This is a blend of 34% Olaszrizling, 28% Chardonnay, 26% Leányka and 12% Viognier. Of these, 15% is alcohol.
Lovely vibrant lemon yellow. Exciting nose of salty-chalky minerals mingled with light honey and veggie stock. Slightly sweet on the palate, with Viognier being dominant in taste, overly so if you ask me. Hours later melon aroma emerge.
Owner of a small winery (5ha) and a cult following in Hungary, Frigyes Bott is a winemaker born and working in Slovakia just across the Danube. Although the winery is not entirely biodynamic yet, Mr. Bott prefers natural and labour-intensive methods to advanced technology.
Bott Frigyes – Passion, 2009
This is a blend of Olaszrizling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Blanc.
Fairly complex yet light nose of passion fruit, with kiwi and other tropical fruits coming through with a greenish accent and along a hint of minerality.
On the palate juicy fruity notes of peach primarily with an oaky vanilla undertone. Light minerality mingled with gentle apricot jam acidity, well balanced with a bit of residual sugar, just enough for a medium-bodied wine. Tasty finish, not long but not too short either. Under elevated temperature it tastes caramelized pineapple.
Mature but not old wine, enjoy it now at medium to even higher temperature!
Purplish ruby with a dark core. On the nose quite restrained, displaying spices mingled with chocolate and a ripe mulberry undertone. On the palate it’s medium-bodied, tight and gentle with a slightly tart soft tannic backbone supported by very subtle acidity of just the right quantity. No fruits here except the dark cherry flavoured finish. Well-structured, straightforward, well-made wine of low complexity but nothing to be too excited about as of now. So it’s a bit disappointing for HUF 4 000. Good aging potential though.
Note: it’ll respond well to decanting.
This is a wine from my preferred range: I don’t feel comfortable buying cheaper red wines (HUF 3300) but I can’t afford spending more on wine every time I feel like having a good red one (which is more often than I like to admit). So this better be good.
Heimann – Birtokbor, 2007
A blend of 50% Cabernet Franc, 35% Merlot and 15% Kékfrankos this wine has seen 18 months in used oak barrels.
Clean and vibrant medium ruby hue. The nose is a touch reduced showing sweet fruity with traces of wood. This wine smells of gage and plum with strawberry added to the fruit profile.
Elegantly styled palate with smooth acidity and finely composed structure with well handled, yet well defined tannins. Faded notes of clove and other spices also imply smart use of oak. Light but well balanced palate although some might find the 14.5% alcohol sweetness over the top. Open and accessible wine with a good length, but rather restrained in terms of aromas. Lovely texture.
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.
Hangács Bikavér 2008 is almost identical to Áldás 2008 (aka El fin de la inocencia) except that it’s not. And not just that Syrah didn’t make it to the blend at Hangács (and it’s not the less oak either). It looks like only Pinot Noir did. Hangács Pinot Noir 2006 wasn’t a huge wine itself but I wonder if Hangács Pinot Noir 2008 is any different from the Bikavér Blend made in 2008.
St. Andrea – Hangács Bikavér, 2008
Medium ruby, clear and lively. Spicy bouquet with hints of anise, clove and Açaí berry, very Pinot Noir-esque. Fresh but warm style on the palate with very smooth tannins and a sour cherry core bitterness. Loose in terms of structure, thinner than Áldás first, as far as I can judge, but feels bit more weighty after some exposure to air. The acidity remains a bit scratchy on the midpalate for hours but the palate will be packed full of fine dark chocolate.
Should be decanted long before drinking. Not so expressive at present, this Bikavér may still age better than Áldás 2008.
One more remark: this wine shouldn’t have passed the Bikavér examination. Because it’s not one.
Price: HUF 3 750
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.
A stock clearance of a well known retailer provided my with a good opportunity to acquire some bottles for party people coming to visit us from time to time, you know smokers and alike. Some of these wines were so disappointing they drove me to the conclusion I made about mediocre wine reviews in this post. Tiffány’s Portugieser 2009, Tiffán’s Imortal cuvée 2007 and Tűzkő’s Sauvignon Blanc 2008 were good match with cigarettes only really. The following two wines were the best of the lot, so far.
Chateau Kajmád – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Kékfrankos, 2003
Considering it was made in 2003 we can call this an early bird of it’s kind with it’s 14% alcohol.
The look: A dark core surrounded by pigeon blood hue and a pale brownish rim, with some purplish reflections.
Nose: Interesting spices coming through a stuffy bouquet at first, things like turmeric-favored plum and other oddities.
Palate: Dirty. After 90 minutes it evoles structurally but I’d like more definition to it. The wine’s texture is oily and I’m suspecting a good deal of glycerin here. The tart fruityness I would even call pleasant would it not been ruined by the whole picture including quite a lot of half powdery, half sticky overflowing tannins soaked up by the glycerin. The wine has a dirty character which I associate with many – even not so old – Ch. Kajmád wines, very much the opposite of the clean Konyári or Gróf Buttler wines.
Hilltop – Prémium Merlot 2008
Look: dead ruby.
Nose: mulberry syrup, very fruity.
Palate: Ligh-bodied wine with blueberry wrapped in burnt rubber and licorice aromas. Soft texture and polished tannins. But as a whole it’s too “made” and simple.
Evaluation: forget about it.
Two mature reds, the other one was a super toscan from Castello Di Fonterutoli called Siepi 1996 side by side today.
Duennium 2000 of Vylyan is a classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot from a classic vintage.
Unpenetrably dark whatever color, more or less black. Very intense chocolate nose, not so much dark chocolate as simple plain chocolate. With it’s dense appearance and bouquet it evokes memories of that unusually warm and long summer of the year 2000. The very same feeling’s carried through onto the palate. But unlike many Villányi cuvées and CSs of the late nineties, this wine has velvely tannins and a soft texture (after 15 months in new oak). Later a bit harder in character with still fresh acidity. Full-bodied wine with a medium long finish. Hints of farmyard elements and sweetness, but fundamentally tons of mouthfilling melted chocolate. Remarkably short of fruity notes.
Score: 6+, 7-
The Supertoscan is 50% Sangiovese and 50% Merlot. Like Duennium, this blend also has a chocolate character on the nose and on the palate too, in a more restrained way, but also little fruity.
This is however a slightly thinner wine more of a grippy style, very consistently so even after hours. Very well integrated, better structured, well balanced. Hints of very ripe forest berry fruits. Very firm with good length. It will age well for another 5-10 years.