My records show that Eger is the best Pinot Noir producing region in Hungary. Some of the Egri Pinots even have great ageing potential.
This Tekenőháti from Noszvaj has an elegant, warm, fleshy bouquet with restrained spices. Elegantly styled on the palate, well-balanced with a long smooth finish. Soft, ultra-thin tannic backbone supporting a light-weighted body. The wine develops a very complex and exciting bouquet with notes of fat forest soil, hints of farmyard notes, with very elegantly rounded edges. Very subtle acidity. Lovely wine with at least another 2-3 years of potential. I wish I could see what this wine will become.
Score: 7, 7-
Price: HUF 4500
The name of the guy who invented time machine is Dr. Sándor Tóth, winemaker under the name Scheller and a long-time favorite of mine. It’s difficult to track his work over the years, although rumour has it that he’ll put on the market the wines of 2006 soon (what happened in between is up to you to find out). But his wines from 2003 are still fresh and lovable in spite of being light and not overly acidic, theoretically not exactly suitable for ageing for too long. They’re not in perfect shape any more (perhaps they’ve never been), but you like to think that once they were beautiful, maybe even gorgeous and they are still enjoyable, in some way, after so many years.
This Zöldveltelini from 2003 is pale golden yellow with a light brassy reflection at the edges. It has a creamy, maionnaise bouquet with a lemon zest accent. Creamy texture with a sparkling bitterness from the midpalate. It’s ample but with little substance. Soft acidity. Very empty finish. When chilled, it feels like a lollipop made of butter with a little bit of persley and sometimes other spices too. I finished off the bottle on the third day and it was still as good as 3 days before, and on the second day it turned out to be a great pair with a chicken curry, something unimaginable before. You may laugh now, but you should try it instead!
Score: 4 points (at least)
Price: HUF 1 500
2003 produced some of the first really remarkable great white wines this country’s seen in this millennium (just think about Mandolás Furmint). We learend to appreciate this vintage even more after the tough 2004 and 2005 vintages. The glory of most of these wines, however, didn’t last for more than 4 years, some of them starting a sharp decline as early as in 2006. On the other hand, some of these wineries couldn’t repeat their performance up until now (again, think about Mandolás). The wines from the north bank of Balaton have been having hard times as well. Still, or maybe because if this, I was very happy to discover this already forgotten Kereklevelű (known as Chardonnay beyond the Carpathians) in my cellar from Tóth Sándor (aka Scheller).
Medium-deep hay on the glass, the wine opens slowly to show some flinty notes on the nose. On the palate an almond element mingles with lot of rustic, but attractable minerality. This latter becomes denser, just as the whole wine, after one hour and a half. Medium-large bodied wine supported by lower-medium acidity (which means there could be a little bit more) and a slightly bitter minerality. A bit sweet, the wine is still fresh and in good shape right now with soft, slightly sandy tannin. The marzipan and almond is later faded by dried apricot and even richer minerality. I sometimes sense a botrytis-ish element in the background.
This wine will give you lot of pleasure for only HUF 1 600 especially if you can give it an hour or so before drinking.
Price: HUF 1 600
I first appreciated the affordable wines of Paternina of Rioja on my first trip to Madrid and the Banda Azul brand accompanied us through our journey through Toledo, Córdoba, Sevilla, Ronda, Cabo de Gata to Segovia. When we went back few years later to visit le Pays Basque and País Vasco, we visited their winery near Haro (I think, btw, that everyone should visit that land if for nothing else but their tapas bars). I picked up a cheap Chardonnay there, from 2006. This ultra-light wine of pale greenish color is fresh and young with a celery and fennel character supported by crisp acidity in smaller quantity. It’s still slightly sparkling on the palate. This wine is a decent 3+ points effort and provided a good basis of comparison to the very different Áldozóhegyi.
That good wines are to be found on the north bank of Balaton I knew ever since I met the Figula winery in the late nineties. It’s just difficult to find them, I suspect because of the tourists flooding the region during summer period and these crowds don’t seem overly wine-conscious people. I’ve been back to Badacsony once or twice since I blocked that beautiful mountain out because of one particular “winemaker”, but I wasn’t impressed (with few exception like Laposa) and I never got to meet the Domaine Edegger people (they were always closed when I passed by). Tamás Pince is amazing but expensive and Figula keeps up to its name with Mihály Jr. in the cockpit. I encountered a few light, promising wines during this summer’s Füred Borfeszivál (wine festival) but the only truly exciting winemaker in the region to me remained Tóth (Scheller) Sándor. (I keep on searching though)
The Scheller winery’s website is a joke (www.schellerbor.iweb.hu/) and since internet is my prime source of information I won’t be able to tell what exactly this cuvée was made of.
The review – Tóth Sándor (Scheller) – (Áldozóhegyi) Opeonbor, 2003
Medium pale golden yellow color and a fast move.
The nose is clean, with cheerful floral (and slightly herby) aromas and a stony undertone. Very light too, not intense at all. Later it will have a light tangerine/lemon peel note too.
Very appealing texture on the palate but even this medium-small bodied wine would require more acids. The mineral notes mingle with litchi, but not very expressively. The wine still offers a young, fresh sensation in spite of its age and it’s still pretty enjoyable. Only the acids disappeared too early.
Score: 5-/- (it probably used to be a 5+ 2 years ago)
Price: HUF 1 650
There’s no concept behind picking the two following wines for a quick comparison. That wasn’t even the purpose actually, I just thought that it would be interesting to put them here side by side.
Gróf Buttler – Pinot Blanc (Szelekció), Szarkás Dűlő, 2003
Another wine from Gróf Buttler’s first bottled vintage.
Very lively, dark golden color and a slow moving indicate great body. I am told that the wine requires some decanting before sniffing but I like the savoury character of the buquet so much that I start tasting it straight away.
The palate carries notes of marzipan and almond mingled with woody vanilla. It feels a bit old but not overly and I love the huge body and the extracts. A little bit imbalanced due to the lack of acidity and a lot of residual sugar but it’s just pleasant as it is. Later intense, very appealing (and even somewhat fresh) sun-dried apricot aroma on the palate.
An overall very good wine but could have more acidity left after 5 years. New-world fans will adore this wine.
Score: 6, 6+ points (now I feel it more like a 6+/7-, to be honest)
Tamás Pince – Oriolus Cuvée, 2004
Dark brassy color with golden reflexions.
The nose is succulent, at first very ripe, then sun-dried fruits. On the palate honey and burnt sugar/caramel notes. The wine is not as lively as the Buttler but very interesting and special. It has a huge body but unfortunately the palate doesn’t deliver the same intensity and isn’t so amazing as the nose. After a while the nose becomes even more exciting with floral, rosemary notes combined with egg liquor and green paprika accents.
Score: 5+ (now I would give it a 6, to be honest)
Price: HUF 4 500
I’ve been preparing to write about this wine until many things I wanted to write are now out of date. But please continue reading, having in mind that these are my thoughts today (yesterday, actually).
I must admit that I’m relatively new to Tokaj wines. At the heights of my snobbery, drinking sweet wines was out of question. This only started changing 3 years ago under heavy influence of a local winemaker. Now I can only laugh at myself, how pathetic it was not being able to find the place of Tokaj wines in wine drinking. Anyway, my attention towards Tokaj started few years after Tokaj producers realised the potential in Furmint and Hárslevelű. Even today, only a handful of them are taking the dry Tokaji seriously. Most of them still think of it as a side-effect of variable climate: botritis-based noble rotting does not happen every year, at least not with the required intensity. And the result is either late harvest wines (which do not sell in large quantities – although it should, but this will be the subject of another post yet to come) or dry Furmint. Traditionally, these were mostly sold as bulk-wines but fortunately some quality winemakers started exploring the terroir in these wines. And the grapes appreciated their efforts, resulting in exceptional dry furmints in 2000 repeating it in almost every year. Of course, its quality still varied each year, so the better the conditions were, more Aszú were produced and less dry Furmint. In spite of this, you can still buy from the exceptional Oremus Mandolás Furmint 2003 and I celebrated this so much I bought several bottles from that year’s harvest.
I must admit I like Furmint a bit more than Hárslevelű, which tend to be more spicy.
Now let’s get to the wine.
First of all, the nose is still at its best: very intense, a mixture of honey, cinnamon and lemon raspings. Beautiful, very dense. Unlike the more elegant Hétszőlő (Hétszőlő represents to me a whole other school of Furmint making), Mandolás is (although heavier on the nose and on the palate) more playful, sunny. Its maker’s objective was to impress you immediately when you sniff it. Good job, well done. Well balanced in on the nose, a whirlpool of sweetness and a bitter undertone. When you taste it, the whirlpool takes to the rocky bottom: it’s a mixture of minerals and pear, or rather quiche. Yes, because almond is also present with a mouth-filling sensation. Then suddenly, earlier than just a few months ago, its age takes over the taste and turns it into a tart, but still tasty, long finish. It recalls the memories of multi-colored fall leafs in its taste. And nice touch of mineral sensation remains.
This wine is now on sale with a discount, at around HUF 2 100 which still qualifies it for a best buy but only just, and not for long. So go and get one and drink it immediately.
Score: 6+ (it used to be a 7/7+ not so long ago)
Price: HUF 2 100 (EUR8)
Drinking a lot of wine has never been a problem to me. So starting up a collection, however, had to be a decision rather than just a necessity (of storing what I could not drink). First I stopped buying wines for a while when I realized the impact of warmth to wines in the house. Then I slowed down again when I realized that my 6-7 years old items stopped improving, in fact most of them started a process of disintegration as I call it, or blowing up into pieces. I am more careful now, although I still don’t have the rule or right formula to pick the ones that will improve over time and which can and worth to be matured in my dad’s cellar for 5-10-15 years (the Hungarian versions of Parkers and alike can help sometimes though). Since this is still more or less a lottery, I decided to share my experiences with You in order that You avoid the same mistakes, or follow my occasional good decisions so You can enjoy these aged treasures as well. My advices will be useful, believe me, since most of Hungarian wine makers tend to produce unequal quality year-by-year, unlike many of the industrialized counterparts in the new world and in western Europe. Even the tricky old names can surprise you with their experimentalism, and not in a good way.
I feel sometimes desperate when I descend to the cellar and I must pick the items for that week (I usually visit the cellar 1x or max 2x a month) and I was particularly concerned about the Vylyan Pinot Noir 2003. First, Pinot Noir is a very difficult task to accomplish, but apparently Hunagarians proved to be extremely adventurous in the new millenium. The thing is, I’ve never found a nice Pinot Noir in Hungary. And Villány, with its Mediterranean micro-climate was not very promising either (Vylyan planted the pinots to the cooler western slopes though). And this is exactly what I really enjoy, opening up a bottle in a typically awful monday evening with a sound pre-concept and then…It’s not so bad after all, even just after opening the bottle, it is quite promising, despite the blurred color which indicates the age (and wines from the 90s always make me suspicious). Blueberry is the word I am looking for and the finish is first quick, smooth, almost velvet, and a silent, long velvet ending will last until the next sip. 3 hours later slight improvement in (already surprisingly good) texture, but no perfum as you would expect only some cinnamon. But I like the finish very much.
The disappointment came when I checked one day later the price of it and its price tag above HUF 4000 (EUR 17) hardly qualifies it for best buy. It’s still a relatively fair price, but only just and only compared to other Hungarian Pinots.
Overall score: 5+/6- (appr. 83)