The world-famous Aszú and the International award winning wines of Hungary
Hungary is a truly classic wine country with wine production dating back many centuries and whose wines have been highly appreciated throughout Europe over the medieval, renaissance and to the present time.
Since the end of the communist era Hungary has done a splendid job in terms of rediscovering herself as a major winemaking country and to me this tasting of award winning wines, which took place at the Embassy of Hungary in Copenhagen on November 10th, was a fitting way to celebrate just far the Hungarian wine producers have come and to show to the Danish wine lovers, just how beautiful wines are to be found in this “New Old World” wine country.
Very often Kunság is referred to as being merely a source of high-volume, inexpensive and dull wines, but the truth is, that also here, very good wines are to be found. Frittmann Winery’s 2016 “Gold” sparkling is a very good example. Made from predominantly Ezerjó, it is not an overly aromatic wine, but it shows aromas of just ripe pineapple, mango, quince and lees notes from 20 months on the lees, which together with the ripe lemon makes for an almost lemon curd scent. It is not fruit driven and plays much more on the mouth feel and its refreshing acidity.
One of the new stars of Tokaj is István Balassa, whose winery was established in 2005 and to Balassa it is all about terroir, about showing the diversity of the Tokaji terroirs and hence his 14 hectares of plantings are in 11 different vineyards and in 52 different parcels(!). His 2018 Tokaji Furmint is a blend from five of these terroirs: Hangács, Dorgó, Betsek, Kakaks and Szent Tamás and together they show the compexity so typical for Tokaj. If you really want to discover terroirs and complexity in Tokaj, Balassa is not a bad place to start.The wine is spontaneously fermented and has spent some 6 months in small oak barrels. Comparing to other dry Furmints it is not overly acidic, albeit still high in acid. It is an aromatic wine with ginger, vanilla and sweet spices from the barrel ageing complement the fruit aromas of ripe pear, bruised yellow apple and quince, almonds, white flowers and chamomile. Also I find a definite smoky character, which I often find in dry Furmint, together with a very nice salinity and minerality. The wine carries some weight and the texture is nicely creamy with detectable yet very finely grained tannins. I remain as big a fan as I was, when I first tasted this wine in August.
Figula’s 2015 Csopaki Olaszrizling Sáfránkert I also tasted in August. A very big bodied white from a variety that can make just about any style, it seems, in Hungary. Very ripe fruit, where I suspect botrysis has affected at least part of the grapes, with tons of both fruit concentration and intensity. Candied lemon,white peach and white pepper. Fruity, spicy, mineral all at the same time with an oily texture. The very high alcohol for a white white is neatly absorbed by the big fruit. The wine is elevated by its acidity. This will not be to everybody’s likings, but try it with a fat fish and some Mediterranean veggies.
You know, how much I love a good Kékfrankos! I tasted Bolyki’s 2016 Egrik Kékfrankos Classicus from Kistibrik back in October and it is always interesting to compare your own tasting notes from back experiences. On this occasion, it showed a cherry/sour cherry aroma, rhubarb torte and a dairy, sour creme note from the MLF. Also the wine showed a peppery, herbaceous and dark chocolate note. A fresh and juicy wine with a very moderate alcohol level.
Back in October I laid out the legislations for Egri Bikavér (check that story for more info) and this morning we tasted a beautiful Egri Bikavér Grand Superior from St. Andrea: Their 2017 Merengő.Bikavér has to be a blend of at least four varieties, but for this wine, five have been used: Kékfrankos, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Kadarka.The wine displays ripe fruit aromas of red berries, red and black cherry, black plum, blackberry as well as sweet spices, chocolate and pepper derived from the 17 months in 500 litres Hungarian oak barrels. This is a complex and highly elegant wine. Full bodied with very well integrated alcohol and tannins. And the goes on and on for an extended period of time.
Villány in the very south has such a generous climate for winemaking and it has a reputation for making big, bold reds from predominantly Bordeaux varieties. Villány is probably one of the wine regions of Hungary to feel the impact of the climate changes the most. Already in the back Villány enjoyed a warm climate with Szársomlyó hegy protecting from cold, northerly winds. With the increasing temperatures, focus is changing down here. As to avoid to jammy wines, no more plantings are made on south facing slopes, Konkoly Mikály DipWSET explained to us during the tasting and I was told earlier, that Villányi producers might discontinue their Pinot Noirs due to the temperature rises.
I tasted Riczu’s 2017 Villányi Franc from their vineyards at Akasztófa dulő in Siklós in a more western part of Villány back in September and my tasting notes are pretty consitent on this wine: Ripe blackberry and black plum/prune as well as sweet spices and tobacco, vanilla, coffee and chocolate. Sweet and ripe tannins and a high level of alcohol giving the wine a big body. Still a bit marked by the oak, but it will be more integrated improve over the next years 5-8 years.
Tokaji Szamorodni is a pretty rare bird on the Danish market, which is a shame, as the category delivers som beautiful wines in a quite different style from the Tokaji Aszús. The reason is explained in the name “szamorodni” – as they are, as the clusters are harvested with both botrysis affected grapes and grapes without any botrysis together. We were presented the 2013 Barta Tokaji Szamorodni from their Öreg Király dulő. A wine made 100% from Furmint and showing beautiful lemon and lemon curd notes as well as tropical fruit such as mango and apricot plus sultana raisins and orange marmelade/-peel. You sense both the overripe grapes and the impact from the botrysis doing its magic.Also, the entire crop is vinified together including 18 months in oak of which 30% was new.A fresh and fruity wine and really a category worth discovering.
The last three wines were all Tokaji Aszú wines, the world-famous Tokaji sweet wine.
Tokajicum had produced a lovely 5 puttonyos in the cold, rainy 2014 vintage. 24 hours of soaking and fermentation in barrel followed by 2 years in 200(!) litres Szerednyei oak. Honey and orange marmelade, apricot, raisin and fig, tea leafs, an earthy note. Their 2016 6 puttonyos obviously carried more weight and was even more intense than the 5 puttonyos. This wine spend 24 months in the characteristic 136 litres Gönci barrel (5 years old barrels). To me it had a more “old fashioned” feel to it than the 2014 with more earthy and mushroomy aromas. A beautiful wine.Balassa’s 2010 6 puttonyos remains a truly outstanding wine! I am honoured to have tasted this wine twice with only 400 bottles made. 4 months of spontaneous fermentation in 3 year old 225 liter barrel followed by 4 years in the very same barrel. Highly complex with all of the aromas and flavours, you expect from your Tokaji Aszú. Raisin, apricot, orange marmalade, nuts, tea leafs. Slightly volatile and with a more oxidized expression than both of the Tokajicums. Razor sharp acidity to level out the 182 grams of sugar per liter. And the finish goes on and on and on…
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