It’s Furmint February and time to drink Furmint! Furmint February is a campaign to promote Furmint, Hungary’s most widely planted white grape. For sure, thanks to its richness, Furmint is a great winter white although it’s so delicious, there’s no reason not to drink it all year long.
Dry furmint, originally intended to become Tokaji Szamorodni (sherried tokaji!!!!!) fresh and botrytis affected fruit managed to ferment all the way dry. It’s all at once pure, bright and fresh, and dense with sticky sweet flavors and the powdery perfume of noble rot. Beguiling and delicious! #coquinedrinks #dinneratcoquine #wineonawhim #hungary #tokaji
94 Points The dark allure of elderberry and black cherry has to be teased out on the nose. It is the elderberry that gives this a medicinal, herbaceous tinge. The palate is wonderfully and enticingly tart at first but then presents the purity of ripe, black cherry. Tannins are fine and have a little crunch, and pervasive freshness keeps this elegant and sinuous. Drink 2020–2030.
The small wine-growing region of Carnuntum, where the Trapl winery is located, stretches from the eastern limits of Vienna to the border of Slovakia. In the past, Carnuntum was known for big, inexpensive Zweigelt wines. But today, this historic wine region is making a come-back and Johannes Trapl has been one of the pioneers behind its revival.
His vineyards have been certified organic since 2006 and the entire winery since 2010. The wine, from Sankt Laurent, a highly aromatic grape variety from the Pinot Noir family, was fermented with native yeasts with no additives. It’s silky like a Pinot and perfectly balanced. Pair it with duck or even salmon.
The Bott Frigyes Kékfrankos is not the first wine from the Kékfrankos grape that SommSelect Sommelier David Lynch has offered but “this version from southern Slovakia,” he writes, “is one of the most elegant and perfumed expressions of the variety we’ve ever come across.”
Although the Kékfrankos grape is familiar—more so if you use its Austrian name, Blaufränkisch—the Južnoslovenská growing zone, home of Bott Frigyes, is not. Running up to the southern border of Slovakia, following a stretch of the Danube River just before it turns south towards Budapest, the Južnoslovenská (“southern Slovak”) region is well-represented by this Bott Frigyes red. Had we tasted it blind, I might have guessed top-level Oregon Pinot or maybe Cru Beaujolais from Morgon, but as it was we broke out our wine maps and hunted down Južnoslovenská in a fit of inspiration. It makes me wonder what other revelations we might be missing in this wide world of wine. If you try one bottle outside your comfort zone this year, let this be it. It is that good!
Follow the Hungarian connection and David’s recommendation: it’s a wine to enjoy this season with a comforting and saucy Chicken Paprikash. And read David’s article here.
In classic post holiday season fashion, I’m just now writing the January newsletter on the 10th. January feels like you need to pop the clutch going up a hill in order to get things going again. No push button start to this month. It’s also a time when the pendulum starts to swing the other way in terms of drinking. While of course a champion of all things sparkling, aged, sweet, fortified and so on throughout the holidays, now I crave a solid and refreshing table wine – ideally in liter form. On a practical level, wines like this not only help us atone for some perhaps overextended purchases, but also mark the return to casual dinners and that end of the day glass or two. Keeping this in mind, here are some liters to help transition into the New Year.
Ironically, the smallest country in the portfolio has our largest selection of liters – Slovenia. About an hour’s drive south of Graz, the heart of Austria’s Styria, and just north of the Slovenian city of Maribor, we find Silvo Črnko (Chair-n-ko). This is an impossibly fertile region littered with apples, hops, pumpkin seed oil and wine at every turn. Silvo and his daughter Tamara also tend livestock for meat and cheese, mill their own grains, and have a deep pickled and preserved operation. Appropriately, their Jareninčan liter goes with everything. The Jareninčan (Yerra-neen-chan) is an all estate field blend of mostly Laški Rizling (Welschriesling), Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Rizvanec (Müller-Thurgau), but there are a host of aromatic grapes like Gewürztraminer and Yellow Muscat that are often blended in later. Crowd pleasing, well farmed, and delicious.
About a 2 hour drive due south of Črnko in the Dolenjska wine region is father and son France and Jernej Martinčič. This is one of the most unique wines in the portfolio hidden away in a liter. The name Cviček (Zvee-Check) is basically Slovenian for “very sour wine.” Also notable is that it’s always a blend of native red and white varieties (Kraljevina, Laški Riesling, Sylvaner, Žlahtnina, Ranfol, Lipna, Žametovka, Franconian, Portugalka etc in this case…) that cannot exceed 10% alcohol and must be dry. The color looks like something in between a Poulsard and cherry juice. If something can be sour without been green and be structured at 10% alcohol and dry, then I’m not sure what else it could be other than Cviček. Served like a chillable red and don’t be shy throwing meat and fat at it.
Keeping with the 2 hour drive theme, head east towards the Slovenian port city of Koper just south of Trieste to find Santomas. The estate is run by 5th and 6th generation father and daughter Ludvik and Tamara Glavina. Virtually the entire production is devoted to all things Refošk. While certainly related to Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso in nearby Friuli and Teran in nearby Kras/Carso, there are clonal mutations that have taken place over hundreds of years. The incessant “Bora” winds keep the acidity fresh and yet there’s enough growing season for ripe fruit. This is one of those reds where you can throw it at a smoked pork shoulder or have it with anchovies. Personally, it’s a dead ringer for a chilled house red in a rocks glass that you just keep ordering as the conversation gets louder.
Last but not least, are the Pfneisl sisters Birgit and Katrin who can be found south of the Hungarian town of Sopron and just south west of Lake Neusiedl in Austria’s Burgenland. We also work with Pfneiszl (look for the “z”) which are their Hungarian wines. In short, the family originally fled nearby Sopron to escape Communism but then returned in the early 1990s to start anew. In any case, the Blaufränker and Zweigler liters are two special projects we pull from the Austrian side. Reductive grapes by nature, these are both aged in large oak tanks until ready to drink. Certified organic fruit that could easily go into a 750ml, but there’s something so convivial and inviting about these two wines that a liter is the smallest feasible vessel.
All in all, good wines to jumpstart us into the New Year and to sincerely thank you for all of your support in 2018.
90 points. French vintner Stéphanie Berecz worked at Disznókó before marrying a Hungarian and starting to produce wines from his family’s vineyards in 2002. Hárslevelu has become one of her specialties, as this wine shows: From a vineyard rich in loess, in Tarcal, it’s silky and broad, with a linden-leaf fragrance. The acidity feels a little edgy, highlighting some of the bitterness of the phenolics, which gives the wine the cut to match a fatty fish, like halibut.
Lónyai vineyard lies within the commune of Tarcal in Tokaj where Stéphanie Berecz and her husband Zsolt live. Its soil, made of deep loess mixed with volcanic rocks, brings a bright acidity and aromatics to the wine. It’s a very distinctive Hárslevelű built to age. Find it on our webshop and try it with a Paprika Fisherman’s Stew.
Organic. Great gruner! Walks the line nicely between a fresher, apero-style white filled with lemony zip, and a riper gruner with notes of camomile and spice on the finish. Lots going on here so let it warm a touch to benefit from the unique aromatics. Grape variety: Gruner veltliner. Residual sugar: 2.5 g/l. Serve at: 8-12 C. Drink now-2023. Food pairing idea: aperitif, white fish with herbs and lemon butter.
The wine is sourced from organic vineyards made of loess and alluvial soil near the Danube River in Kremstal, Austria. It’s complex without being too heavy. Try it now.
“In Leningrad, back in 1990,”writes Wine & Spirits Executive Editor Tara Q. Thomas, “the Georgian bars were the place to be.”
Nowadays, bars are everywhere in Tbilisi, the country’s capital, and the wines you have in your glasses “are anything but thick, semisweet reds. They come in all shades, from pale and fizzy to dark amber to bright red. They include such a panoply of grape varieties that keeping track of them makes my head swim. After 69 years of Soviet rule, the new reality, when it comes to winemaking, is that there are no rules.”
There’re indeed no rules for the Wine Thieves, a negociant company founded by three friends Avto Kobakhidze, Givi Apakidze and Zaza Asatiani except get “The finest Georgian wine ‘stolen’ for you.”. The three friends bottle and sell the wines of small family wineries with no resource to market their own production themselves.
Tara Q. Thomas gave 92 points to Wine Thieves’ amber-colored qvevri-aged Rkatsiteli:
92 Points. Avto Kobakhidze and Givi Apakidze worked with a grower in the village of Kachreti for this rkatsiteli, fermented and aged in qvevri with skins, and stems for about six months. Marigold-yellow, it’s a meaty, earthy wine with a beeswax density to its texture. While the initial impression is tannic and dark, a vivid acidity emerges, bringing freshness to the roasted-orange flavors. It’s large-boned and vibrant, a white wine that will hold its own next to game birds or a creamy mushroom pie.
The 200th anniversary of “Silent Night” is the perfect occasion to taste Austria’s sweet wines writes author Anne Krebiehl MW for the Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
Trockenbeerenauslese, also called TBA, (meaning literally “dried berries selection”) is Austria’s richest, sweetest wine and is made from individually selected botrytis-infected berries. Rosenhof’s Chardonnay TBA is one of Krebiehl’s recommendations:
A smokiness lies thickly above the apple fruit notes of this heady TBA, glossing everything with a darker, brooding presence. That same smoky darkness hovers on the palate, but here the spiky, bright spur of lemon freshness breaks through triumphantly, lending drive and precision to the apricot and Mirabelle plum fruit that spreads its lusciousness across the tongue. This is rich, concentrated, intense and beautifully unusual.
For a perfect Austrian Christmassy experience, Anne Krebiehl suggests having a glass of Trockenbeerenauslese with Vanillekipferl, crescent-shaped buttery Christmas cookies with a nutty, almond flavor. Silent Night playing in the background of course.
The book Wine Grapes refers to Juhfark (Yew-fark) as “perhaps the least modern or internationally appealing of Hungarian varieties.” Sold! We now have five very different Juhfarks. Overkill? Knee-jerk buying? Blind faith? All plausible in tandem with loving to drink them.
With hindsight, these selections also represent a learning curve. Not a curve based on quality, but rather on adding or subtracting elements from this grape to better understand what the hell is going on. There’s nothing else like it Hungary or a distinct relationship to another known grape. When we first started with Fekete Béla in 2012, I couldn’t find evidence of another Juhfark ever on the market.
Somló, where the vast majority is grown and where most of ours come from, has over 1200 individual growers, just over 40 commercial producers, and the whole place is about half the size of the Jura. Not an easy maze to navigate. Now we’re encountering the grape more and more along Hungary’s Lake Balaton, Neszmély, and Etyek-Buda appellations along with southern Slovakia and Austria’s Styria.
For me, winter is arguably the best time to drink Juhfark. Part of that is that I mostly visit Somló in the dead of winter, but also because it can handle heavy foods and still be refreshing. Juhfark can range from 16% with RS to approaching acidified mineral water. The trick is taming the beast, but there’s no escaping the tart funk meets amplifying all things volcanic.
Equally important, it’s a great grape of distinction to raise for a toast and thank you all for another year of support, risk taking and my deep appreciation. Keeping this all in mind, I’d like to quickly break down these five Juhfarks:
The Tornai family has been working with vines on the crumbling basalt slopes of Somló since 1946. The 2015 is mostly fermented reductively in stainless steel and then blended with a small portion fermented in 500L Hungarian oak. Zero botrytis, zero extended maceration, and zero extended élevage. As with all Somló wines, there’s no escaping the salt, smoke and hard water, but there’s brightness, and the tart funk that makes you keep returning to Juhfark. A great introduction to the grape.
2017 Káli-Kövek Juhfark is grown near an old basalt mine (Hegyestű) only a few kilometers from the nearly 50 mile long Lake Balaton, better known as the ”Hungarian Sea.” The Mediterranean like influences from the lake coupled with volcanic soils have been yielding high quality wines here since the Romans. Almost entirely free run fermented in Hungarian oak, it then ages for 16 months in oak. Again, zero botrytis, zero extended maceration, and barely any press fraction, this almost drinks lighter than the Tornai, but the acidity, kiss of residual sugar and volcanic layers highlight how much stuffing this grape can hide in 12% alcohol.
The 2017 Kolonics (Kolo-nitsch) Juhfark brings us back to Somló. Planted in the deep basalt crumble soils of the Aranhegy dűlő, the vineyard is peppered with chestnut and walnut trees. The fruit is quickly picked, destemmed, and then basket pressed into 1500L Hungarian oak and Acacia barrels (many over 60 years old) for fermentation and aging. Here there is some botrytis, but no extended skin contact or long oxidative aging. Far more dense and structured than previous two, there’s still fresh aromatics and fruit woven into the salt and smoke.
The 2016 Apátsági Juhfark is almost picked like a late harvest and somehow comes out technically drier than the previous two wines. Perhaps it’s the farming and the moldy walls in the cellar that keeps the native yeasts going, but whatever gets so much ripe and botrytis ridden fruit to get this dry and layered is incredible. It smells like it’s going to be sweet, but then the texture and acidity make an abrupt course correction. The frost of 2016 devastated much of the harvest, so what we have are the carefully selected survivors. Less quantity but super special.
No Juhfark discussion can omit one of the icons of Somló, Béla Fekete, aka Béla Bácsi (Uncle Béla). I’d mention him even if we didn’t import his wines just for context and a benchmark in his school of thought. Now approaching 94 years old, this 2012 Juhfark marks the second to last vintage he made from start to finish. Nearing the end of an era. Picked almost overripe, no sorting out botrytis, slowly pressed, fermented and aged in 1000L Hungarian oak for 12 months, then an additional 3 years of aging in tank. This is liquid stone, spice, and everything nice. Historically the wines of Somló could be found at the pharmacy curing kidney and liver failure, anemia, digestive trouble and a variety of other ailments. Béla is the living proof in the Somló pudding.
This has been a cursory look at the grape, people, and places at best, but one of the grapes that keeps me excited about wine and constantly learning something new.