#WineWednesday Spotlight #70: Gotsa Mtsvane

James the Wine Guy Gotsa Mtsvane review
Gotsa Babaneuri Valley Mtsvane ’13 94 Points – James Melendez

With 94 points out of 100, the Gotsa Mtsvane 2013 was one of James Melendez AKA James the Wine Guy‘s top Top 100 Wines for 2016:

Exotic wood, citrus peel, lemon tones, cardamon and white flowers, gorgeous. When you’re tasting this wine, you’re thinking it’s going to be really sweet. No, it’s not, it’s completely dry. So on the very very initial contact with the palate, it’s giving this expression of a dry white wine or dry orange wine I’d better say, and gives some coarse notes of fresh Turkish fig, pomegranate, white flower, stones, and honey tones as well.

Watch the video: Gotsa Babaneuri Valley Mtsvane ’13 94 Points

Check our selection of outstanding Qvevri fermented wines from Gotsa here.

Find out James’ favorite wines for 2016. Among them, a few from Blue Danube Wine Co.:
Kindzmarauli Kakhetian Royal 2013 – 93 Points: video
Muhr-van der Niepoort Samt & Seide 2012 – 94 Points: video
Samuel Tinon Birtok 2014
Samuel Tinon Szent Tamás 2015 – 93 Points
Shumi Tsinandali 2014 – 94 points
Santé!

Hungarian Superstitions for Szilveszter (New Year’s Eve)

Fireworks over Budapest
Fireworks over Budapest

It’s important to mix superstitions and alcohol whenever possible. Hungarians have a bevy of both, but especially when it concerns Szilveszter. In no particular order, here are a few things to eat, do, avoid and then some fairly biased options for what do drink.

Hungarian food
Traditional Hungarian food at Belvarosi Disznotoros, Budapest

•  Eat a lot of pork. Pig fat means prosperity. Please look up a recipe for ‘Kocsonya’ (meat jelly/aspic) if you want to really tackle this option head on.
•  Lentils also symbolize good luck and wealth. Make a soup with plenty of paprika and sour cream.
•  Another great soup is ‘Korhely Leves.’ This is basically a sauerkraut soup with a lot of smoked meat and paprika. Perhaps the greatest Central European hangover cure as well.
•  Fortune telling. Put a variety of names (whatever gender(s) you’re into) inside raw dumplings, and then whatever boils to the surface first is your true love.
•  Make calendars from 12 layers of an onion and pour salt over each layer. Whichever layer sweats the most means a rainy corresponding month.
•  Don’t do any household cleaning. Even taking out the trash is bad luck. Don’t even wash your clothes.
•  Give yourself a cold shower early in the morning to promote health. Don’t go to the doctor either.
•  Avoid eating chicken and fish. Something about chickens pecking away at luck and fish swimming off with said luck. This is just for New Year’s day.
•  Make a lot of noise. This scares away the bad spirits and celebrates the passing of the year. You can still find large outdoor parties with an extra array of whistles and noisemakers in the squares in Budapest despite often being well below zero.

Whether it’s smoky briny soups, mentally prepping for a cold shower, trying to digest pork jelly, or nursing yourself back to health in order to properly step into 2017, you’ll find some pretty comforting wines in our comprehensive portfolio of Hungarian wines.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #69: doqi Kisi Qvevri

doqi Kisi
Photo: Peter Weltman

This is an Instagram contribution from certified sommelier and food/travel writer Peter Weltman:

doqi Kisi Qvevri 2014:

2014 doqi, kisi, Kakheti, The Republic of Georgia. natural wine drinkers chug from doqi. this epitomizes the genius of gogi dakishvili. it’s his power grape, aged in qvevri, resplendent of mandarin and naruli, tannins that lattice under the weight of the fruit while spiked with acid. it’s firmly rooted in Georgian history—raw qvevri wine—but showcases the exactness and craft that epitomizes this young man. bravo @bluedanubewine for a stunner. thank you @edanch for the sneak peak. was i #7 to taste it in the USA?

You can follow Peter on Instagram here.

Kadarka, Cadarca, Gamza

Kadarka Vineyard
New plantings of Kadarka by an old farmhouse in southern Szekszard, Hungary

Based in the South of France, Master of Wine Elizabeth Gabay has contributed on Provence and Hungary for winetravelguides.com and has updated the Provence sections for both Jancis Robinson’s The World Atlas of Wine and Oz Clarke’s annual pocket wine book. An active educator, she works on the MW education program, gives masterclasses and runs a local wine tasting group.

Hungary is increasingly looking to its vinous history and indigenous varieties. There is a growing number of winemakers, who, with the help of research institutes like the one at Pécs, are replanting varieties which were almost lost during the phylloxera epidemic. Kadarka is one of those varieties now seeing a revival. It also happens to be my current favourite variety.

Recent research suggests that an ancestor of Kadarka, the Papazkarası variety found in the Strandja region of Thrace, on the border between Bulgaria and Turkey, was taken westwards and planted around Lake Scutari on the modern Albania-Montenegro border. There, it was crossed with a local variety, Skardarsko, creating Kadarka. It would have stayed little more than a local variety if political events had not intervened. In 1689 the Ottoman army defeated the Austrians and, in fear of further attacks, the locals moved north to the Pannonia Plain, taking with them their Kadarka vines. Today, Kadarka can also be found in southern Slovakia, south-west Romania (where it is known as Cadarca), northern Serbia and in Bulgaria, where it is called Gamza.

Kadarka Vine
Old Kadarka vines at Vida

Kadarka proved successful. By the 19th century it made up 60% of Hungarian vineyards. The Bikavér blends of Eger and Szekszárd included upto 60-70% of Kadarka, providing a touch of spice. To counter Kadarka’s pale colour it was often blended with Csokaszölö, the Jackdaw grape (today a very rare variety). Kadarka’s delicacy led to winemakers using long maceration (which I think can unbalance the elegance in the few wines I have tasted made this way). Added richness was also gained by taking advantage of the thin skins and susceptibility to rot. In the right vintage, a small amount of botrytis (upto 15%) can add glycerol and body, although some producers are not enthusiastic about allowing botrytis. In some years, sufficient botrytis can be achieved for a sweet red Kadarka. Indeed, Kadarka was so highly regarded in the 19th century, that Hungarian composer, Franz Liszt annually sent some wine to Pope Pius IX.

Politics continued to play a part in Kadarka’s history. Under Communism, agricultural policies encouraged high-volume varieties. It did not favour the late-ripening, frost-sensitive Kadarka. In the late 1960s a high yielding clone, P9, was developed, but its large berries made it vulnerable to dropping its fruit under windy and rainy conditions and its fragile character meant it was not strong enough for mechanical harvesting. By the early 1970s, the authorities demanded wineries replace Kadarka with high yielding vines, almost bringing the variety to extinction. By 1989, Kadarka had dropped to 1% of Hungarian plantings. Planting is slowly increasing, now at 2% of the total, largely in Szekszárd, but also in Eger, Hajós-Baja and Kunság on the Great Plain.

The P9 clones’ large bunches suffer from uneven ripening, which, compounded with Kadarka’s propensity to pale skins, means that some bunches have pale, almost unripe grapes, which some have used to make a white Kadarka. Alternatively, they were blended with riper grapes to make a pale red / dark rosé Fuxli (siller, schiller) wine. Today these grapes are used in lighter rosés or are pruned away to concentrate the vines energy on the ripening bunches.

Heimann Kadarka
Tasting Kadarka made with the new clones from Heimann

In Szekszárd, Kadarka is either bottled on its own or in the Bikavér blend. On its own it shows Pinot Noir-style silky tannins, sour cherry and raspberry fruit, sometimes with fragrant floral rose notes and hints of spice, and high acidity. In hotter vintages, old vines and low yields, the wine can be bigger, richer with more black fruit and bigger tannins – but always retaining its suppleness and freshness. In the Bikavér blend, winemakers assure me that a small percentage is all that is needed to add spice and freshness to the blend. Too much Kadarka, and with age the spicy notes start to dominate.

Kadarka grower Peter Vida
Peter Vida in his vineyard of old vine Kadarka

Quality Kadarka will never be produced in vast quantities (although new clones are helping), which makes these wines even more of a delightful discovery. While producers who love Kadarka may curse its delicacy, its struggle to ripen, its susceptibility to rot, they have also learnt to turn these characteristics to their advantage to make a varied range of wines from light rosé, dark siller, light red, rich red and even sweet wines.

Elizabeth Gabay MW
elizabethgabay.com

Thirsty for Kadarka? Check our Kadarka selection here.

Tokaj Part 2: Quality Over Quantity

Tufa cellars
Eric Danch in Tokaj

This is the second article on Tokaj by Blue Danubian Eric Danch featured on GuildSomm.com. This one focuses on how a new generation is embracing the appellation’s pedigree while also improving farming and winemaking and then outlines the different wine styles of Tokaj.

Tokaj-Hegyalja is the product of 20 million years of volcanic activity. This means that whether in the loess-covered south or the diverse range of rocks and clay locally called nyirok, the subsoil is largely tuff, guaranteeing that vines will struggle. Many of the most famous dűlői (crus) in the appellation are on the slopes of these formally active volcanoes, adding to their struggle with erosion, drainage, and exposure. As the aim was to supply industrial levels of production for consumption in the former USSR and the other former Bloc countries, growers quickly resorted to fertilizing, spraying heavily, and planting on the flats where large Russian-built tractors could easily operate. Vine density decreased, and famed terraces and steep sloped vineyards went fallow or were eventually consumed by the Zemplén Forest. Many forgotten vineyards are visible while driving through the region or walking up into the forest from existing sites. It’s a surreal sight.

Hatari Vineyard
An example of improved farming practices at the Határi vineyard, which is now stake trained, farmed without pesticides, and worked completely by hand.

Today, producers are reverting to pre-Communist era practices. One of the biggest jobs is replanting the slopes, terraces, and other sites that weren’t ideal for squeezing out the most hectoliters. Clonal selection for these new plantings is also being addressed, as earlier clones were frequently chosen for mass production rather than affinity to terroir. Growers are increasing vine density to promote competition. Many top sites are once again stake trained and worked by hand, horse, or small modern tractor.

You’ll learn everything about Tokaj with Eric Danch’s Tokaj Part 1 and Tokaj Part 2.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #68: Fekete Hárslevelű

Fekete Harslevelu
Photo: Kit Pepper

This week, we have a festive contribution from Kit Pepper of Kit’s Underground Wine & Spirits:

Buying a fresh truffle has become an early-winter ritual for us in the past few years, an annual challenge to find a way to spotlight this one ingredient. Winter truffles (Perigord) were plentiful this year, so we once again took advantage of a friend’s wholesale account to play around.

Truffles have a legendary pong—even a bubble-sealed fresh truffle will start to get you funny looks on the train, and stink up your fridge. But what no one tells you is that the aroma is most of the story—most foods increase in flavor intensity when you chew them, but truffles are ephemeral. Soak up the aroma and enjoy the stained-glass effect of the slices, because there’s no crescendo of flavor in your mouth, only a fragile mushroom texture.

Delicate, earthy wines are the classic match for truffles—older Burgundies (white or red), old Champagnes or Piedmont reds. But I’m attached to the volcano wines of Somlo, and mushrooms aren’t unknown in Hungary . . . and on the basis of that flawless reasoning, we gave the job to Fekete Bela’s Harselvelu. The creamy weight of the wine balanced the truffle butter (with a touch of anchovy) on our fettucine, and the wine’s mineral quality highlighted the mushroomy base flavors of the truffle, bringing that elusive aroma down to earth.

Kit Pepper

#WineWednesday Spotlight #67: Pfneisl Blaufränker

Pfneisl Blaufranker
Photo: The Wine Country

This is a contribution by Jeremy Dugan, wine buyer at The Wine Country in Long Beach.

Not too often does an Austrian wine get to be Wine of the Month. But when I sat down with Orshi Kiss, our Blue Danube Representative, and tried this Blaufrankisch from Weingut Pfneisl in Burgenland, Austria, the second thing I did after enjoy it myself was take it back to Randy and said “We could do this for Wine of the Month in December.” The rest of the staff tried it and everyone was in agreeance, this wonderfully balanced medium bodied red wine is the type of crowd pleasing, goes well with everything kind of wine people love. Especially at $13.99 for a liter! But who is Weingut Pfneisl? And who the heck are Birgit and Katrin?

Birgit and Katrin Pfneisl
Birgit and Katrin Pfneisl

Once named Pfneiszl when they lived in Hungary over 100 years ago, the family moved to Austria to escape Communism, dropped the z from their last name and kept making wine like they did in their home country. Since 1993, the Pfneisls have had two wineries, one in Austria (Pfneisl) and the other in their ancestral Hungarian lands(Pfneiszl). The Austrian winery has been ran by Franz Pfneisl and his brothers while the Hungarian one has been ran by his two Daughters; Birgit and Katrin. More recently, the Daughters have been going over the boarder to make wines at Pfneisl, one of which is a collaboration with Blue Danube, this beautiful Blaufrankisch.It might be a tad confusing with the wine being called Blaufranker, is it a blend of different reds, being predominately Blaufrankisch? No, just good old Austrian Blaufrankisch.

Originating in Austria, being first recorded in 1862, Blaufrankisch (German for Blue Frankish), is one of the most popular red grapes in its home country. Typically they have red fruit characteristics, sometimes robust and full they can also be delicate and short on the finish. Luckily for us, Birgit and Katrin’s Blaufranker has the best of both worlds. Roasted cherry and delicate rose petal notes give it a wonderful balance of robust and subtle. Soft minerality and hints of earthy flavors give it a drier, rounder finish without being tannic. This is the kind of wine that can be opened, put on a table and gone before you realize it. It can go with a cheese plate, red meat or roasted chicken. You can put a chill on it if you want more of a candied cherry and floral notes to pop, or without to get the full bodied flavors. A wine that goes with a lot and will please a ton, exactly what you want from a Wine of the Month.

We’re 100% in agreement, the 2015 Pfneisl Blaufränker is so fun and delicious! “In it twinkle the stars and sun,” the Pfneisl sisters tell us about the wine, “the wildness of nature, the faces of our friends and family and maybe yours too!.” Happy Holidays!

#WineWednesday Spotlight #66: Miloš Plavac with Oysters

plavac with oysters
Miloš Plavac with oysters at Sadie’s Oyster Room. Credit: Sadie’s Oyster Room

Since it’s oysters season, here is a contribution from Blue Danubian Stetson Robbins. It comes from a blog post he wrote a while ago. Since then, nothing has changed: he is still crazy for oysters and Plavac!

Recently, my mom made friends with a favorite local oysterman. It was rumored that his were the best, so for this most recent visit she order 3½ dozen for just 4 of us. The guy hand delivered his day’s catch to the door. Most were these deliciously fresh, even sweet locally farmed ‘America’ oysters, but the real treat were the dozen strongly flavored wild Belon. Forgoing the typical compliment of Muscadet, or Chablis, I selected something more appropriate for the season. After all, in Maine, winter is the best season for oysters; so why should we drink summer wine?

Stetson, Milos and oysters
Stetson, oysters and Miloš Plavac

Peljesac wines are some of the most transparent expressions of place and people being bottled today. Paradoxically, it is this individuality that enables them to relate so brilliantly to the culinary traditions of other places. For me, winter oysters in Maine will never be complete without some hearty Plavac. This makes the world feel smaller, but in a good way.

In fact, people have been harvesting oysters in the bay of Mali Ston — a small fishing village in the Pelješac Peninsula — since the Roman times and Pelješac Plavac is just a natural pairing for these briny oysters.

But you don’t need to be in Pelješac. Last October, Miloš Plavac was featured at Sadie’s Oyster Room in New York as a full bodied red that nicely compliments oysters.

So yes, next time we have oysters, let’s drink some Plavac, just like the locals!

Tokaj Part 1: Sweet Relevance

Tokaj Village map
The 27 villages of Tokaj © András Ede Molnár

There is a new article on Tokaj by Blue Danubian Eric Danch featured on GuildSomm.com. It is the first of two installments and it provides some useful background on the appellation and outlines the history of one of Europe’s oldest wine regions:

Hungarians are chronic storytellers. Perhaps it’s in their DNA, or the result of relying on oral history to preserve their national identity as kingdoms, empires, occupations, and wars have defined their land. Another identity-ridden Hungarian pastime is wine. The appellation of Tokaj-Hegyalja (“foothills of Tokaj”) in northeastern Hungary and southwestern Slovakia represents both; Hungarians even sing about the sweet nectar of Tokaj in their national anthem.

Tokaji wine bottle
Jet-black mold and golden wine in bottle

Very few wine regions possess as much unbroken history, so significant a heyday, and such a decided fall into obscurity. As such, the focus of most Tokaj literature is about past greatness and hopes of reclaiming it. Much of what has been written also highlights King Louis XIV’s famous phrase, Vinum Regum, Rex Vinorum (“Wine of Kings, King of Wines”), and ends with a discussion of the collectivized quantity-over-quality industrial production under Communism. While both are true and important in understanding the region, Tokaj is no longer static, looking backwards, or dreaming of an unknown future. Twenty-five years after the first wave of privatization, Tokaj finally has the people and experience needed to reposition itself as one of the world’s classic appellations. Today, the world’s first vineyard classification system and the oldest producer of botrytized wines is once again terroir driven, dry, sparkling, under flor, and as refreshingly sweet as ever.

If you would like to learn more about Tokaj, here is Tokaj Part 1 and don’t miss Part 2 when it’s published.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #65: doqi Rkatsiteli

doqi Rkatsiteli
doqi Rkatsiteli, clay doqi and piala

Drink the doqi Rkatsiteli the Georgian way! From a doqi — the traditional Georgian wine vessel — and in a clay bowl, also called piala.

While Georgia has 8,000 years of unbroken winemaking, Rkatsiteli — a name made of two Georgian words, rka (“shoot”) and tsiteli (“red”), which refers to the variety’s reddish stalk — is one of the most ancient grape varieties on earth. Seeds of Rkatsiteli grapes were found in Georgia on clay vessels dated back to 3000 BC.

The grapes for this wine are sourced from rocky vineyards around the village of Napareuli in Georgia’s renowned Kakheti wine district, at around 420 m (1,400 ft) above sea level. The grapes are hand-harvested and fermented in stainless steel, “Euro-style” The result is a pale yellow wine with attractive aromas of honeyed cooked apples and a creamy texture balanced with fresh acidity. A great choice for a casual aperitif with friends that will park the appetite.

doqi makes also a amber-colored Rkatsiteli fermented and aged in qvevri. Try them both and serve them from a clay doqi for sure. Also don’t forget to toast the Georgian way: Gaumarjos! To your victory!