Don’t fear the Juhfark

The book Wine Grapes refers to Juhfark (Yew-fark) as “perhaps the least modern or internationally appealing of Hungarian varieties.” Sold! We now have five very different Juhfarks. Overkill? Knee-jerk buying? Blind faith? All plausible in tandem with loving to drink them. With hindsight, these selections also represent a learning curve. Not a curve based on quality, but rather on adding or subtracting elements from this grape to better understand what the hell is going on. There’s nothing else like it Hungary or a distinct relationship to another known grape. When we first started with Fekete Béla in 2012, I couldn’t find evidence of another Juhfark ever on the market. Somló, where the vast majority is grown and where most of ours come from, has over 1200 individual growers, just over 40 commercial producers, and the whole place is about half the size of the Jura. Not an easy maze to navigate. Now we’re encountering the grape more and more along Hungary’s Lake Balaton, Neszmély, and Etyek-Buda appellations along with southern Slovakia and Austria’s Styria. For me, winter is arguably the best time to drink Juhfark. Part of that is that I mostly visit Somló in the dead of winter, but … Continue reading Don’t fear the Juhfark

#WineWednesday Spotlight #161: Fekete Hárslevelű

Blogger and wine educator Matthew Gaughan likes to write about the different wine regions and grape varieties of the world. “What an extraordinary wine this is,” he recently posted on Instagram while tasting Béla Fekete’s Hárslevelű 2013. Béla Fekete aka Béla Bácsi (Uncle Béla) is almost 94 years old and 2013 was the last vintage he made from start to finish. So you can imagine how special that bottle is! https://www.instagram.com/p/BqqP2Q9HLlt/ Follow Matthew Gaughan on Instagram and find Uncle Béla’s last vintages here.

An Interview With Sales Manager Eric Danch

Blue Danube California Sales and Hungarian Portfolio Manager Eric Danch discusses the state of the California market, the appeal indigenous grapes, and advice for Hungarian wineries with hungarianwines.eu. How about the beginning? How did you become a wine expert? The beginning is a combination of living abroad for a few years (Copenhagen and Rome) and then spending 6 years working for a 3-hour European cabaret meets Vaudevillian circus called Teatro Zinanni in San Francisco. We always had dinner and wine after the show and the wine always tasted better with a good story. After working a few harvests in California as I mentioned earlier, I was very lucky to be introduced to Blue Danube Wine Co. All of these experiences share a synergy of different cultures, storytelling and personalities adding context to delicious food and wine. Hungary in particular has these qualities in spades. We are a website to promote Hungarian wines, and of course we are the most curious about the acceptance of our wines in the USA. What are your experiences? Do your customers look for indigenous varieties? Indigenous grapes have been the focus of Blue Danube from the very beginning. While Hungary can of course produce lovely … Continue reading An Interview With Sales Manager Eric Danch

Pannon-demic Outbreak: Bott Frigyes, Wetzer, Kolonics, Apátsági and Heimann

The final container of 2018 is a coincidental snapshot of some of my favorite things happening in the region. We’ve added another Somlói tier than falls in between Fekete Béla and Apátsági with Kárloy Kolonics (I know….pronounced Kolo-nitsch). We’re finally venturing into Slovakia’s Južnoslovenská region with Bott Frigyes and we’ve finally convinced Peter Wetzer to cough up some Tokaji Furmint and single vineyard Soproni Kékfrankos. Last but not least, a new vintage of our go-to Szekszárdi Kadarka from the tireless Heimann family – a grape that I believe will be a signature red from all over Central Europe going forward. BOTT FRIGYES, Južnoslovenská, Slovakia 2017 Bott Frigyes Hárslevelű 2017 Bott Frigyes Kadarka Bott Frigyes Kékfrankos I’ve always been curious about the pre and post Trianon Treaty wine traditions of Hungary. In short, after WWI, Hungary lost around 71% of its territory to Romania, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia (Slovakia), Yugoslavia (Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia) and Austria. Over 3 million ethnic Hungarians found themselves outside of Hungary. I’m by no means treading into political/nationalism waters here, but instead focusing on the grapes and traditions that never stopped or are now coming back to life beyond the present day borders of Hungary. On the southern slopes … Continue reading Pannon-demic Outbreak: Bott Frigyes, Wetzer, Kolonics, Apátsági and Heimann

#WineWednesday Spotlight #158: Kolonics Juhfark

A few weeks ago, journalist Chris Wilson attended his first wine tasting brunch: ten Hungarian-inspired small plates and ten different Hungarian wines, hosted by the Hungarian Embassy in London. Impressed by the breadth of styles and flavors of the wines, this was for him a revelation. Also organizing the tasting was British wine writer Oz Clarke, an Hungarian food and wine enthusiast who sees a bright future for Hungarian wine around the world. Among his top 10 Hungarian wines that he recommends, here is the Kolonics Juhfark: Once we’d got over the similarity of the producer’s name Kolonics to the word ‘colonic’ and stopped sniggering into our shirtsleeves here was a wine that was rich and full with concentrated tropical and stone fruit characters and a chewy, Burgundian texture. Made from the Juhfark grape – which means ‘sheep’s tail’ due to the long, cylindrical shape of its bunches – this hails from Somló where 80% of the world’s Juhfark is planted. Károly Kolonics (pronounced Kolo-nitsch) is one of our newest producers from Hungary. He is a 4th generation winemaker whose grandparents were born and raised in Somló. His labels show photos of his great-grandparents from the late 1800s. Today, Károly … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #158: Kolonics Juhfark

#WineWednesday Spotlight #157: Heimann Bikaver

“When it comes to Hungarian wines, Tokaji immediately comes to your mind, but what about reds?” asks wine lover Dmitry over at russian_in_wine. Both Eger and Szekszárd can legally make Bikavér (Bulls Blood), Hungary’s traditional full-bodied red wine, a Kékfrankos based blend that is rich, spicy and fruity. But what sets Heimann’s Szekszárdi Bikaver apart is the addition of the tannic Sagrantino, a red grape indigenous to the region of Umbria in Italy: Bikavér (bool’s blood) is a full bodied red blend produced in the northern part of the country in Eger (Egri Bikavér) and in its southern part in Szekszárd (Szekszárdi Bikavér). It’s 300 km between these 2 regions, so as you might expect climatic differences are notable. Talking about grape varieties it makes sense to mention that a lot of international and local varieties are allowed in the blend. Blaufränkisch (locally named Kékfrankos) usually forms a foundation of the blend and adds tannin and spiciness to the wine. Kadarka (also known as Gamza) requires careful yield control, with the right viticultural approaches it adds concentration and softness to the blend. International varieties in the blend might be represented by Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and some others. … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #157: Heimann Bikaver

#WineWednesday Spotlight #156: Gallay Zweigelt

“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 … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #156: Gallay Zweigelt

Moldy grapes are better

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 … Continue reading Moldy grapes are better

#WineWednesday Spotlight #149: Tinon Dry Szamorodni

Christina Turley, Director of Sales and Marketing at Turley Wine Cellars is a fan of Hungarian wines, especially the amazing Tinon Dry Szamorodni: 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.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #147: Demeter Zoltán Late Harvest Eszter

Over at Wine Berserkers, wine lover Robert Pavlovich writes about his trip to Tokaj and his winery visits to Demeter, Majoros, and Bott. His first visit was with Demeter Zoltán: It was an honor to get a visit here as the property is immaculate, with great respect for the past and an eye toward the future. It’s rather small but maximizes its space expertly, and gives the impression that the pursuit of quality here is second to none. The 2013 Late Harvest Eszter—named after Zoltán’s daughter—was so good, it was the bottle he took home: Apricot, dates, honey aromatics are very pleasing and accessible. Effortless on the palate as well, it delivers brilliant sweetness with good complexity of fruit and acidity. Perhaps not quite as thought provoking or complex as good Aszu, which is partly due to being raised in stainless steel, and selection. However, this is just a brilliant effort and the one we took home with us. Read the rest of the visit and Robert’s tasting notes at wineberserkers.com Our next shipment from Hungary containing the 2013 vintage of Zoltán’s Late Harvest Eszter arrives in California in a few days. Stay tuned!