Karen MacNeil, author of the Wine Bible and Director of the Wine Program at the Culinary Institute of America, recently wrote this “Fascinating Fact” on the history of sweet wine production: The world’s most highly prized dessert wines actually got off to a rotten start. The Sauternes region of France is best known for these wines today, but the practice of using botrytized grapes (those infected with the fungus Botrytis cinerea)to make unctuously sweet dessert wines actually began in Hungary’s Tokay region around 1650. (By comparison, the first Sauternes is thought to be an 1847 Chateau d’Yquem.) As the story goes, the Hungarian harvest was delayed that year due to a Turkish invasion. After several weeks of battle, Hungarians returned to their vineyards to find their grapes shriveled and rotting on the vine. They harvested them anyway, and, much to their surprise, found that, thanks to the fungus, the tiny amount of concentrated liquid left inside each grape tasted like honey! Sign up to receive more fascinating facts with Karen MacNeil’s WineSpeed at www.karenmacneil.com Try this “highly prized” wine for yourself! We have examples from several producers in Tokaj: Dorogi Eszencia 2008 Füleky Pallas Tokaji Late Harvest 2012 Füleky Tokaj … Continue reading Fascinating Fact from WineSpeed: Botrytis Beginnings
Check the story called “East goes West — Wines from Central and Eastern Europe are turning American heads” in the latest issue of Imbibe Magazine. With interviews of Jeff Berlin, sommelier at À Côté, Michelle Polzine, owner of 20th Century Cafe, Paul Einbund, wine director for Frances and Octavia in San Francisco, Henry Beylin, sommelier of Los Angeles’ Gjelina, and our own Frank Dietrich, wine writer Jennifer Fiedler explores how wines from Central and Eastern Europe—what she calls the older Old World—are steadily making their way westward to some of the best restaurants’ wine lists. Twenty years ago, a Plavac Mali or Rebula would have been a rare find on an American wine list of any stature, much less at a tiny local bistro or neighborhood wine shop. But what began as a small trickle of quality Central and Eastern European wine into U.S. markets—a Hungarian dry Furmint here, a Georgian Saperavi there—has gradually grown to a steady stream, buoyed by support from dedicated importers, enthusiastic sommeliers, and a public eager to explore wines outside of the traditional canon. “[These wines] are very unique, and very expressive of where they come from,” says Jeff Berlin, sommelier at À Côté in … Continue reading Wines from Central and Eastern Europe are turning American heads
Get to know Hungary’s premier red wine region, Szekszárd. The wine region of Szekszárd, known mostly for its famous Kadarka red wine, has been noted for its wine culture since Roman times and became one of the main centres of Hungarian red wine production in the 15th century. As the climate of the sunny wine region is rather balanced, excellent red grapes can grow on the mostly loess lands. Szekszárd reds are known for their velvety texture, and often show a lot of elegance. Szekszárd, along with Eger, is also one of the two regions that produce the famous Hungarian Bikavér. Read the rest of the guide, written by Hungary Today, here. For an excellent example of the region and its signature Kadarka grape, try the sophisticated wines from the Eszterbauer family.
The Eszterbauer family has farmed the chalk and loess hills of Szekszard since 1746. “Sogor” is Hungarian for brother-in-law and is so named for the close relationship between the two that existed in this family. Michael Zeebroek, who’s goal it is to “get the world to respect Hungarian wines”, recently reviewed this wine for his personal blog. This wine is almost close to perfection for me. It has class, elegance and style. The wine is in the budget range but could easily be worth double it’s price. Read the whole review here. We cannot agree more! Purchase a bottle to experience perfection for yourself: https://www.bluedanubewine.com/wine/615/
In a rare moment of not being late and or lost en route to a winery, we had the fortune to eat and drink our way through the Central Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok) in Budapest this past spring. Built in 1897 and comprised of three enormous levels (10,000 sq meters), it looks like a combination of a train station and a massive Church devoted to everything I want to eat and drink. It’s one of the finest markets in Europe. Taking into account that all of our new Blue Danube Wine arrivals from Austria and Hungary were grown within 2-3 hours drive from the market, I’d like to use the adage of what grows together goes together to introduce them. Starting in the basement level, it’s readily apparent that you’re entering ground zero for fermented fruits and vegetables. Pickle art is definitely a thing, and many venders grow their own produce. Much like a Viennese Heuriger grows and makes its own wines, the co-fermented field blends like Peter Bernreiter’s 2014 Gemischter Satz, 2014 Grüner Veltliner and 2014 Heuriger Liter all have the brightness and aromatics for furthering fermented consumption. A little further West along the Danube is the small town of … Continue reading What to drink in Budapest’s Central Market Hall
Enjoy a day tasting with Samuel Tinon in Tokaj! Writing and all photos by Colm FitzGerald of The Paprika Project. I’m sitting across the table from Samuel Tinon at his home in Olaszliszka, a tiny village in Hungary’s mystical Tokaj Wine Region. He is of medium height and build. His hair is graying and he wears rectangular glasses. Behind him, his Vizsla is curled up on a velvet armchair. To my left, a white rabbit sits on another, matching chair. Rain is coming down in waves of heavy showers and Samuel is very pleased; rain in Tokaj has been scant this summer. Together with my wife Anita, we’re sampling his wine at a long wooden dining table. Samuel is spontaneous, animated, talkative and passionate; the things I love most about the French. He speaks in concepts and rarely has simple answers to my questions. While he talks about Tokaj’s fascinating history I swirl his dry Szamorodni around in my glass and take in the dream-like scene around me: the dog and the rabbit, the sound of rain, Samuel’s French accented English and his cozy home. I then take a sip of the golden wine. It is amazingly complex and unlike … Continue reading The Life and Wines of Samuel Tinon
In the Spring of 2013 we hosted Judit and József Bodó of Hungary’s Bott Winery in California. With their giant map of the Tokaj appellation, box of soils, and rock samples, I dragged them all over the Bay Area for the usual sales gambit. In addition to all of the tastings, dinners, and semi desperate pleading with many of you for some sit down time, we also took a short trip to California wine country. The shared experiences and risks of growing grapes and making wine for a living quickly bypass the often stale formalities between strangers. Within minutes Judit and Cathy Corison were digging into gender politics of the wine business and József was on his hands and knees inspecting old vines at the Library Vineyard with Tegan Passalacqua. After their first (ever!) encounter with Mexican food, our final stop was with Steve and Jill Matthiasson. As it turns out, Jill has both Hungarian heritage and a penchant for Furmint and Hárslevelű. We tasted through the one another’s lineup, ate oranges off their tree (too cold in Tokaj for citrus), walked through the vineyards, and the Bodós attempted to hide their feverish jealously over the new Matthiasson tractor. While … Continue reading New California and New Tokaj: Furmint and Hárslevelű
The famous Hungarian appellation of Tokaj tops Decanter’s list of UNESCO heritage wine regions to visit. Home to the famous Tokaji-Aszú dessert wine (characterised by French King Louis XIV as ‘the wine of kings, the king of wines’), it is also noteworthy for its labyrinthine cellars where these historic sweet wines are stored. Read the rest of the article here. Browse Hungarian wine.
Todd Smith, wine director for DOSA South Indian restaurants in San Francisco, shares some of his wine pairing discoveries in this interview conducted by Lauren Sloss for Culintro. LS: What’s been the most surprising (and delicious!) pairing that you’ve found? TS: Maybe the first time I properly chilled a Plavac Mali from the Pelješac in Croatia and was super surprised and how it really coaxed out the tropical notes in a Kerala Fish Moilee — a coconut-based curry from the Southwest Coast of India. Todd continues: There are some regions that produce amazing wines, but their economies are struggling and/or their operating costs are so low that they offer top-flight wines for a fraction of the cost of certain unnamed wine producing regions. This is why I love countries with a wine industry such as Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Hungary, Georgia (mostly!)… Read the whole interview here.
Here is Colm FitzGerald’s, editor of The Paprika Project, visit to Füleky in Tokaj, Hungary; sure to make you want to go and try these fine wines! The steady putt of the riverboat’s engine put me at ease. It was my first time navigating a boat that didn’t have an outboard engine and I was nervous—all alone with the small craft’s wheel in my hands. I was in north-east Hungary, cruising along the Bodrog River in the famous Tokaj wine region. On the top deck, the other passengers—my wife Anita, the captain, his wife and Hajnalka Szabo and György Brezovcsik from the Füleky Winery—soaked up the early summer sun. The captain, a fit tanned man in his 60’s, handed over the wheel moments earlier. Soon, I was completely at ease captaining the boat. Thick cottonwood trees lined either side of the slow moving brown-green river, cool air blew into the open cabin and an egret swooped across the water ahead. Aside from the occasional pair of rowers sliding past in their sculls, we were all alone. Serene, beautiful and meditative—it was the perfect way to spend a June afternoon. Before our river cruise, Hajnalka and György (we’ll call him Gyuri … Continue reading Tokaj Perfection: Sampling Füleky Estate’s Liquid Gold