“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

First Ever International #FurmintDay is February 1st

Back in 2012 Blue Danube attended a large tasting called “Furmint Február” at the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture in Budapest. 55 producers and 100% Furmint (Foor-mint). At this point, we had 6 wines made from Furmint in the portfolio. At this year’s event, there will be 94 producers and we have 25 wines made from Furmint in the portfolio. Too much? Most certainly, and we hope our lack of self-control inspires you to give this grape an extra push this month. Very few grapes continue to humble us as much as Furmint and they get better every year. It also turns out that Furmint is in good, albeit better known, company. DNA profiling has identified it as an offspring of Gouais Blanc and therefore likely a half sibling of Riesling, Chardonnay and Gamay Noir among others. It’s remarkable acidity, balance of residual sugar, and terroir driven nature certainly pulls from these genetics. Add to this a massive range of styles from dry, under flor, sparkling, and a whole magical spectrum of refreshingly sweet botrytized wines and it’s undeniably deserving of our attention. “Furmint is one of central Europe’s greatest white grapes. It’s more savoury than fruity, deeply stony in certain … Continue reading First Ever International #FurmintDay is February 1st

Tokaj Part 2: Quality Over Quantity

This is the second article on Tokaj by Blue Danubian Eric Danch featured on GuildSomm.com. This one focuses on how a new generation is embracing the appellation’s pedigree while also improving farming and winemaking and then outlines the different wine styles of Tokaj. Tokaj-Hegyalja is the product of 20 million years of volcanic activity. This means that whether in the loess-covered south or the diverse range of rocks and clay locally called nyirok, the subsoil is largely tuff, guaranteeing that vines will struggle. Many of the most famous dűlői (crus) in the appellation are on the slopes of these formally active volcanoes, adding to their struggle with erosion, drainage, and exposure. As the aim was to supply industrial levels of production for consumption in the former USSR and the other former Bloc countries, growers quickly resorted to fertilizing, spraying heavily, and planting on the flats where large Russian-built tractors could easily operate. Vine density decreased, and famed terraces and steep sloped vineyards went fallow or were eventually consumed by the Zemplén Forest. Many forgotten vineyards are visible while driving through the region or walking up into the forest from existing sites. It’s a surreal sight. Today, producers are reverting to … Continue reading Tokaj Part 2: Quality Over Quantity

Tokaj Part 1: Sweet Relevance

There is a new article on Tokaj by Blue Danubian Eric Danch featured on GuildSomm.com. It is the first of two installments and it provides some useful background on the appellation and outlines the history of one of Europe’s oldest wine regions: Hungarians are chronic storytellers. Perhaps it’s in their DNA, or the result of relying on oral history to preserve their national identity as kingdoms, empires, occupations, and wars have defined their land. Another identity-ridden Hungarian pastime is wine. The appellation of Tokaj-Hegyalja (“foothills of Tokaj”) in northeastern Hungary and southwestern Slovakia represents both; Hungarians even sing about the sweet nectar of Tokaj in their national anthem. Very few wine regions possess as much unbroken history, so significant a heyday, and such a decided fall into obscurity. As such, the focus of most Tokaj literature is about past greatness and hopes of reclaiming it. Much of what has been written also highlights King Louis XIV’s famous phrase, Vinum Regum, Rex Vinorum (“Wine of Kings, King of Wines”), and ends with a discussion of the collectivized quantity-over-quality industrial production under Communism. While both are true and important in understanding the region, Tokaj is no longer static, looking backwards, or dreaming … Continue reading Tokaj Part 1: Sweet Relevance

A Brief Intro to Georgian Wines and Where to Get Them

“Yes, these are the orange wines you’ve been hearing about but don’t call them that to a Georgian,” writes wine writer and editor Eileen Duffy. This Thanksgiving city dwellers might do well to consider wines from Georgia (as in the country) to accompany their turkey feast. Thanks to a recent push by Brooklynite and Master of Wine Lisa Granik, more and more retailers and sommeliers are putting the wines on their shelves and wine lists. Granik works as the market adviser for the National Wine Agency and has been bringing visitors to see the dramatic landscapes and vineyards where, many say, wine was first made around 6,000 BCE as evidenced by pips dating to that era. Georgian wines are mostly white and fermented and aged with the skin on, which results in an amber colored wine. Yes, these are the orange wines you’ve been hearing about but don’t call them that to a Georgian, or to Granik for that matter. “These are amber wines,” she says. “Not orange. First, because they’re not made from oranges and because they really are amber in color.” What makes these wines great with turkey, stuffing, roasted Brussels sprouts and even pumpkin pie? Read the … Continue reading A Brief Intro to Georgian Wines and Where to Get Them

Bringing Tokaj to the US – Samuel Tinon

I just happened to be listening to an interview with British wine writer Hugh Johnson last week (a major investor in Tokaj in his own right) speaking about getting the Royal Tokaji Company off the ground in the early 1990s. One of the names he mentions as ‘saving the day’ concerning the inaugural vintage was Samuel Tinon. Samuel has been going nonstop in Tokaj ever since and was even the first Frenchman to permanently settle in the appellation post Communism. Although born in the sweet wine appellation of Sainte Croix du Mont in France, he and his wife Mathilde have chosen Tokaj for wine and for raising their three children. As patient zero for botrytized winemaking, Tokaj’s sweet wines were the favored drink and muse for Leo Tolstoy, Pablo Neruda, Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, Diderot, and Voltaire among many others. Samuel is equally convinced of the unique quality of the place, people and wines living there today. It’s also been nearly 20 years since he’s been to California. I’ll be dragging him around the Bay November 14th-15th and presenting seven new wines plus perhaps a few special extras. Ranging from dry/off dry Furmint and Hárslevelű to Dry Szamorodni and … Continue reading Bringing Tokaj to the US – Samuel Tinon

Geoffrey Roberts Award for Vinologue Georgia, a new wine guide to the “cradle of wine”

In 2016, the Geoffrey Roberts Award, which commemorates the work of wine merchant Geoffrey Roberts and his lifelong interest in wine, went to Miquel Hudin, author of the Vinologue collection of enotourism books. Miquel applied for the award to help him create a comprehensive wine tourism guide to the up-and-coming wine region of Kakheti in Georgia with full winery and region profiles as well as hundreds of wine tasting notes. This will be Miquel’s 9th Vinologue book. Previous titles include Dalmatia, Empordà, Herzegovina, Menorca, Montsant, Priorat, and Stellenbosch. The award has helped fund the initial research but in order to complete this project, Miquel has also created a kickstarter. If you’re interested in the wines of Georgia and/or plan to visit the country, you can support this project or preorder the book at the Vinologue online shop.

Beast of Brda — Kabaj is Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries 2016

For the third year in a row, Kabaj has been chosen as one of the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries for 2016. While the trade and consumer aspects of the event are of course vital, one of the best things about the Top 100 is simply getting producers from all over the world under one roof to taste each others wines. And year after year, this has come to reinforce how unique the Kabaj wines are and how they compliment the wider world of wine. At the same time, the Kabaj wines are often pigeonholed as simply orange, skin contact, macerated, and or amber rather than simply grape and place. A technique over terroir argument to some. While it’s technically true in that Jean-Michel embraces skin contact, oxygen, and patience rather than a fresh, temperature controlled reductive style, we could also just call his wines “wines” without further labeling. These are the traditional grapes, farmed well, handled clean and simple in the cellar, and barreled down and topped up until incredibly stable and delicious. As such, there are immense distinctions between vintages, vivid grape typicity, and the wines are alive and evolving. To be clear, there are plenty of … Continue reading Beast of Brda — Kabaj is Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries 2016

A postcard leads to a discovery of a Jewish family’s lost vineyard in Hungary

The story started with a photo of the Jewish cemetery in Mád, Tokaj. The photo can be found on Gabor and Carolyn Banfalvi’s food and wine tour website Taste Hungary, where they offer a Tokaj Jewish Heritage & Wine Tour. The photo shows headstones with names of local Jewish families including the Zimmermanns who owned a property in Mád, today the location of the Royal Tokaji winery. Beverly Fox and her mother Zsuzsanna Zimmermann — a Hungarian-American Holocaust survivor who is now called Susy Oster — recognized the cemetery and also one of the nearby buildings in front of a war monument as Zsuzsanna’s childhood house before she was deported in 1944 with her mother Blanka. In fact, Oster still has a postcard of the monument and the house. But on Royal Tokaji’s website, in the section on the winery’s history, there was a mysterious gap between the 1700s and the Communist and post-Communist eras. After this surprising historic find, the family approached the company. After a year of hard negotiations, Royal Tokaji has finally revised its historical section and on June 24 2016, unveiled two plaques on one of the exterior walls of the winery: “This was the home … Continue reading A postcard leads to a discovery of a Jewish family’s lost vineyard in Hungary

Reviving an 8,000-year-old winemaking tradition in Georgia

Author and New York Times food columnist Melissa Clark recently interviewed John Wurdeman, an American painter who moved to the Georgian Republic to follow his two passions—wine and art—and funded the winery Pheasant’s Tears. Melissa Clark: How did this all start for you? John Wurdeman: I’m a visual artist, a painter by profession. I fell deeply in love with Georgia when I heard a recording when I was sixteen years old. I bought a CD called Georgian Folk Music Today. Immediately, the chords of the music just struck me very deeply. In 1995, I was able to go to Georgia for the first time. Strangely enough, on the very first night, I was whisked away from the airport and taken to a restaurant. About 10-15 toasts deep into the feast, musicians were summoned to come in, and they were the same musicians that were on the CD I bought when I was 16, back in Richmond, Virginia. MC: That’s amazing. And how did you go from there to making wine? JW: I came back in 1996. I needed a subject for my final painting. My master’s project that I was working on was in Moscow, so I decided to follow … Continue reading Reviving an 8,000-year-old winemaking tradition in Georgia