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.
Now that sartorially speaking the 80s revival is so over and the world’s now arguably ready to embrace the 90s again. Are we?
What were you doing 15 years ago, around this time in 1995? Think about it for a minute!
It’s 1995. Bosnian war is in full swing and deathtolls reaches 250 000. President Clinton’s government intervenes. Paris mayor Jacques Chirac is elected French president. ECU is a virtual currency and EURO-sceptics probably outnumber the rest of us. A 5000-pound car bomb blows up a federal office building in Oklahoma. The Islamic State of Afghanistan comes under attack by the Taliban. Meanwhile in Europe, Oasis and Blur fight the battle of Britpop. Sziget Fesztivál’s daily ticket price almost doubles to HUF 500 (today HUF 12 000). Tricky’s Maxinquaye is elected best album of the year by The Face (other short listed bands include Oasis, Pulp, Radiohead and Portishead, among others). We rent VHS cassettes to watch Seven and Usual Suspects, many others watch Toy Story and Braveheart. A Harvard graduate writes a memoire with the title “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance”.
In continental Europe, in a small, mostly harmless Central European country the outlook for an exceptionally good vintage sees the emerging dominance of the “Villány 5″. Winmakers abuse oak in their wines, even Kékfrankos is being “barriqued” (we used the term as a verb back then). Their growing obsession for oak is a lasting romance (well into the new millennium) and tannin establishes itself as the official measurement unit of quality for years. A forest engineer also bets heavily on toasted barrels and blends Cabernet Sauvignon and Kékfrankos. 15 years on one of the bottles will land in the hands of an amateur wine enthousiast.
The Gere flagship wine from 1995 is a real time capsule, it captures the very essence of the Villány wine of the last decade. I finished off my modest collection of Royal Cuvées and other treasures years ago and they were not very good wines by then. This Gere wine isn’t particularily good either but I must admit I kind of miss those times a little. Oak is now out of fashion, Cabernet Sauvignon’s become Villány’s fallen angel (Cabernet Franc rules today with Merlot and inumerous blends) but Attila Gere is still the biggest brand in Hungary’s winemaking. And who knows, the 90s revival may be just around the corner.
I listened to Tricky’s Maxinquaye the other day on vinyl and it still sounds terrific. And so do Oasis, Pulp, Radiohead and all the other britpop bands too. I’m not so sure I’m ready for grunge and the party scene of the 90s though.
I swared a zillion times not to break rule #2: don’t listen to the wine store clerk, not even if you’ve already broke rule #1 (don’t listen to the winemaker) but I did it again and bought this Portugieser 2009 by Maczkó, a reasonably unnoticed winemaker from Villány. It was in my desperate, not to say, obsessive search for red wines under HUF 2000 that I let me convince by the short girl at Monarchia that this selection by Monarchia themselves was a good deal (she almost also convinced me that their Bordeaux glasses for HUF 1700 or so were just as good as the German (sic) Riedel glasses. What was I thinking??). I didn’t lose much, in fact a thousand quickly devaluating Forint isn’t much for a wine that’s fruity, blueberried, vibrant and relatively dense yet quite boring. But it didn’t change my perception about the value of these cheap red wines.
If a winemakers has 8 hectares and almost no wines at all at the wine shops than it’s a bit unusual, to say the least. But the owner of a small (perhaps the smallest) wine store in Buda recommended this wine as something remarkable for HUF 2 400.
Dark purplish hue with a Turán-like dark core. The nose is sour cherry and wood. Too much acidity especially at the end where it feels way too sour to my taste. Very dry, small-medium bodied wine. Bitter, although soft tannins. 13.5% alcohol. Feels less.
Maybe I shoud have left it in a decanter for a few hours more.
Price: HUF 2 400
These Cabernet Franc grapes were harvested on the 27th November of 2007, which is a rather late date for this varietal. Often cited as the most suitable variety to Villány these Francs must result in a big fat red wine.
Rather pale ruby. The nose is jammy raspberry with hints of blackberry and strawberry marmalade. Sweet, but not too dense. Very fresh palate, without any character. Medium-bodied wine with too harsh tannins and acidity. It’s a pity, I’d been really looking forward to tasting this wine.
Disappointing wines often stay opened for a day or, like this one, sometimes three. Miraculously, this wine turned into a well-integrated, lovely wine with a soft, velvety texture and spicy chocolate aromas on the nose. Just give it 72 hours.
Price: HUF 4 000
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
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.