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.
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
The fact that a 5 kms (wet) distance that separates the Northern from the Southern Balaton wine region apparently makes red wine making impossible on the North is fascinating. In my pursuit of a fine Northern Balaton red wine I visited the small Tamás Pince in Csopak to find out about the prospects and the vintage of 2010.
Ever since I was introduced to Tamás wines about 5 years ago my perception about Tamás Pince was of a maker of good but not outstanding and a bit pricey wines. I didn’t take notice of his commitment to artisan wine making until recently, but that’s exactly why I decided to pay a short visit.
What I’ve found out about this year’s vintage is that it is going to yield somewhat (and not dramatically as elsewhere) less wine than usually and not too unexpectedly sugar levels are lower than as usual. You’ll find more, very useful information on the winery’s website about each wine (provided that you’re fluent in Hungarian), including details of the crop described with scientific precision and not so scientific information about the ageing potential of the wines (how does he know that stuff?).
Most of the tiny land is planted with Olaszrizling but I know it only too well so I become more interested in the red wines and I found Észak és Dél 2008, a blend of 40% Syrah by Tamás and 60% Cabernet Franc by Légli Géza from the South bank the finest of all. In general all the wines were decent wines of fresh and thin character and chosing one to take home proved to be difficult. I was told by Tamás on my hesitation that girls tend to chose the Syrah over Cabernet Franc, but I didn’t find the CF particularily boyish and I found the Syrah a bit more exciting.
Fact sheet: Manually harversted, 27hl/ha. Aged in small second use oak barrels for 22 months.
Blurred pale ruby wine with a restrained nose of black pepper with a hint of toast.
Very tight, light and dry on the palate with lot of pepper flowing into a decent length with a sour element from the mid-palate. Fresh, almost vibrant acidity with well rounded edges, still it feels a bit over the top for this small-bodied wine. Not that expressive at present, the palate displays hints of unripe plum. But with an ageing potential of 18 years it’s too early to say.
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.
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.
Sauska wines are very predictable so you know exactly when you need to drink them, therefore it’s most unlikely that you’ll find a negative review of them on these pages. It’s such a cliché to say they are filling a huge gap in Hungarian winemaking, quite belatedly I must say, but I’m such a cliché myslef especially around Xmas time.
This is a blend of 53% syrah, 26% cabernet franc, 20% cabernet sauvignon. Whatever. Sauska are capable of reengineering any kind of grape to suite their product portfolio. Well this one came out as a dense, overly ripe plum jam on the nose mingled with tamarind paste hence a spicy accent. Later sour cherry compote too. On the palate fresh, lively yet ripe character with plum again flowing into a syrup-based long finish, supported by well polished tannins and acidity. This results in a pleasant texture with well-integrated components.
Price: HUF 2 800
I was contacted recently by someone not entirely unfamiliar with Hungarian wines asking about the Hungarian Syrahs and I had to admit that I found most efforts in this direction pretty forgottable, at least until I stopped sampling Hungarian Syrahs a few years ago. The only exceptions were the Syrahs of Gróf Buttler, which, vintage from vintage, convinced me about some potential.
This Syrah 2007 of Heimann family winery is less expensive. This is our first encounter.
Purplish hue with a pink rim.
Dark character on the nose, with veal steak, well done, mingled with caramel.
What first hit me concerning it’s very well composed palate was the great texture. Powdery, soft and ripe tannins which further smoothen into a long, straight finish accompanied by a berry fruit syrup element and a tobacco accent. Not very expressive wine fruit-wise. But from the mid palate fine dark chocolate flows into the eternity. And underneath it lies a great structure with firm, perfectly integrated acidity. Very solid chracter, structured style with probably the best tannin I’ve had this year.
Price: HUF 3 000
I’ve recently testified a revolt by a regular drinker (and apparently self-appointed free-lance vine adviser) for Bukolyi never accepting anyone’s opinion on how to make even better wines and what a rubbish method was to classify his wines according to the heights where the vines are located. Indeed, this approach might sound weird to many (the higher the vines come from, the better the quality is supposed to be, or at least this is what price tags suggest) and I cannot judge the character of Bukolyi myself. The simple fact is that his wines never disappointed me and for a rare fortunate coincidence I never had to care about the price tag so far. I hope this wouldn’t incline my judgment today. Anyway, I put this Syrah beside a cuvée from Szekszárd which I sampled later the same day.
Gróf Buttler – Egri Syrah, 2005, Nagy-Eged, 400-500
Beautiful, lively, dark cherry color with purplish reflections. Absolutely stunning and with a beautiful, elegant fresh move.
The nose is spicy, dominantly pepper with a woody underpinning. Lot of pepper and minerality.
On the palate at start a velvety, almost oily texture is supporting the blackberry fruit aromas – I must emphasize the fact that no jam, no overly ripe fruit, but perfectly ripe, fresh blackberry fruit we have here. Later cherry, a bit of chocolate and a phosphorus undertone. The tannins are there in a powder-like , velvety form. With time and for a period, an unlit candle-like element takes over the palate. These strange, but pleasant elements are supported by nice, round acidity. Good structure. The mineral character is there from the nose to the long finish on the palate, along with a cherry seed bitterness.
Score: 6-7 points (I gave it a 6 then, now I’m inclining towards a 7-)
Takler – Cuvée Maffiózó, 2000
The color is dark, brownish ruby as far as I can tell (yeah, the local conditions weren’t perfect for that). Very intense berry fruit aromas mingled with Asian spices.
On the palate this intensity couldn’t be sustained. Even worse than that, there’s no acidity to support the big, although flat body. This is a very dry wine. Only the palate dried tobacco and a bitter finish.
Score: 5+, 6- (I might be a little bit austere here though)