Mátyás Szőke is Hungarian Vintner of the Year 2017

The Hungarian Vintner of the Year award is the most prestigious award a vintner can receive in Hungary and this year, Mátyás Szőke is the first vintner from the Mátra wine region to ever win it in the award’s 27-year-old history. “Wine is a unique product,” says Mátyás. “It has a soul, a personality, a history. It develops and becomes stronger and wiser in its bottle, and it eventually dies. Fruit rots, flowers wither, food goes bad, but wine is the only thing that is like a human, even in its passing.” Mátyás has been producing wine since the 1970’s. He continues to manage the vineyards and sales while his son Zoltán, an university trained enologist, makes the wine and runs the cellar. The estate produces a wide range of mainly dry white wines from native and international varietals that are served in numerous Hungarian Embassies and featured in many of the best restaurants in Budapest. Read the whole story at: https://dailynewshungary.com/hungarian-vintner-year-2017-selected/

Furmint February!

Back in 2012 we attended the 3rd ever Furmint February tasting event in Budapest founded by Dániel Kézdy. There were 55 producers attending. At that point, I couldn’t name more than 10 producers and had tasted far less. It was equal parts significantly humbling and exciting. This year, there are 104 producers attending. The growth is clear and it’s quality driven. In 2012 Blue Danube had 2 producers with Furmint, now we have 15 and counting. Furmint February and Furmint Day (Feb 1st) are also not limited to this tasting, but a celebration of Furmint all month, all over Hungary, and beyond. It should be said that Furmint is also produced in Slovenia (Šipon), Slovakia, Germany, Croatia (Šipon/Moslavac), South Africa, Serbia, Romania, Austria (Mosler), Crimea and even a little bit right here in California just to name just a few. However, the commercial hub and linkage to national wine identity is most pronounced in Hungary. Hungarians sing about Tokaj in their National Anthem where Furmint is the most planted grape. Additionally, I also believe that Furmint captures the volcanic nature of Hungary. Above and beyond the thermal baths and killer mineral water, volcanic terroir runs through most of the country, … Continue reading Furmint February!

#furmintday is coming!

There is so much well deserved hype over volcanic appellations like the Canary Islands, Santorini, Sicily and so on, but Hungary and its surrounding regions in the Pannonian basin are rarely mentioned. Whether from Tokaj, Somló or Mátra (to name just a few), Furmint is an ideally suited grape for these regions’ rich volcanic soils. With naturally high acidity, ability to attain high sugar levels, and ability to find balance with botrytis, it also still carries its own flavors along with the salt, smoke and density from the volcanic soils. Furthermore, Furmint can do this vinified as dry, off dry, sparkling, oxidatively, under flor, reductively, and sweet. The second International Furmint Day is February 1st 2018. Celebrate Furmint on that day, taste it, like it, share it! #furmintday

The Red, White, and Botrytized from Hungary, Austria and Romania

Hurricane delays and late container planning be damned, new arrivals from Hungary, Austria and Romania have finally landed in California. From out west in Sopron and Carnuntum, down in Somló and Lake Balaton, further still to Szekszárd, heading back northeast to Tokaj, and finally all the way over to Romania’s Minis region, these wines are a validation that the farming, winemaking and understanding of terroir are getting better and better year after year. The Reds: Wetzer, Muhr-van der Niepoort, Heimann, Eszterbauer and Balla Géza Only 10 years in, but using maps from the 1840s to find the best vineyards, Peter Wetzer’s 2016 vintage is our Hungarian foil for Cru Beaujolais. It doesn’t taste like Beaujolais, but the balance of spice, earth and structure makes the same person happy. Just about an hour north in Austria’s Carnuntum, the 2015 Samt und Seide from Muhr-van Der Niepoort has more limestone than Sopron’s slate, and is proof of how reflective of terroir Blaufränkisch can be. Further south in Szeskszárd near the Croatian border, we finally have some Kadarka back in stock. Once the most planted red in Hungary and a muse to composers like Franz Liszt (Hungarian Rhapsodies…), it nearly disappeared during Communism. … Continue reading The Red, White, and Botrytized from Hungary, Austria and Romania

Harvest report in Carnuntum, Austria: Interview with Dorli Muhr

This year, we decided to interview a few of our winemakers to get their impressions of the 2017 harvest and the overall 2017 vintage. Here is Dorli Muhr, owner of the Muhr-van der Niepoort winery located in the Austrian appellation of Carnuntum east of Vienna, and known of her elegant Blaufränkisch wines: How would you describe the 2017 vintage? 2017 is a very diverse vintage. We see fantastic quality in some vineyards, and less interesting grapes in others. You will find outstanding wines from the 2017 vintage, and you will find quite poor wines. For the consumer and for the trade, tasting and comparing will be very important. How is this vintage different from last year’s? This year, we had a very hot and extremely dry summer, while in 2016 we had enough rain. The grapes were very balanced in 2016, very tasty, very relaxed in a way. In 2017, many grapes could not mature perfectly, because they did not get enough water. But for some vineyards, the hot summer and the rainfall we got finally in September, was just ideal. Those vineyards will make incredibly good wines. What’s the biggest challenge this year? We need to pick very carefully, … Continue reading Harvest report in Carnuntum, Austria: Interview with Dorli Muhr

Introducing Our New Producer Gallay

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.

Introducing Our New Producer Tornai

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!

Introducing Our New Producer Oszkár Maurer

After meeting Oszkár Maurer for the first time, my hands were sore from taking so many notes and my head was spinning. Serbia? Tokaj connections? Oldest pre phylloxera Kadarka vines in the world? Origin of Furmint? Far too much to cover in this newsletter, but here’s the pitch along with my hopes that as many people as possible try this limited wine. Oszkár’s Kadarka, planted in 1880 in sand, is from the Sremska region in Northern Serbia, but was historically the Hungarian appellation of Szerém. Before the Ottoman Occupation in the early 16th Century, this was one of the most famous appellations in Hungary. In the mid 1400s, it’s thought that settlers from here brought grapes like Furmint and Sárga Muskotály to Tokaj and knowledge for using Aszú (dried berries) for sweetening wines. Oszkár believes that the Szerém appellation was established as early as 1452. He’s a fervent student of wine history and lectures at home and abroad. Back in Serbia, he organically farms a number of grapes ranging from Bakator, Szerémi Zöld, Kadarka, and Mézes Fehér. Everything is done by hand or horse. Fruit trees grow amongst the vines and fallen peaches litter the ground. Bugs, rabbits, and life … Continue reading Introducing Our New Producer Oszkár Maurer

Meet Turkey’s Visionary Vintner Güler Sabancı

Ancient but challenged, wine culture perseveres in Turkey writes journalist Deborah Parker Wong in SOMM Journal. In her article, she talks to businesswoman and founder of Gülor Winery Güler Sabancı regarding the future of Turkey’s wine business: “[Over the last decade] Turkish consumers have been learning about quality from fine imported wines,” says vintner and philanthropist Güler Sabancı whose Gülor winery in Thrace is sited in the historical center of Turkish wine production. “Considering that there have been no incentives for the industry and our ability to market wine at home is quite limited, I’m very optimistic.” Modern wine culture emerged in the early 1990s when visionary producers picked up where the Turkish government left off after the introduction of French grape varieties to Thrace in the 1950s. Although Gülor is credited with the country’s first commercial production of Bordeaux-style wines, Sabancı champions the country’s indigenous grapes grape varieties as a way for Turkey to differentiate its wines on the global market. The boutique winery has recently begun exporting wine to the U.S. and is looking at Russia and the U.K. as well. Read the whole article and learn more about the Turkish industry and its wines here. Sabancı’s wines … Continue reading Meet Turkey’s Visionary Vintner Güler Sabancı

“I am Tribidrag” Conference

Jancis Robinson’s logic in deciding that Tribidrag should be the prime name of the grape variety that also appears in almost identical forms as Zinfandel, Primitivo, Kratošija, Crljenak kaštelanski or Pribidrag is very simple. The “priority right” has won – the oldest name gets the title! While the first written reference to the name Primitivo dates from 1799 and to Zinfandel from 1837, the first reference to Tribidrag dates all the way back to the 15th century. Etymologically, the name Tribidrag comes from the Greek language and means “early ripening”. The Italian name for this grape variety came from the Latin language (primativus) and means the same “the first to ripen”. The etymological origin of the name Zinfandel has never been discovered and it is considered a mystery… Željko Garmaz — Wine Stories 15 years after it was discovered that Zinfandel was the old Croatian grape variety called Tribidrag or Crljenak, learn the story of Tribidrag and taste the finest Zinfandel, Primitivo and Tribidrag wines at the first International Conference on Tribidrag Wine Variety which will be held on April 27th & 28th, 2017 in Split, Croatia. Speakers include Jancis Robinson, Carole Meredith, José Vouillamoz and more! Click here to … Continue reading “I am Tribidrag” Conference