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 … Continue reading Kadarka, Cadarca, Gamza
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. Today, producers are reverting to … Continue reading Tokaj Part 2: Quality Over Quantity
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 … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #68: Fekete Hárslevelű
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? 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 … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #67: Pfneisl Blaufränker
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? 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 … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #66: Miloš Plavac with Oysters
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. 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 … Continue reading Tokaj Part 1: Sweet Relevance
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!
It’s a tall order to put together a concise sales pitch for the wines of The Republic of Georgia because the food, language, culture, grapes, winemaking, and even geography are all largely unknown to most of us. However, very few places have such a strong national identity tied to wine that is something more than just patriotism, it’s about hospitality, eating and drinking well, and doing so despite a nearly non stop bombardment of their land for centuries. Nestled between the Caspian and Black Seas, it has both subtropical and alpine climates, the tallest mountains in Europe (Caucasus), and yet is smaller than South Carolina. The biodiversity is insane with roughly 500 indigenous grapes and their Qvevri (Kartuli method) is one the most compelling techniques linking people with wine I can think of. It has even been added to UNESCO’s “List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.” It’s a truly special place with hints of Iran, Turkey, Greece, Russia, Armenia and others, but has then melded, edited and created something unique. 8,000 years of unbroken winemaking using the same technique surely warrants giving these wines some attention. At the very least, please cook up some homemade Khinakli and Khachpuri, … Continue reading The Republic of Georgia – Everyone needs to go here