Somló, a lone volcanic butte and Hungary’s smallest appellation, is a unique terroir of hardened lava, basalt, and ancient sea sediment. The Apátsági winery on the Somló hill was originally owned by the Benedictine Pannonhalma Archabbey (Apátsági means Abbey in Hungarian). After being expropriated during Communism, it was brought back to life in 2001 by Zoltán Balogh, grandson of local winemakers, and four other people including the grandson of the last pre-war winemaker. Zoltán believes in “terroir wines”, natural wines with a distinctive sense of place. The vineyard is dry farmed without herbicides or pesticides. The grapes are hand picked very ripe and then spontaneously fermented in 600-2000 liter oak barrels. Thanks to their high acidity, the wines are rich, lively and well-balanced. His Hárslevelű just received a great review in Wine & Spirits Magazine: Zoltan Balogh has developed a style for ripe, full-bodied wines at Apatsagi. It works well in this hárslevelu, a wine that reminded some panelists of chenin blanc in its rich, broad texture and multifaceted flavor. Grown on basalt and vinified with ambient yeasts in 600-to-2,000-liter barrels, the wine feels like a late-harvest cuvée, rich and sweet in its notes of pineapple, pear and strawberry, but … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #88: Apátsági Hárslevelű
Like Zoltán Balogh of Apátsági winery, all producers under the Terra Hungarica flag adhere to sustainable farming without artificial fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and harvesting machinery, as well as natural winemaking, avoiding chaptalisation, the use of added yeasts, additives and manipulation techniques. Here is a video of Zoltán Balogh made by Terra Hungarica, explaining his winemaking philosophy:
Great review and 90 points from Wine & Spirits Magazine for the Kikelet Kassai Hárslevelű 2015: French-born Stéphanie Berecz has a soft spot for hárslevelű, with half of her 12 acres of vines given over to the aromatic variety. She makes this wine from a single, south-facing parcel of loess, fermenting it with ambient yeasts and aging it on the lees in French and Hungarian oak barrels for for to five months. That treatment has built a lot of texture into this 2015, a wrap of honeyed richness to temper the weft of tannins that give it grip. The flavors range from Bosc pear to orange oil and tangelo, with scents of lemongrass and lime leaf that give it lift. Pour it with something rich, like pork chops baked with peaches. 90 points Her 2015 Furmint had also a great review: Stéphanie Berecz packs her estate cuvée with extract, giving the wine a broad frame and an almost meaty feel. It’s ripe but not pushed, the juicy peach notes held in balance by a firm minerality. It feels supple despite its size, a generous partner for a thick fish steak doused in brown butter. 90 points Enjoy Stéphanie’s wines, they’re … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #87: Kikelet Kassai Hárslevelű
“Furmint, one of the primary varieties used in sweet Tokaji Aszú wine is also being used by young winemakers in Hungary to make dry, crisp white wines that are attracting global notice,” writes Jeff Jenssen, spirits, wine, food and travel writer at Wine Enthusiast Magazine in his latest article: Furmint’s origin is firmly planted in Hungary’s Tokaj region. There are about 10,000 acres devoted to Furmint there, and until recently, all of it was used to make sweet botrytized wines similar to Sauternes from France. That, however, is changing. The Great Tokaj Wine Auction, sponsored by the Confrérie de Tokaj, featured a number of dry wines last year. Although winemakers continue to produce the sweet wines of their forebears, much of the Furmint grown is made into fragrant and refreshing dry wines, ideal as an apéritif or paired with salty and spicy foods. The 2015 Kikelet Furmint, produced by French eonologist Stéphanie Berecz in Tarcal, is one of the wines he recommends: This wine is made from 100% Furmint and has an intriguing bouquet of jasmine and lemon blossom. It is crisp and acidic on the palate with pleasant flavors of lemon zest and lime juice. Read the whole article … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #86: Kikelet Furmint
József Borbély purchased his first vineyards in 1990 in Nyéklákháza, in the Bükk appellation, a wine district located in North-Eastern Hungary, right between Eger and Tokaj. The region has been making wines since the 14th century and today, it is awakening thanks to a handful of quality producers like József Borbély, who are working hard on reviving the region. The winery is named after József’s mother-in-law Isabella Gallay. The Gallay family owned a winery and vineyards before World War I but they lost everything after the war. Now the Borbély family is working on rebuilding the family heritage. While József cultivates grapes, his younger son Roland, who has a degree in viticulture and oenology and professional experiences in Napa, Tokaj and Eger, is the family winemaker. Near the village of Nyékládháza, they grow Pinot Blanc and Zenit, a unique Hungarian white grape variety created in 1951. The two are blended together to create a fresh and fruity wine called Bistronauta and a creamy white sur lees called Gallay Blanc. They also produce a bright and spicy red from the Zweigelt grape.
In 1945, Endre Tornai, the only survivor of his family, walked home to Hungary from the Russian front. Linka, a girl he fancied from before the war waited for him and they got married at Christmas of the same year. They bought a one acre vineyard on the Somló hill, and in 1946 they had both their first child and their first harvest. Anna, one of his grandchildren says “my grandfather was in love with the Somló, and so is my father”. This love made the Tornai family endure, and led them to dedicate their life to the Somló. After communism ended in ’89, they could buy back their old lands and now are farming 70 acres. They are open to innovation while working with the traditional grapes of the Somló: Juhfark, Furmint, Olaszrizling, Hárslevelű. The Somló is the smallest appellation of Hungary – basically one basalt hill popping up from a flat landscape. It’s one of the most expressive terroirs in the world, a truly magical place. We are excited to have another producer from this tiny yet powerful region. The Tornai Juhfark and Furmint will be available later this month!
Olaszliszka is an important village along the Bodrog River in Tokaj that dates to at least the 12th century when it was simply named Liszka. It was renamed Olaszliszka after a group of Italians settled in the village —’olasz’ means Italian in Hungarian — in the mid-13th century. The village has been renowned for its top crus for hundreds of years. The terroir is rich with volcanic rocks mixed with clay soils and planted mostly to the Hárslevelű grape. The Amici Vinorum Olaszliszka (Latin for Olaszliszka Friends of Wine) is the combined efforts of 10 local winemakers to reaffirm the village’s historical identity. Members of the association are combining their fruit sourced from vineyards like Csontos, Határi, Meszes, and Palandor that date as far back as 1641, to produce one single “village” wine. As just a village wine, should we dismiss it? Better not says Hungarian wine lover Peter Klingler, over at Borwerk: half-dried lime peel, flower meadow, peaches in summer sun, marzipan. The peaches gain the upper hand with time. A wine of depth and respect…Honey comes up, sulphured apricots, yellow-orange dried fruit, pineapple, banana. The sweetness persists in an easy existence, gently floating, pleasantly unobtrusive. And then there’s … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #79: Tinon Olaszliszka Hárslevelű
Do you know that as many as 13 of the wineries in our current portfolio are run or co-run by women? Witnessing an increasing number of talented women involved in the wine industry on International Women’s Day is exciting. They may have taken different paths — some took over their family estate from their parents, others founded their wineries from scratch — but they are all passionate about their work. Whether they have a degree in oenology or learned the trade while working with their family, these women are making important contributions to viticulture and winemaking. In Austria, grower and winemaker Ilse Maier pioneered organic farming in Kremstal when she took over Geyerhof, the family estate, in 1986. Dorli Muhr resuscitated her family vineyards in Carnuntum and now produces some of Austria’s finest Blaufränkisch. In Tokaj, Hungary, winemakers Judit Bodó and Stéphanie Berecz founded respectively Bott and Kikelet wineries with their husbands and are now making some of the best wines of the region. In 2014, Stéphanie was awarded by her fellow winemakers the prestigious title of “winemaker of the winemakers”. Sarolta Bárdos who owns and runs Tokaj Nobilis was the winner of the prestigious award of 2012 Winemaker of … Continue reading Meet our Women Vintners
This is another great contribution from Kerry Winslow over at Grapelive: Fekete Bela Juhfark 2012: The 2012 Juhfark, looks set to be the second to last harvest for the rumored to be retiring Bela, is a beauty, more vibrant than the 2011 I last tasted, and with wonderful precision as well as subtle density and extract, it was left on the lees without batonage and the finesse shows here, allowing a rich mouth feel, but vital and vigorous.The nose is Riesling like, but showing it’s volcanic spiciness along with fresh citrus, tropical notes and tangy stone fruits, this iron/steel white feels light to medium bodied and is amazingly dynamic for it’s age, very youthful, as well as having a hint of chalk/stones, bitter herbs, white cherry, kiwi/mango, a hint of almond, delicate florals and tart lemon/lime. This is a white wine of inner energy and class, unique and with a tense of history and place. 93 Points, grapelive You can also follow Kerry Winslow on Instagram here.
Today is International Furmint Day and we’re also celebrating my son’s birthday. So let’s pop the bubbles and enjoy a 100% Furmint sparkling wine! A 100% Furmint sparkling wine is pretty intriguing. The fact that the Kreinbacher Brut Prestige comes from the Somló hill, Hungary’s smallest appellation and one of the best volcanic terroir is even more fascinating. The wine is made with carefully selected Furmint grapes — zero botrytis — coming from the cooler, windier eastern slope of the Somló volcano and meticulously vinified in the traditional Méthode Champenoise with the help of Champagne house Paul Bara. In short, the wine has a unique distinctiveness and it’s also delicious, showing its light golden color, fine bubbles and an inviting yeasty nose of apple compote. The palate is dry and toasty with a firm acidity and pleasing honey aromas. So, are you ready to toast with me? Happy #FurmintDay!