The SF Chronicle: the whites of Central Europe are ideal wines for winter

Szőke Mátyás
Szőke Mátyás (left) in his cellar
Finally! Some recent rainstorms and snow falling over the Sierra Nevada gave us a small peek at winter weather as well as cravings of cheese fondue accompanied by one of those crisp and mineral Alpine wines that go so well with hard cheese.

But winter with its rich food is also a great time to expand our wine horizons argues Jon Bonné, wine columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Beyond the Alps, he recommends exploring Slovenia, a country bordering the eastern section of the Alps as well as neighboring Hungary and Croatia.

What the wines of these regions share, he writes, is “a bridge between that lean mineral cut of the mountains and the richness and exoticism of ripe, fleshy grapes.”

These countries have been growing grapes for centuries and offer an incredible diversity of native grape varieties that are just coming to international awareness: spicy Furmint, the dominant grape in Tokaj, Muscat-like Irsai Olivér also from Hungary, crisp and floral Rebula, called Ribolla Gialla in nearby Friuli, aromatic Malvasia Istriana from the Istrian Peninsula at the north of the Adriatic sea, and many more.

Check out Jon Bonné’s recommendations, you’ll find some of Blue Danube’s best selling wines: the Rebula from Kabaj in Slovenia, the Irsai Olivér from Szőke Mátyás in Hungary, and the Malvasia from Coronica in Croatia:

2010 Kabaj Goriška Brda Rebula
“Fermented on skins for 30 days, this version of Ribolla is as user-friendly as orange wine gets: the pronounced acidity and wet-rock mineral aspect of Ribolla, plus the beautiful aromas of a Turkish sundry shop: dried apricots, sesame seeds, a cress-like minty side.”

2012 Szőke Mátyás Mátra Irsai Olivér
“a floral whomp of lilies and roses, plus white chalk, peach and green apple. It’s leaner than Muscat but not as fat as Gewurz.”

2012 Coronica Istria Malvasia
“Malvasia Istriana, Istria’s strain of this grape, shows less of a floral side and more tangy minerality: resin and honeycomb richness balance out melon, lime rind and orris root. It’s just flourishy enough.”

Read the whole article.