wife, a big fan of Champagne. It started some years ago with our New Eve sparkling breakfasts, then one thing led to another and I can state that I now enjoy sparkling wines as much as I enjoy any other wine. The breakthrough came with a Laurent-Perrier Brut 1993 few weeks ago with its delightfully structured style, smoothly integrated palate and mature harmony only found in vintage wines.
Hungarian sparkling wines (or at least those made using traditional method, which I buy) are, of course, modest compared to the Champagnes. But I enjoy some of the rosés and I found this Chateau Vincent Evolution Rosé, 2005 particularily delightful.
It is made of 100% Pinot Noir which makes it look onion peel colored with some brassy reflections. It smells of yeast and toasted bread but it’s more aromatic and fruity on the palate with a bit of residual sugar (20g/L) which I find rather pleasant in this wine (in many white wines in fact), supported by firm apple flavoured acidity. Realtively fleshy mouthfil with aromas of chalky strawberry jam and toasted bread flowing into a very long yeasty finish with hints of pistache.
This is a very good effort, perhaps the best I have seen in its category and it confirms Garamvári Szőlőbirtok (best known as Ch. Vincent) as one of my two favorite Pezsgő makers of the regrettably short list of Pezsgő makers.
Note : pictures have been missing lately because my DSLR had broken and I couldn’t fix it yet so this and the last few pictures were taken with a budget mobile phone camera.
Laposa winery made the news with their new award-winning facilities triggering debate over taste, building permits and politics. Although the involvement of local politics and non-refundable state capital inflow into a private winery is a controversial issue, it is also a very Hungarian one. In my defence I bought this bottle before I heard the news, besides Laposa used to make decent and affordable wines both in Somló and in the Badacsony area.
Laposa – Rizling “Friss”, 2009
Openly positioned as a “fröccs” wine it is perhaps a little bit odd to drink it in the middle of the February frost but I’m not bound by such clichés. Sometimes regrettably not, as this wine is really what they say about it: a pale lemon yellow acid fluid from the beginning to the finish, fresh but not crisp and very, very acidic. It is really dificult to appreciate it now and I’m not sure about its prospects for the summer either.
Somlói Apátsági Pince – Furmint, 2008
Shiny deep golden yellow with a vibrant brownish tone.
Very intense nose of higly concentrated minerals and honey with a botrytis accent. A nice weight on the palate. Savory and minerally first, a bit dull and tart from the midpalate. Tea notes emerge over a deep and concentrated layer of minerals, preceding traces of oak.
Somlói Apátsági Pince have built a cult following over the years. Their wines showing an even heavier character and rocky edge in the last two years I really wonder if they can break into the mainstream but I have doubts. I’m looking forward to see where they’re heading next.
It’s time for me to catch up with my other Somló favorite Spiegelberg.
The impact of Sauska on the Hungarian wine industry is still to be understood and if the new trend doesn’t take off in the next few years then perhaps it never will. For now the question is: can Sauska transfer their success formula to Tokaj? The control-freak attitude brought us the new world to Villány, but there’s no dessert wine in the new world (well, you know what I mean). Can over-engineering techniques work in the Aszú universe?
One thing is certain: Tokaj desperately needs professional wine marketing and even Sauska critics will have to admit that that cash could come from the devil itself, provided that it can help boost sales of a wine region hit by many factors, one of the most important being the world’s profound ignorance of fine dessert wines.
Let’s get first to a basic dry cuvée because I’m not sure yet if I’m ready to open my wallet for the pricy sweet delights.
Sauska Tokaj, 113 Cuvée, 2009
Pale lemon yellow hue with olive reflections, bright and clean. Very restrained and light on the nose with lemon zest and an acacia accent. To my surprise, the wine shows mineral on the palate supported by lively lemon and crab apple acidity and a good hint of salt. There are notes of apple and pear too to a lesser extent, over a tight and fairly long acid backbone. Light nose, middle-weight palate (in fact the palate is light too but richer and more complex). After not too long exposure to air the finish will be shorter and acidity fades.
Furmint is the backbone, Sauvignon Blanc marks its presence too but Chardonnay and especially Hárslevelű are dissolved in the blend. This is the entry-level dry cuvée of Sauska Tokaj, a decent effort that is nothing like the Sauska Villány white wines. But like most Sauska wines, this is a very approachable wine and an interesting blend.
Boy, do I love Ales. I could spend hours in a London pub any time of the year, every single day of a week. So guess what, I did. I’m passionate about the atmosphere of it all and I love reading the Observer or the Independent or a book, careful about being strategically positioned near the Ale pumps and I even enjoy watching rugby there (the only other place I do is in Toulouse), a game that only starts to make some sense at all if you’d just watched cricket. Reading in a pub might sound strange to continental Europeans but when you’re the first guess at noon you either watch the passers by (another amazing thing to do in London btw) or read. And when you’re first guest as often as I am then you tend to read for a change. Not very closely related to this topic but closing down the old Waterstones shop on Shaftesbury was a crime against civilized humanity.
Am I happy to be back in Budapest? I’m depressed actually. Still in London, when I almost had enough of beer, I changed for sake for a while but after a week I couldn’t wat to have a good glass of red wine, I wanted a sure shot, a full-bodied, well-balanced aroma bomb and I found a bottle of Gróf Buttler’s Portugieser (yes, it can be all that!) in the basement. Bingo! But it was corked (my first ever). Next one: a Pinot Noir 2008.
This is less vibrant than other G.B. wines with relatively pale orange-ruby color. On the palate soft, warm with velvety tannins and perhaps it’s only a bit too young. Good wine though, don’t get repelled by the alcohol (14.5%).
I’d never buy a Juhász wine but I don’t give away any wine I get but I try to find a purpose for them instead. This is how a quite young Rosé which was Kékfrankos grapes only 3-4 months ago was to spice up the octopus salade a little bit but you know how it’s like having a bottle in your hand in front of a cooker, you must pour a sample to yourself no matter how many times the winemaker disappointed you.
This one turned out to have a stunning fruity yoghurt nose with hints of papaya, unnaturally intense with aromas a chewing gum factory must purchase by lots of tons. This wine looked clean brassy. A bit sparkling on the palate, this is a very refreshing rosé with nice lively acidity.
Surely a well crafted wine.
I don’t pretend I understand Champagne or sparkling wines in general. But I had a quiet new years eve followed by an even more quiet weekend and I decided to share with you my impressions about some Champagne and Hungarian sparkling wines made á la méthode traditionnelle I spent time with during this period. Here they are, in chronologic order.
Hungaria – Extra Dry
This is the top wine of the Hungaria line of Törley group. With no vintage on the label, I can only guess that this is a mix of various vintages and varietals but I couldn’t find any more information about this wine on the winery’s website. Such a shame, although 99.999% of the consumers of this wine wouldn’t be interested anyway. This is a sparkling wine that only sells during the last week of the year, deservedly if you ask me, as it’s only slightly better than the regular Törley line under HUF1000. Pale lemon yellow, bright and charming with citrus notes on the nose. On the palate still a bit flimsy but I didn’t mind having a glass of this one, knowing what was about to come.
Kreinbacher – Syrah Rosé, 2008
Strange as it may be, probably the only Syrah of the Somló wine region went into this sparkling wine. Two years ago we celebrated the new year with the Syrah 2007. It was lovely, so we started 2010 the same way and this had become the wine I most often bought in 2010 when I was looking for a sparkling wine. The 2008 summarises well why.
It’s beautiful, brassy with faded salmon reflections, vibrant and releases charming towers of bubbles like a smoking chimney. Light nose, fairly yeasty and a bit spicy but mostly fruity, although a bit restrained. It’s delicious too: lightly rocky with hints of red fruits. Dry, fresh but not too acidic and has a decent legth.
Szentesi – Pinot Noir Rosé, 2008
Champagne/sparkling wine is supposed to be cheerful and festive. Rosé wines suite these occasions perfectly and I prefer these to white sparkling wines. Just like the Kreinbacher, this sparkling wine is one of its kind, I don’t think many producers venture in the field of Pinot Noir in the Velence region and most of this little ended up in this sparkling wine. This was our first encounter and it was an immediate success.
Very similar to the Kreinbacher in appearance, perhaps a touch more pinkish, just lovely, festive indeed and very gay. A bit more yeasty and more fruity with raspberry primarily. Very dry, very light with subtle acidity. Light and crisp character. According to my wife, who’s the real authority as long as sparkling wines are concerned, Kreinbacher Syrah is slightly better than this one. I’m not so sure, but again, I really don’t get sparkling wines the way she does.
There are three more Champagnes to come, but let’s save them for tomorrow as I have some unfinished business with a very good Szamorodni right now.
Now that the Hungarian Constitution incorporates (our non-existent) Christianity I sort of feel being under pressure to write more about exuberantly religious winemakers. I kind of hope this could be used in my favour (as an extenuating circumstance) when the full dictatorship finally takes place in the middle of the Carpatians and censorship will eventually (and inevitably) become part of our everyday life.
St. Andrea – Áldás, 2008
This is a Bikavér and as such, predictably unpredictable blend, but Kékfrankos, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Menoir make a unique yet approachable wine here. Fresh, medium dark ruby with purplish shades. The nose is dried tobacco leaves with some alcohol coming through. The ample palate is smoothly styled with a chewy mix of fruits presented in a soft velvety texture and with a long, delicately sour tannic finish. Medium bodied wine with well rounded, very subtle and perfectly integrated acidity.
Not too exciting but well made wine, would go well with a bistro meal.
Price: HUF 3000
So how was it then?
Around this time of 2008 expectations about this vintage ranged from good to outstanding in every region although some remarked that a rainy October could leave this vintage short of excellence of, say, 2006. I’m not saying that the same irrational exuberance took over the Hungarian winemaking as it did in Bordeaux but Hungarian winemakers undoubtadly tend to be more optimistic in their expectations lately. Let’s find out how it all turned out on the east bank of the Danube.
Levendula Pincészet – Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008
The winemaking philosophy of Levendula is very different from the well-known Cabernet producers from the south and that’s clearly reflected in this wine. Also Levendula Cabernet Sauvignon is not a typical Cabernet as it lacks many of the “standard” features one would expect from varietal. After the “classic” Cabenet 2007 the 2008 has less chocolate but has more fruits starting from a vibrant, sharp and clean black-currant bouquet with a chocolate-woody-black peppered undertone to a stream of ripe cherry on the palate. Further on boiled apple and pear supported by powdery tannin and harsh acidity. A little bit rustic compared to the other wines to come but it’s the most fruity of the three.
Pannonhalmi Apátsági – Tricollis, 2008
This is a blend of Merlot (40%), Pinot Noir (40%) and Cabernet Franc (20%) but it could easily be sold as a Pinot Noir. It’s rather pale cherry-pinkish and has a very restrained nose of clove flavoured boiled apple with a vanilla accent. On the palate silky texture with very subtle acidity. A light entry turns into a gently fading length with beige caramel from the mid-palate. 13.5% alcohol feels a bit over the top for such a thin wine.
Bock – Ermitage, 2008
This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Fanc, Merlot, Syrah, Kékfrankos, Portugieser and Pinot Noir could be called Bikavér for it mixes these varietals in a way one wouldn’t suspect all these varietals were actually in it. It’s clearly Cabernet Sauvignon-based though with Merlot and Franc being also apparent. Altough having been aged for 14 months in large barrels and used small ones, with it’s dark brownish hue this looks more like an old-school Villányi Bordeaux cuvée rather than an experimental blend. Dense and highly concentrated material. Delightfully structured wine whose perfectly ripe (and a bit sweet), tasty tannins are a robust yet very fine underpinning that doesn’t require any airing to show its best. Perfectly linear flow from the entry to a rather short finish. Acidity could be fine-tuned here but tannin is the most prominent component of this wine and you can forget the rest. Altough being one dimensional and hence soon predictable, it’s worth to buy it just for the sake of tannin alone. A rare example of very smart use of oak.
All three wines are fairly priced. Tricollis and Levendula’s Cabernet are of the same league although very differrent in style, while Ermitage is different from both and more expensive but very reasonably priced at around EUR10.