It’s been a while since I wrote an entry here. It’s due to many factors, one of them being that I felt blogging’s become suddenly a bit old-fashioned when masses begun sharing information with each other through social network sites and individual blogs seemed to have lost their appeal to other tools too, like Twitter. Leaving other factors behind (laziness standing out in particular) for now, I’m not sure if this is going to be a last post or others will follow. This one is not even inspired by a particular wine, I’m simply in the mood of writing a post about one or maybe several of the wines I liked this summer. So here’s one, if not exactly off the top of my head, but a more or less random one of those wines I took note of lately.
Heimann – Syrah (2008)
Rather darkish carbon-paper blue with a matt purplish rim. Forest soil and tobacco-like notes mingle on the nose. On the palate it’s soft and dense with velvety tannins which flow into a fairly long finish, carrying tasty notes of sour cherry but without the annoying bitterness. Nice curve in the mouth. After some exposure to air, the wine develops a fairly rich but not too intense bouquet of toasted bread and perfectly ripe dark berry fruits. As the wine’s character becomes more jammy, it displays ripe and sweet forest berry aromas. Smooth, well balanced dense wine without becoming too weighty.
Very good to drink and easy to like, this wine’s well worth HUF 3 300.
See other good value Heimann wines here.
Somlói Apátsági Pince are as clerical as I am although their commitment to artisan methods is almost religious.
Juhfark is a varietal despised by many, including wine critics, never mind that it is now a matter of fact that Juhfark is able to express terroir brilliantly and although the grape’s vinious notes are always present, the wines made of Juhfark can be complex, fruity and minerally in the same time.
Somlói Apátsági Pince not just realised this but they managed to put it into practice, as we have seen in previous vintages. This is their latest attempt.
Somlói Apátsági Pince – Juhfark, 2009
Straw inclined to mid-golden hue. The nose kicks off with rich minerality, a rocky explosion actually that also implies saltyness, cereals and a hint of vanilla, with traces of acidity. Later lime tree blossom and other floral notes emerge.
On the palate it’s rich and ample with fruity aromatics and an exciting minerally texture to it. Although primarily minerally, the palate is loaded with fruit: fairly rich lemon, grapefruit, apricot and even radish and kohlrabi whilst it also reveals a botrytis-like undertone. The sweetness (it could be the 14% alcohol) suits this full-bodied wine as it is rebalanced with a good dose of dense, salty minerality and pleasant acidity.
The finish could be longer, but this is a terrific wine even at higher temperatures. Not cheap, but fairly priced.
Oremus has been one of my favourite Tokaj wineries not just because Oremus produced some of the best sweet and dry wines Tokaj has ever seen in absolute terms but they usually come up with some very affordable wines too representing excellent value for the money. That’s why I wasn’t repelled by the HUF 2000 price tag when I saw this young Szamorodni and I didn’t hesitate (and neither should you).
Although technically different, Szamorodni are as close as one can get to an Aszú without actually making an Aszú. In terms of complexity, sweetness and balance, well made Szamorodni can be a very good introduction to sweet Tokaj wines.
Oremus – Szamorodni, 2007
Bright, clean, medium-deep golden yellow. Elegantly styled bouquet of lemon zest and ripe tangerine. It also displays dried apricot , butter and a touch of fine tea aroma. On the palate it’s creamy, smooth and lightly rich in fruity flavours of apricot, lemon zest with a long lemon zest and later peach core bitterness finish.
Somehow Szamorodni are always recommended as an appetizer. This Szamorodni is more complex and balanced than many mid-level 3 Puttonyos Aszú and it makes quite a dessert.
A Cabernet Franc from 2006 cannot be bad, I thought, when I returned to the merchant where I previously bought the two rather disapopointing Bikavérs of Tóth István. I was right: this Cabernet Franc is quite what you expect from this varietal from that vintage.
Tóth István – Cabernet Franc, 2006
Fresh look of vibrant claret with purplish reflections and a pinkish rim, very unexpectedly from Eger’s artisan winemaker. The nose is fresh and fruity, with intense black-currant aroma and hints of spices. On the palate well balanced and structurally evolved with fairly rich, meaty berry fruits and a spicy undertone (black pepper mainly). Very good, delicious length. Not too weighty, the tannins are absorbed by sweet alcohol (14.6%). With some exposure to air the fruitiness is a touch reduced giving space for chocolate and sweet sour cherry over a thin layer of light minerality.
Well chosen style for the vintage and a best buy (I paid HUF 2000 for it on Budapest’s Orbán tér although the usual high street price is much higher than that).
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.
After two shorter than expected meetings in Bratislava and Vienna the other day already on the Hungarian highway I noticed the bright white Pannonhalmi Abbey on the hills and before I knew it I turned the wheel to pay a short visit to the Winery of the Year. I returned to Budapest full or surprises and excited to open what I thought would be another good interpretation of my favorite white varietal.
Unlike Somlói Apátsági Pince, Pannonhalmi Apátsági still belongs to the Abbey, one of the firsts and one of the lasts still functioning in the country. Huge sums spent on the Abbey are apparent everywhere, from the facelift on the walls to the caves of the cellar, everything invoques the golden days of free peasant labour and the tithes.
Today the abbey’s business model is different. First of all the abbey folks were surprisinlgy friendly (or frightened) considering I was a gate crasher who broke into their office without an agreed appointment at the end of the working day. Whatever their reason they seemed keen to show me around the cellar, starting with the new oaks (they buy lots of them) of the red wine wing. Everything underground is spacious and clean (except the area of one of the steel tanks which was leaking giving away hectos of Pinot Noir per minute). I was so glad to be able to discuss the soil differences between Mosel and Pannonhalma instead of listening to the usual bullshit of winemakers that I forgot to spit after every sample but I didn’t mind.
Two things you should know about the wine. One is that Pannonhalmi Apátsági Pince embraced screw caps very early and have been using it for almost all of their wines and not just reductive ones. Other is that Rajnai reasling is also used to make a barrel selection for double the price and without some qualities the simple Rajani has. I found it way too oaky after 6 months in the new barrel. So below is the tasting notes of the naked Rajnai Rizling.
Pale lemon yellow with platinum reflections and tiny bubbles. The nose is delightfully crisp and acidic with hints of apple coming through. Indeed on the palate it’s sharp and crisp with a very exciting acidity, brilliantly accentuated around the mid-palate. What impresses most is that this excessive vibrant acidity within this small-bodied wine feels just right. The wine’s made more approachable by notes of apple and a chalky saltiness and I also like the minerally texture of it. It has an instant appeal that won’t change even when it gets warmer or more chilled.
Very good, obviously a bit one-dimensional wine but a must have piece. This wine was left in contact with the lee for three months and that’s fine but I’d be interested in what it would be like if left for a few weeks more.
Konyári is arguably (source: konyari.hu) the best known and most acclaimed winery of South-Balaton. This statement alone is sufficient to dislike the winery. This is so crucial to Konyári however that the statement reappears on five consequtive pages under the menu “about us” of the winery’s website, and apparently that’s all we need to know about “them” (plus that they have 30 hectares and they produce 200K bottles a year). I also learned that sustainable development means planting trees, not use too much pesticides and not to use air-conditioner in the cellar. It all makes sense to me without any ideology. Other interesting facts can also be learned from the website, now I know for instance that the most exigent consumers are buying their wines in restaurants.
About the wine
Appearances. First of all the bottle is handsome and well made. And so is the wine. Bright, lively claret with many reflections.
Smell. Restrained but very clean nose with hints of fruits.
Palate. Well composed palate with a firm acidic backbone and a distinct polished but hard tannic underpinning which I start to recognise as a Konyári trademark, also found in Ikon’s best wines. Lovely texture as a result of the well integrated and well balanced acidity and smart use of oak. Very gentle acidity indeed. There are no intense aromas in this wine but it displays some fruityness of red currant and cherry. Elegantly styled light and clean character with a pleasant finish. The 14% alcohol is nowhere to be seen.
Price: HUF 2500
Conclusion: Well made wine representing good value for the money.
Hint: I recommend you decant it or simply leave it exposed to air for 60-90 minutes before you drink it. I also liked it most at around 17 centigrades maximum.
Zöldveltelini isn’t one of my favorite varietals and as such seldom is poured with much expectations, or at all. Yet after Szabó Zoltán’s surprisingly good Merlot recently I thought why not give it a go when it only costs a thousand forints (well, that’s why, I know), but it proved money very well spent.
It has an unmistakable apple pie nose with a lemon balm edge, the pie made with cinnamon. Warm, sweet and well rounded. Apple juice flavored palate with lot of acidity, not in a crunchy way. Thin Zöldveltelini but filled with aroma. Later supported by a hint of saltyness. Very good wine for the price.
Price: HUF 1200
In my eyes Dereszla created a school now repeated by many when they launched the Dorombor series by blending Furmint (still viewed by many as a varietal not to be bottled as a standalone dry wine) with something like Sárgamuskotály, or Furmint with Sárgyamuskotály and Hárselvelű as in case of Dry, to create a more (indeed, a very) approchable wine for everyday consumption which is light, very aromatic and affordable. I must admit I find these efforts pretty successful from consumer point of view.
In 2008 the Muscat – Furmint blend is 50% Furmint and 50% Muskotály and it’s marketed by Monarchia under their own brand.
Similarities with Dorombor are endless. It’s pale lemon with pale greenish reflections. Light nose with lime aroma that translates into Caipirinha on the palate with some residual sugar that is a good match with the rest of the elements, mainly citric, lime-ish acidity and lemon flavored substance supported by a hint of saltiness (quite unexpectedly, but very positively). Lots of elderberry too with gooseberry notes when warmer. Good apple-flavored finish.
It will be an instant success of pyjama parties but it’s also ideal for anyone looking for a good light wine to be enjoyed on your balcony at dusk.
Serve it well chilled!
Score: 5, 5+ points
This is just to let you know that there might be less and less bargains out there but I’ve found a rare good red wine under HUF 2000 which I now put on my watchlist. Although Szabó Zoltán’s Riesling 2007 was a bit disapointing after the breakthrough 2006, the Merlot 2007 is a very decent effort for the price and makes me wonder how the 2006 could have been.
I used this Merlot to make magrets of duck (following Larousse Gastronomique’s receipe, which is a wonderful book btw, sticking predictably to some of the clichés as long as Hungarian wines are concerned but fortunately weighting Hungarian wines properly by dedicating it no more than a few lines on its more than 1 2000 pages) and although I cleared two galsses of it in the process I cannot write a proper review just yet but I was impressed by the balance, the soft texture and the freshly intense fruityness (cherry) of such a thin wine. I don’t dare to make prediction for how long this wine may age well but it still certainly has a vibe that gives me hope I can still enjoy it in the near future again. And this may just as well be a new start for Pécs’s red wine evolution (Europe’s capital of culture, LOL).