The SF Chronicle: the whites of Central Europe are ideal wines for winter

Finally! Some recent rainstorms and snow falling over the Sierra Nevada gave us a small peek at winter weather as well as cravings of cheese fondue accompanied by one of those crisp and mineral Alpine wines that go so well with hard cheese. But winter with its rich food is also a great time to expand our wine horizons argues Jon Bonné, wine columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Beyond the Alps, he recommends exploring Slovenia, a country bordering the eastern section of the Alps as well as neighboring Hungary and Croatia. What the wines of these regions share, he writes, is “a bridge between that lean mineral cut of the mountains and the richness and exoticism of ripe, fleshy grapes.” These countries have been growing grapes for centuries and offer an incredible diversity of native grape varieties that are just coming to international awareness: spicy Furmint, the dominant grape in Tokaj, Muscat-like Irsai Olivér also from Hungary, crisp and floral Rebula, called Ribolla Gialla in nearby Friuli, aromatic Malvasia Istriana from the Istrian Peninsula at the north of the Adriatic sea, and many more. Check out Jon Bonné’s recommendations, you’ll find some of Blue Danube’s best selling wines: the … Continue reading The SF Chronicle: the whites of Central Europe are ideal wines for winter

NYT Resolution for 2014: drink adventurously, drink Kabaj!

Here is New York Times columnist Eric Asimov’s latest New Year resolution: 20 adventurous wines for $20 to drink this winter. Some are white, some are red, and all should warm your heart but they should also stretch your comfort zone: they will introduce you to intriguing grapes as well as little-known appellations from wine-growing regions rich in history and culture and long wine-making traditions. Besides the 2010 Kabaj Ravan from Goriška Brda in Slovenia listed in the article—“zesty and fresh with persistent, tangy flavors”—our portfolio contains plenty of intriguing wines for you to discover this winter. With fresh oysters on the half shell and crabs, enjoy a crisp and mineral Hárslevelű from Hungary. Experiment with skin macerated whites and try them with Swiss fondue or raclette. Consider the Croatian grapes Plavac Mali and Babić as delicious alternative to Zinfandel. Anyway, have fun! Happy Drinking and Happy New Year!

Leo Gracin on how to grow Babić

Dr. Leo Gracin, a professor and enologist at the Faculty of Food Technology and Biotechnology in Zagreb is a specialist of Babić, a indigenous variety that grows primarily in Central Dalmatia, near the towns of Šibenik and Primošten. The wine he produces, Gracin Babić, is actually considered one of the finest red Croatian wines today. Babić is believed to be genetically related to the more widely planted variety Plavac Mali through their common parent, the ancient wine grape Dobričić. Although the vines are very vigorous, like Plavac Mali, they can produce great wines when growing in extreme conditions: sun-drenched slopes and poor, rocky soils, which gives lower yields and more concentrated flavors. The resulting wine is dark, full-bodied, quite earthy and tannic, with more acidity than Plavac Mali. It is also well suited to barrel aging. Watch Enologist and Winemaker Dr. Leo Gracin explain how to farm Babić in his Primošten vineyard:

Sansigot: A Story of Grape Rescue on the Island of Krk

Historically, politics and wine make a bad pairing—and the combination certainly hasn’t favored the survival of indigenous grape varieties. Think of the vinepulling and planting schemes around the world that largely promoted high yields or courted commercial trends. Communism, in some countries, presented a different challenge: populations migrated to the cities or left altogether, viticulture languished, and vine varieties dwindled to a select few. The Sansigot grape, traditionally grown on the island of Krk just off the Croatian coastline, was one of Communism’s casualties until Ivica Dobrinčić of Šipun winery set about reviving the diversity of grapes that once grew on the island. Sansigot is a black variety that, before the 1950s, made up about 20 percent of black grapes growing on Krk. It has also grown on the tiny island of Susak to the southwest, where it is described as yielding “deeply colored, full-bodied wines” (Robinson, et al, Wine Grapes). On Krk, Sipun and one other winery make a varietal Sansigot that is light-bodied, with a delicate floral aroma and low tannins—a difference Ivica attributes to the separate location and new winemaking technology. During Communism, industrialization was the national priority, with the result that people moved to the cities … Continue reading Sansigot: A Story of Grape Rescue on the Island of Krk

Furmint February: there’s still time to taste the Bodrog Borműhely Lapis Furmint

There are still a few days left to celebrate Furmint February, a campaign organized throughout Hungary to promote the Furmint grape variety. Distinctively high in acidity and minerality, Furmint faithfully reflects the volcanic soils of the Tokaj region where it is mostly grown. Traditionally blended with Hárslevelű, it provides the backbone for the sweet Aszú wines. It is also increasingly used alone to produce single-varietal dry wines. Janos Hajduz and Krisztián Farkas, owners of the Bodrog Borműhely winery, farm tiny vineyard parcels and make single vineyard Furmint and Hárslevelű wines in a pure style that best express the terroir and varietal typicity. The other night, I was tasting their 2011 Lapis Furmint from the Lapis vineyard for dinner. The wine displayed aromas of dried herbs and stone fruits on the nose, and a bright acidity combined with a pronounced minerality on the palate that worked amazingly well with our sauteed Brussel sprouts and lardons. By comparison, their 2011 Hárslevelű Dereszla had greater minerality and less fruity aroma. We really enjoyed it with green olives and thin slices of dry salami.

Crljenak Kaštelanski, the original Zinfandel, now a certified grape in California

Almost 200 years after the Zinfandel wine grapes arrived in America via the Austrian Imperial Nursery, the almost extinct Dalmatian grape and original Zinfandel Crljenak Kaštelanski has arrived in California via the Foundation Plant Services at UC Davis. Crljenak was discovered in September 2000 in a vineyard of mixed planting along the Dalmatian coast by Dr. Edi Maletic and Dr. Ivan Pejic of the University of Zagreb. Along with Dr. Carole Meredith of UC Davis, they had been looking for a Croatian Zinfandel for many years, collecting and analyzing many samples of old Croatian varieties. Fortunately, DNA testing at Dr Meredith’s lab quickly revealed that Crljenak and Zinfandel were the same variety. The quest for Zinfandel’s roots was finally over. In 2008, at the request of Dave Gates, vice-president of vineyard operation at Ridge Vineyards, Drs Pejic and Maletic sent vines of Crljenak to the Grape Registration & Certification Program at UC Davis that tests the grapevines for viruses and diseases. Several other native varieties were thought to be valuable to California growers and were sent as well, including Plavac Mali, Babic, Debit, Dobricic, Glavinusa, Pribidrag, Skrlet, and Zlahtina. The now certified and disease-free Crljenak will be propagated and planted … Continue reading Crljenak Kaštelanski, the original Zinfandel, now a certified grape in California

25 Grapes and Portfolilo Tastings in San Diego

Portfolio for the trade – 25 Grapes for consumers. We are very happy to bring our wines after San Francsico and Los Angeles, now to San Diego. Together with our friends from Vinos Unico who are importing Spanish and Portuguese wines we are inviting you to two tasting events on Monday, October 25th at 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro. The first one from 2 to 4pm is called ‘Portfolio’ and is addressed to the trade. The second one is open to the public from 5 to 7pm. We call it ’25 Grapes you have never tasted before.’ You are invited to explore with us new and exciting grapes with unique tasty flavors. Both events are not to be missed. We are looking forward to see you there.

The Wine Century Club Turns 4!

The Wine Century Club celebrates its 4th anniversary this week. Becoming an honorary member of the exlusive Wine Century Club is easy and fun. This funky club has no membership fees, no monthly wine shipments, and no entry exams. The only requirement is that you’ll have to taste wines made from at least 100 different grape varietals. We help you to achieve this lofty goal. In our wine-web shop we offer more than three dozen different varietals, many you have never heard of and much less tasted before. Be adventurous and have some fun: Try something new today! Auxerrois – Babich – Bena – Blatina – Blaufrankisch – Bouvier – Cabernet Franc – Cabernet Sauvignon – Chardonnay – Cserszegi Fuszeres – Debejan – Debit – Frankovka – Furmint – Gamay – Gewurztraminer – Grasevina – Gruner Veltliner – Irsai Oliver – Harslevelu – Kadarka – Kekfrankos – Kerner – Kiralyleanyka – Krkosija – Krstac – Lasin – Malvasia – Marastina – Merlot – Muskat Lunel – Muskat Ottonel – Olaszrizling – Pinela – Pinot Blanc – Pinot Gris – Pinot Noir – Plavac Mali – Plavina – Posip – Refosk – Riesling – Rotgipfler – Rumeni Plavec – Saemling – … Continue reading The Wine Century Club Turns 4!

Blogging Back: Dunne on Wine in the Sac Bee

Thanks to Mike Dunne, restaurant and wine editor of the Sacramento Bee, we have the honor to publish our first Blog-Back. You may ask: What’s a Blog-Back? Well, in his wine column, Dunne on Wine – Blogging through a week in the life of a wine writer, just out today, Mike writes about a tasting of the Irsai Olivér. This is a new Hungarian white wine which he tasted at the famed Corti Brothers store in Sacramento. Blue Danube Wine Company happens to be the distributor of this fine wine, one in a line-up of eight fresh and fruity wines from the Hilltop Neszmély winery in Hungary. And he is so kind to link to our wine blog, the very one you are reading here. So we take the opportunity to say: “Egéségedre, Mike, i.e. Good Health to you (in Hungarian) and Thank You, too.” And Blog-back to his column at the Sacramento Bee so that our readers might check out his informative writings. We also want to make sure you are aware that you can purchase a bottle of the Irsai Oliver at Corti Brothers in Sacramento and a few other places around the Bay Area. Just look here … Continue reading Blogging Back: Dunne on Wine in the Sac Bee

Indigenous Grapes are the Way to Go

Yesterday I attended an interesting tasting in San Francisco under the heading All About Greek Wine. This is some kind of loose association of Greek wineries exporting to the US market. The 15 or so wineries presented all offered good quality wines with prices ranging from $10 to $30. The claim was made that these wines represent the ongoing renaissance of wine making in this ancient country. One theme stood out: the focus on indigenous grape varietals (rather than pouring the Cabs, Merlots, and Chards, which are also grown in Greece). I tasted many grapes for the first time in my life and my ears are still ringing from their beautiful sounding names: Agiorghitiko, Moschofilero, Malagousia, etc. Does not look like it when you see it written, does it? Get more info at: www.AllAboutGreekWine.com The lesson I learned for our efforts to import wines to the US: focus on indigenous grapes and offer wines that are special and add a unique dimension to the world of flavors.