International Perspective – part 1

by Natalie Rager

I’m convinced that most Hungarians, laymen and professionals alike, tend to overrate Hungarian wines sometimes to the point where even faults are considered local character. Although vast majority of my readers come from abroad who probably do not have such preconcepts, I decided to launch a series of blind tests comparing Hungarian wines of all price ranges with their counterparts in Central Europe, Europe and the new world. I’ll call this column International Perspective.

The intention is twofolds: first is very ambitious and certainly will generate some discussion and anger, and it is to try to define the value of well known and relatively unknown Hungarian wines. Secondly, through these comparisons we might be able to discover the terroir, the Hungarian character (if there is such a thing like Hungarian character).


Dereszla is a relatively small French winery in Tokaj, home of sweet dessert wines and emerging white wines mostly made of Furmint and Hárslevelű. Sauvingon Blanc is not an authorised Tokaj variety hence you’ll find „Zempléni” region on the label and no Tokaj.


Halewood is a major producer and distributor of wine and alcoholic beverages in Britain.

The Group manages over 400 hectares of vines in three major wine areas of Romania: Dealu Mare, Podisul Transilvaniei and Murfatlar.

Whilst Halewood has an informative, though not very ergonomic website, Dereszla has nothing of their own on the web.

Some official information about the wine from the Halewood website:

2006 started with a late spring after a long and freezing winter with temperatures reaching -26°C. The average temperature of the year was 25°C, this having a positive effect on the shoots growth (up to 12 cm/day). Due to the high temperatures during the summer the ripening of the berries took place earlier and the picking of the grapes began according to the fully maturation of each variety.

In the second half of September, at harvest time, there took place a careful selection of the grapes coming from Dobrogea Plateau. A controlled fermentation was undergone at the temperature of 12-14°C, for about 8-10 days with selected yeasts. Alcohol volume 12.5%.

The test – Sauvignon Blanc, Halewood, Prahova valley 2006 vs Chateau Dereszla Zempléni Sauvignon Blanc 2007.

Since it was a hot summer day both wines were cooled to appr. 7-8 Celsius degrees but this turned out to be good temperature for both wines.

The first wine had bright straw color and fresh fruity smell later with a little bit of cinnamon and lemon skin. Well-structured wine with a little bit of sweetness (it’s still a dry wine) with a little bit of wet hay undertone, but not disturbingly. Overall a lovable, soft, light wine without major faults and without a special character, but very refreshing.

Score: 5+

The second wine had very bright color, very intense perfume smell and although I’ve never tasted it before, I immediately recogninsed the Dereszla character. Diffrerent trees in bloom but mostly elderberry which also dominates in its taste. Very fresh, almost crispy but with a little bit of extra sweetness which is supported by round acidity so it’s rather soft. At higher temperature both wines were a little bit overly sweet to my taste but at around 10 degrees celsius, it’s a delicious, very lovable, festive wine.

Score: 6

To me the Dereszla Sauvignon Blanc had more character and was lacking the hay undertone, but the Halewood Sauvignon Blanc from Prahova Valley is also a very good value for money. To be honest, if the Halewood was one year younger, maybe the difference would not have been that significant.

Price: EUR 7

The winner of the label contest is the Halewood to me.

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