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.
Being an admirer of Takács Lajos I find it unfortunate that my latest encounters with his wines were not the best. I was expecting that the once famous Furmint 2006 would finally put everything back on track and restore my confidence in his (and some other artisan) wines.
Hollóvár – Furmint, 2006
Faded straw to medium-deep golden yellow. Smells a bit tired and oxydated with some notes of hazelnut and salty minerality, later popcorn. On the palate malt aromas of Czech lager and popcorn with a bitter and fortunately not too long finish. The wine lacks the sharp acidity of younger (and perhaps better) Hollóvár wines and I miss the sparkling flintstone blast too.
Although never typical Furmints, it looks like Takács Lajos’ Furmints haven’t been ageing well lately.
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
Pale lemon color with greenish reflections. Pleasant fruity-floral nose with acacia dominance. Very citric palate with overflowing lemon scented acidity which doesn’t allow any of the wine’s merits come through and even turns a bit appalingly bitter at the end.
It’s so disappointing after the 2006 which was a great Furmint.
Price: HUF 2440
It’s strange how many winemakers employed full-time by major wineries are allowed (and have time to) take care of their own vinyards and cellar. Examples from Demeter to Szepsy (in alphabetic order) show that they often manage to do it pritty well evidently.
I was sold this wine when asking Mr. Szentesi to introduce me to some full-bodied white wine around HUF 2 000. This wasn’t his first choice (not even making it into the top 10 actually) and he hesitated about the price but I took it because I’ve never heared of this winery and it turns out there aren’t many good value wines in this range.
Bright golden yellow. Fairly complex nose with boiled vegetables and veggie stock and lot of Furmint grape aromas, with hints of honey and flower. And a mineral undertone. Very rustic.
I didn’t like the taste first, but I put it in the fridge for a while and the magic happened. The same rustic stlye dominates the palate with more salt and tons of rocks. Some residual sugar is counterbalanced by good acidity keeping the flow into a lengthy finish. Mouthfilling, very acidic with lot of stewed apple-faloured substance too. When it’s heated up a little it becomes harshly bitter which is slightly appalling. Chilled it’s very mineral with a lot of lemon. And more lemon.
This wine is very close to its peak, or at it. You’ll enjoy it very much if you pay attention to its temperature and it’s a rare bargain.
Score: 6, 6+
Price: HUF 2000 (this is how much I paid, but not sure about the actual price)
Behind this stupid name is a blend of Sárgamuskotály, Hárslevelű and Furmint, late harvested in 2007. Tokaj late harvest wines are not only often very good and smart alternative to 3 or 4 Puttonyos Aszú wines, but they reach the consumers quicker than the Aszó wines and I’ve been looking forward to the sweet wines of 2007. Another reason to open this bottle was that I often drink late harvest (mostly Tokaj) wines when preparing sushi at home. Don’t ask me why, it happend once a few years ago and I find them a very good aperitif before sushi and they go surprisingly well with the rice vinegar and the raw fish. I didn’t have my usual suspect in stock this time so I went for this recent purchase from Degenfeld.
Medium-deep yellow hue between lemon and golden, nothing special there. The nose is relatively intense and full of tea with a floral accent. Hárslevelű certainly left its footprint there. It has a mouthfilling palate of ripe papaya, very ripe apricot and peach, quite sweet, supported by well integrated acidity. Good length with returning tea dominance and quite a lot of nutmeat. Later tangerine and tobacco too. Stirring it more will release hints of lemon juice and blood-orange aromas.
Fortissimo 2008 is already on sale but this 2007 will still age well, but I suggest you to enjoy it now.
Score: 6, 6-
Price: HUF 2 600
My first encounter with Kreinbacher wines didn’t impress me and I still couldn’t get used to their (sometimes overly) high prices although I now at least appreciate their efforts to find Somló’s new old character.
They embraced old grapes through their lower-end label Szent Ilona too. Entry-level cuvée Taposó-Kút is, every year, an Olaszrizling-based blend which in 2006 produced a more Furmint-like character instead. I at least attribute that sour-bitter element on the mid-palate (not at the finish as often seen in Furmint) which is so dominant in this wine to Furmint.
But let’s have a look at the color first: brigh hay hue, not very deep and very lively. Complex, yet friendly floral nose mingled with hints of honey and ripe tropical fruits having a vanilla undertone and a mineral accent. The palate has a mineral and bitter character because of the Furmint I suppose which also leaves its mark on the taste spectrum (along with marzipan).
Aged in mostly used large oak barrels during which the wine had a long contact with the lee (so characteristic to Kreinbacher wines) which is at least partly responsible for the lovely acidity being overshadowed by that bitter taste and texture. This wine would be very exciting without that, but it’s still a very decent effort and a good introduction to this side of Somló.
The wine’s not young and I don’t expect it to get any better with time.
Score: 5 points
Price: HUF 2 500
October is very cold this year but I couldn’t resist the sale at a retailer I often visit and I bought this Vörcsöki Furmint 2007 whose versison from 2006 I liked so much I chose it one of the most memorable ones I drank in 2008.
I was disappointed to see that one of the nicest wine labels has become a cheap replica of the previous year’s. Such a shame, I know it’s an inexpensive wine but I’d switch to screw cap first if I had to save some money. Let’s hope they didn’t compromise on quality inside…
The look has become a bit paler. The nose changed too although it remains very intense, but this time insted of fruity character it is rather floral, indeed honey-ish, more Furmint-like with hints of vanilla and salt – lot of it actually.
A little bit sweet on the palate, but this is well balanced by a salty mineral element and abundant acidity. Not too fruity, only some tanderine’s found there. Medium-large body and lot of pleasant acidity. There’s a bitterness brought in by Furmint, particularily accentuated at the finish. Very licvely acids.
We also finished off a bottle of Monarchia’s Chardonnay Battonage 2006 which I always looked at as something of fair value for the money, but this Kerkaborum, 60% cheaper and although beaten by its predecessor, is still not much behind it (and is still a best buy). And it is Furmint, which is not even taken into account, but important because it’s somewhat unique to this region (mostly accessible in Hungary and Slovenia).
Price: HUF 1575 HUF 1 350
Sziget Fesztivál has become a must-go event on the yuppie calendar from students’ island 16 years ago. So has changed the line-up, the cultural offering and gastronomy of the festival too. I arrived late from work so I missed the Ting Tings gig and just in time to see the warming-up of the crowed for Bloc Party so I didn’t hesitate and went straight to the closest tent in front of the main stage and bought a very decent chicken tikka with a simple naan, before taking position near the sound control tower to see Bloc Party, where I immediately was almost peed on by German punks apparently fighting pre-mature incontinency.
The real milestone in the shift of Sziget towards a more civilised event (and this is a double-edge sword) to me was the opening of Ászár-Neszmély’s prominent Hilltop winery’s booth a few years ago. Strategically located just 1 minute from the main stage so you can run to it during an act for refuelling, the booth’s relatively calm and shadowy atmoshpere made it an ideal spot for longer stays as well, especially for drinking and hipster-spotting – one of my favorite pass-times on Sziget. Hilltop’s price policy on the festival makes them very attractive to me, they’re by far the fairest gang on the island.
Near the World Music main stage area I ran into a surprisingly empty stand of various wines also fairly priced and I went for Royal Tokaji Furmint 2007. Drinking from a plastic cup, I found it smoky and barrel-dominated on the nose but fairly fruity (however very Furmint-like) and rounded, interesting enough for a wine which cost you HUF 2 500 or so a bottle on a festival so I decided I’ll buy a bottle and write a proper review of it later.
This year’s big hit however is Pálinka – and Rézangyal dominated the scene. Their success lies mostly in their artificially flavored, wide offering, many of them mixed with honey which I simply don’t understand. Today, Pálinka is chic again among urban youngsters and middle-aged middle class people but I’m afraid that moving away from the current trend of flavored pálinkas will take just as much time as it took to get here.