“Bükk benefits from a merry band of winemaking talent” writes Budapest resident and wine writer Robert Smyth. “Discovering relatively unknown wine regions,” he adds, “is one of the great joys of being into wine.”
The region sits silently, and all but forgotten, between the really rather famous, not to say legendary regions of Eger (to the west) and Tokaj (to the east), and was previously known in professional circles as a region to overlook, to put it mildly, for its paint-stripping, acidic excuses for wines.
However, a number of boutique producers are now turning out some rather fine and subtle stuff, which often strikes a balance between vibrant aromas, ripeness of fruit and zesty (but not bitingly sharp) acidity. Bükk, with its broad range of soils and nicely positioned vineyards that gain ideal exposure to the sun for ripening, is, therefore, something of a hidden treasure, especially when the winemakers treat the terroir with respect.
Gallay is one of Bükk’s hidden treasures. Father and son József and Roland Borbély farm 11 hectares of vineyards in a sustainable way and are working hard to revive the region with wines from the local white grape Zenit and red grape Zweigelt that highlight the terroir of the appellation.
Some of the wines tasted from Gallay and Zsolt Sándor are worthy of being placed on the same table as the best of Austria. Gallay’s single vineyard Zweigelts, from the Lippa and Zúgó vineyards, show how the grape can articulate its terroir.
Read the whole article here. Intrigued by Gallay’s wines? You can find them on our webshop.
Most of the 2018 fruit is in across the portfolio, and seeing all of the harvest action over social media is a reminder of how diverse and special these places are. In particular, there’s the ubiquitous “perfect cluster photo” phenomenon. For the vast majority of the wine world, it’s a shiny perfect looking uniform cluster. My feed is full of botrytis ridden desiccated clusters.
Speaking of botrytis, whether fermented dry, off dry, under flor or sweet, tons of brand new wines from Samuel Tinon, Oszkár Maurer, Demeter Zoltán, Bodrog Borműhely, Kikelet and Fekete Béla have just landed. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the new Gere Olaszrizling, Káli-Kövek Olaszrizling and Juhfark, and Szőke Mátyás Irsai Olivér have the brightness, salt, and aromatics to tackle the final weeks of summer and transition into the fall.
First, let me properly introduce Oszkár Maurer from Subotičko – Horgoškoj, Serbia. Oszkár is ethnically Hungarian, and the region, formally known as the Szerémség, was Hungarian for hundreds of years. Due to the sandy soils piled up between the Danube and Sava rivers, many grapes are still own-rooted and planted as far back as 1880. The nearby Fruška-Gora (Tarcal in Hungarian) mountains bring volcanic soils into the mix as well. He’s growing grapes like Szerémi zöld, Bakator, Mézes fehér, and Kövidinka (planted 1925) that we’ve rarely encountered anywhere else. His 1880s Kadarka is one of the oldest in the world. On top of that, he uses no chemical fertilizers, herbicides or insecticides and works mostly with only hand and horse. He’s a wealth of knowledge, incredibly driven, and we are just getting started with him.
2016 Kövidinka: Planted in 1925 in Nosza hills between Subotica (Serbia) and Szeged (Hungary), it’s winter hardy, resistant to botrytis, and ripens late. With Oszkár’s farming and sandy soils, there’s a nuttiness that’s not oxidation, and a sweetness that’s not residual sugar. Herbal and dry at 10% alcohol.
2016 Kadarka Újlak: The Újlak Dűlő is a 250 meter limestone and clay hill with slate at the top. The plant material is from a 1912 site and grows right along side with Furmint. Kadarka is thin skinned, late ripening, susceptible to botytis, drought tolerant, and can’t handle cold winters. Once coaxed to ripeness, it’s spicy, fresh, and aromatic at just over 10% alcohol. It’s a light chillable red without relying on whole cluster or carbonic for fruit and lightness.
2017 Mézes Fehér: Planted near the volcanic Fruška-Gora mountains, the nearly extinct Mézes Fehér grape, literally ’honey white’, is certainly an appropriate name. Picked with about 20% botrytis, it was then on the skins for a couple of days, and then pressed off into barrels for 16 months. Bottled unfiltered, it looks like bourbon and smells like a hot toddy. It’s retained remarkable acidity, has plenty of structure, and is just over 1 g/l RS. Dry botrytis from 2017. Nothing else like it and delicious.
There’s also a major historical linkage between Maurer’s region and Tokaj. At one point, they were arguably considered equally in terms of quality and prestige. For a variety of reasons (changing borders, Turkish wars etc…) many from Maurer’s region then moved to Tokaj. Before I get too long winded, here’s a quick breakdown:
2013 Eszter Föbor 500ml: Aka a sweet Szamorodni. 200+ g/l RS, honeyed spice, sweet acidity, and magically refreshing. It’s almost like it finishes dry while simultaneously coating your palate. The sheer concentration and energy Zoltán puts into this (both his own and the grapes) is one of the reasons I keep returning to Tokaj.
2010 Aszú 500ml: Only 2 cases imported. With only a few more grams of RS than the Eszter, the extremely high extract, acidity, and age make this something completely different and compelling. Show stopper. I don’t have much to say other than please try this wine.
2017 Olaszliszka Hárslevelű: The Amici Vinorum Olaszliszka (Latin for Olaszliszka Friends of Wine) is the combined efforts of local winemakers to reaffirm the historical identity and importance of the village of Olaszliszka. Sourcing from vineyards like Csontos, Határi, Meszes, and Palandor that date as far back as 1641, members of the association are combining their fruit to produce one single “village” wine. Tinon’s rendition is like drinking a margarita with a mezkal floater. Lemon lime, salty, bright, and a hint of smoke.
2009 Dry Szamorodni 500ml: Still one of the greatest and most surprising finds vintage after vintage. This is a late harvest pick fermented dry under a yeast veil until dry. Never fortified, single vintage, and this is the benchmark producer. If you’re into sherry and Vin Jaune, you’re professionally obligated to venture into dry Szamorodni ☺
2016 Botrytis Selection Furmint: This is a rare creature and a one off so far in our relationship with Krisztián and János. Coming mostly from the Halas vineyard (next to Lapis, closer to the creek), this Furmint was harvested like a Szamorodni (fresh and botrytised), but for one reason or another, the spontaneous fermentation went nearly dry (around 2 g/l RS). But unlike a Dry Szamorodni which is aged oxidatively and often under a veil of yeast, this was topped up and kept fresh. This is a rare balancing act of botrytis and a fresh wine coming together naturally.
2015 Lapis Furmint: The Lapis Vineyard is near the town of Bodrogkeresztúr and looks down onto the Bodrog River and its floodplains. The 0.7 ha that they farm is 155m up and in a breezy spot making dry wines possible. If there were to be reclassification of the Tokaji vineyards, this would be a strong contender for a Great Growth. This is also a great example of how just three years of aging adds creaminess without losing freshness. Sweet smoky aromatics and salty acid goodness.
2016 Origo: This is a brand new project for Stéphanie. Over time she’s come to believe that the best way to capture the “Kikelet,” meaning “spring,” is to blend Furmint, Hárslevelű, and Kövérszőlő when possible. Her style is already more or less based on short macerations, no crushing, and not racking until bottling. This 2016 was fermented in barrel, aged 5 months, and then kept fresh under screw cap. This “Origo” is a pure look at the origin of what she loves about her terroir and the kind of acid and soil driven wines she loves.
2016 Lónyai Hárslevelű: In contrast to the Origo blend, she never blends anything with Lónyai. This is a stand alone site. Tarcal is usually defined largely by loess soils, but it is of course more complicate than that. There is also chalk, dacite, and perlite that make vineyards like Lónyai susceptible to erosion but not as water retentive as clay. The acids here are sour and need aging, but once they balance out, it’s one of the most elegant and intense Hárslevelűs in the region. Built to age, ideally we drink this 3-5 years after vintage.
“We’re on at least the third wave of orange wine,” thinks wine writer Jon Bonné in his article, The Insider’s Guide to Orange Wine, where he reviews the essential producers, wines, and vinification methods for this particular wine style.
Orange wines, also called amber wines, are made from white grapes that ferment on their skins for a period of time. The result is a densely textured, amber-to-orange colored wine. This unique winemaking style was traditionally used in Georgia, Northern Italy and Slovenia and has recently seen growing popularity among wine lovers. Orange wines are now made throughout Europe and in the new world as well including California, Oregon, Australia, and Chile.
One of the essential wines isted by Jon Bonné is the Gotsa Family Wines Chinuri, an amber-colored wine from Georgia, fermented on its skin in a clay vessel called qvevri:
Gotsa Asureti Valley Chinuri: Beka Gotsadze’s winery is high in the hills outside Tblisi, and his wines—all aged in qvevri—are a very good reference point for Georgian wine, even if they aren’t wholly traditional. Chinuri is a relatively common white variety in the region, and there’s a creamy side to the ripe apple and persimmon flavors.
If you’re curious about orange wines, check our skin-macerated wines from Georgia, Slovenia, and Croatia on our webshop.
The meals that we eat during the week are usually quick and easy to prepare. It’s also the time when we would like to drink something good but reasonably priced and not too complicated. These are the “weeknight wines” that Eric Asimov describes in his latest column 20 Wines Under $20: When Any Night Can Be a Weeknight.
Weeknight wines may not require your complete attention but they still need to be interesting and full of character. Fortunately for us, there are many distinctive and inspiring wines from all around the world that are moderately priced because they come from lesser-known wine regions or grape varieties.
Among the great weeknight wines that Eric Asimov recommends is one of our favorites, the Bibich R6 Riserva 2016:
The phrase “Mediterranean wines” rarely conjures up Croatia, but the country has a gorgeous coastline along the Adriatic Sea, made notable by the beautiful cities of Split and Dubrovnik. Alen Bibic of Bibich makes wine in the region of Skradin north of Split, focusing on indigenous grapes, like this blend of babic, plavina and lasin. It’s deliciously spicy, with just a touch of oak.
We have a great selection of delicious and distinctive weeknight wines under $20 on our webshop. Check them out!
“How could we not offer this wine,”asks David Lynch, Sommelier & Editorial Director at SommSelect. “Tasting this 2015 Vranac, I’m reminded of some of the brisk and deeply hued reds of Italy/Slovenia’s Carso/Kras region, and of Austrian Blaufränkisch as well.
Aged for two years in those ancient wood barrels, the 2015 Tvrdoš Vranac is a nearly opaque ruby-black in the glass, with garnet reflections. The nose is powerful and perfumed, leading with notes of crushed blackberry, cranberry, wet rose petals, dark chocolate, cedar, and exotic spice notes galore. It is deep, rich, and tangy up front then buttons up into something tangy and refreshing, with lots of floral notes on the finish. It benefits from 30+ minutes in a decanter before service, as well as a cooler temperature (60 degrees) to accentuate its fruit character and moderate its acidity. Characteristic of the 2015 vintage all over Europe, this is plenty ripe and accessible now, and is most definitely a “food wine” as opposed to a “cocktail wine.” I’d say go whole hog and do an ultra-authentic “Bosnian Pot” (Bosanski Lonac) to go with it. The melding of flavors will not only be classic but spot-on.
“I’ve said it many times before, ” adds David Lynch, “but still: there’s no reason to drink generic labels when wines like this exist at this price.”
Follow David Lynch’s pairing recommendation and enjoy Monastery Tvrdoš Vranac with an earthy, hearty, rustic Bosnian Pot. Živjeli!
More than 500 varieties of native grapes. A multi-millennia-old winemaking tradition in clay vessel or qvevri. In fact, Georgia have been making wines almost forever. Then around 320 AD, Saint Nino of Cappadocia arrived in Georgia with a cross made of a vine and wine became a symbol of Christianity. Thereafter, wines has been playing a vital role in the celebration of religious events and rituals and is now an integral part of Georgia’s cultural identity and heritage.
Over the summer, we received a new shipment of Georgian wines and what’s exciting about these new wines is that they epitomize the diversity of the Georgian production: Rkatsiteli, Mtsvane, Kisi, Saperavi from Kakheti in the East, Tsitska and Krakhuna from Imereti in the West, Chinuri from Kartli in the Center, and a Alexandria/Mudzhuretuli blend from Racha in the North.
Rkatsiteli is to Georgia what Chardonnay is to California. It’s the “King of Kakheti” as Aleksi Tsikhilishvili explained to us when we visited his cellar last May. It’s Georgia’s most widely planted and most popular white grape variety. It has great structure and spiciness and becomes creamy, nutty and tannic when aged in qvevri. We just received an organic qvevri-aged Rkatsiteli from Wine Thieves and a new vintage of doqi Rkatsiteli Qvevri. Thanks to their tannic structure, they work very well with roasted meat, stew with walnut sauce, and any cheese.
If Rkatsiteli is the “King of Kakheti”, Mtsvane is its queen according to Aleksi. It’s an ancient Georgian grape variety, even older than Rkatsiteli according to some ampelographers. Full-bodied and yet more delicate and elegant than Rkatsiteli, it exhibits some spicy tea-like aromas when aged in qvevri. Check our new vintage of Mtsvane Qvevri from doqi.
Kisi is an exquisite rare variety from Kakheti. Floral and exotic, with notes of orange zest, it has a large aromatic spectrum. Try the newly arrived Kisi wines from doqi and Wine Thieves, they’re absolutely delicious with seafood and Asian cuisine.
Chinuri is from the Kartli region in Central Georgia where the country’s capital Tbilisi is situated. Maybe named for the color of olive tree leaves (“chin” in old Georgian), the grape has high acidity, herbal notes and fruity aromas. Gotsa Family Wines makes an organic qvevri aged Chinuri that is savory, nutty, and tannic with a beautiful amber color.
Tsitska and Krakhuna are two grape varieties from Imereti in Western Georgia. They’re both late ripening with ripe fruit aromas. Amiran Vepkhvadze farms small plots of these rare varietals without chemical treatments and ferments them in locally made qvevris. The result is amber in color, richly textured and aromatic. Also from Amiran, Otskhanuri Sapere is a rare, indigenous red varietal found only in Western Georgia. The wine is deeply colored with tannins and very high acidity. It can age very well and be kept in the cellar for several decades.
Last but not least, Saperavi is Georgia’s most famous red grape. Deeply colored, full-bodied, with high acid and full flavors of black berries, mint, tobacco, pepper. When aged in qvevri, it acquires a rich, velvety texture. Try the amazing 2007 Saperavi made by the Shavnabada Monastery. On a more fruity side, doqi has both a qvevri and non qvevri Saperavi and Wine Thieves just released an organic qvevri Saperavi.
There’s a fierce competition between Kindzmarauli and Khvanchkara as to which wine is the best sweet wine in Georgia and both top the list of Stalin’s — born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili in Gori, Georgia — most favorite wines.
Kindzmarauli is a microzone in the Kakheti wine district along the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains. It is famous for its dark semi-sweet wines made from Saperavi.
Khvanchkara is a appellation located in Racha, Western Georgia on the southern slopes of the Lechkhumi mountain range with vineyards planted between 450 and 750 meters (between 1500 and 2500ft) above sea level. The wine is made from the Alexandria and Mudzhuretuli red varieties and is vinified naturally sweet by keeping fermenting grapes in cool temperatures.
Set up a nice cheese platter with aged Cheddar, Blue Cheese, and nuts and compare the newly released Kindzmarauli and Khvanchkara 2017 both from doqi and tell us which one you prefer. Gaumarjos! To your victory!
Maybe there’s no actual evidence, but I feel pretty sure that blaufränkisch (BLOUGH-frank-ish) is pinot noir’s sexy older brother—the one who rode Harleys and hung out with Hemingway (or did whatever the equivalent was two thousand years ago). This blaufränkisch from the single vineyard Spitzerberg is certainly like that—a peppery, fruity red that’s racy and dark at the same time. Blaufränkisch, Austria’s leading red, has the wonderful ability to be simultaneously velvety and structured. If I could stop what I’m doing and cook up some duck breasts with cherry sauce, I would. (13% abv)
92 points KM
If you haven’t try Blaufränkisch yet, or if you’re like me and love the raciness of the grape, or if you’re ready to cook some duck breasts, here is our selection of Blaufränkisch wines from Muhr-van der Niepoort and several other top Austrian producers on our webshop. And don’t forget the cherry sauce!
Oszkar Maurer’s winery is located in the Subotica (or Szabadka in Hungarian) wine region in Serbia, just south of the Hungarian-Serbian border. This is where he traditionally and organically farms 6 acres planted to native grape varieties such as Szerémi zöld, Bakator, Mézes fehér, Kövidinka, and Kadarka. Many of these grapes are more than a hundred years old. The Szerémi zöld and Bakator were planted in 1909, the Kövidinka in 1925, and the oldest Kadarka was planted in 1880, which makes it the oldest Kadarka in the world.
The Kövidinka grapes are sourced from a low-yielding 93-year-old vineyard, manually tended and still plowed with horses. The wine was spontaneously fermented with native yeast and made with low sulphur. Also low in alcohol (10.2%), it is light, dry, and crisp, with distinctive stony flavors, a creamy mouthfeel, and a fresh finish.
It’s a lovely wine, perfect for the last warm weather nights of the season. Sip it with appetizers, a fresh salad or a cheese platter. You can get it here.
Doqi, my new Georgian friend of the mysteriously scripted label. True, I may not be able to read the Georgian alphabet, but here’s what I know about the wine: It’s qvevri fermented and aged Rkatsiteli with bright notes of apricots and orange zest, honey and baking spices, and an appealing tea-like astringency. To make these wine, grapes are pressed and then fermented in qvevri (clay vats) with the juice, grape skins, stalks, and pips. After macerating for several months on the skins, the white wine develops its amber color. Thanks @themaritimerepublic for the intro.
We just received a new shipment of doqi wines from Georgia. You should try them out, there’re delicious. And stay on top of the wine news with Erica Duecy at SevenFifty Daily.
Hungarian wine does something to my soul, the way no other wine has ever even come close; and THIS. This. This is one of the wildest, tastiest, most profound, most bonkers wines I’ve ever had. White flowers, saddle leather, beeswax…I imagine this wine tastes like Lady Godiva’s infamous ride. The longest finish of any wine I’ve ever had, period. I’m floored.
Dry Szamorodni is a traditional wine from Tokaj. The name is a Polish word that means as comes off the vine because the wine is made from whole clusters of grapes containing both healthy and botrytized berries that are harvested and fermented together. It is then slowly aged under a veil of yeast. At the end, the wine is dry, with powerful flavors of nuts and dried fruits and savory notes like mushroom and maybe also Lady Godiva’s infamous ride 🙂
We just received a shipment from Hungary with some wonderful new wines from Tokaj and other regions. Check them out. And follow what Christina Turley is tasting these days on Instagram.