Basalt buttes, a massive lake, and volcanic traditional method. 3 New arrivals from Hungary

Somlo Hill
Vineyards on Somló Hill

There are a slew of brand new producers from Hungary landing in the coming months. For many, this will be their very first time in the United States. This is of course an exciting and somewhat terrifying proposition. How will a Kéknyelű from Badacsony be received? Traditional Method sparkling Furmint from outside of Tokaj? Hárslevelű with Benedictine roots planted on a Basalt volcano? I have no idea and I can’t wait to get started.

Zoltan Balogh
Zoltán Balogh

Upon our last visit to the Hungarian appellation of Somló we were fortunate enough to run into Zoltán Balogh from Apátsági Winery. Their estate and cellar were originally owned by the Benedictine Pannonhalma Archabbey. After WWII, the land was expropriated and redistributed during Communism. It was brought back to life in 2001 with 5 people (including the grandson of the last winemaker before the war), 3 hectares, no herbicides, no pesticides, and using large oak fermenters. Their 2013 Hárslevelű exemplifies what Zoltán admires about the appellation as a whole, “When you have Somló acid, why not find balance with sugar.” A concentrated and alive wine.

Kreinbacher on its lees
Kreinbacher on its lees

Speaking of acid, but without skin contact and botrytis, Somló is also home to Kreinbacher. While they do make some still wines, their overarching specialty is traditional method sparkling wines. Not surprisingly influenced by Champagne (they even use Coquard presses from Champagne), but the focus is on Furmint. They’ve also selected growers on the cooler, windier eastern slopes that aren’t often affected by botrytis. The goal is zero botrytis while focusing on the salty smoke of Somló and the acidity of Furmint. To start, we’ll be introducing the Extra Dry (16 g/l dosage) and Classic (10 g/l dosage). Between Kreinbacher, Apátsági, Fekete Béla and Spiegelberg, you can finally build that Somló section on the wine list you’ve been holding out on.

Sunset Lake Balaton
Sunset over Badcsony at Lake Balaton

Lastly, we are finally venturing into the giant Balaton region for the first time. Lake Balaton is more like a small ocean (48 miles long, 8.7 miles wide) south west of Budapest (an hour south of Somló) and has been covered in vines since the 1st Century. It’s also checkered with Volcanic Buttes that are often referred to “organ pipes.” Imagine Monument Valley or Devils Postpile covered in grapes overlooking a massive lake. It’s a stunning place to make wine and it makes sense. The lake prevents extreme weather, reflects light and heat, and provides the fish that go with the wines.

Julia Dora Molnar and mother Beata
Julia Dóra Molnar, co-owner of Csendes Dűlő and her mother Beáta

One of the 6 appellations of Balaton is called Badacsony and where we find Csendes Dűlő Szőlőbirtok. This is also the only place where the white Kéknyelű grape is grown. Along with Olaszrizling, Szürkebarát (Pinot Gris), and Hárslevelű, Beáta and Dóra (mother and daughter) farm their 3 hectares without herbicides or pesticides. Where Somló is weighty and powerful, here the wines are a refreshing counterbalance without sacrificing the volcanic-ness and typicity of the grapes. To start we will be introducing their 2013 Kéknyelű and 2013 Hárslevelű.

I hope you’ll get a chance to taste these wines soon.