#WineWednesday Spotlight #130: Balla Géza Mustoasă de Măderat

When Master of Wine Elizabeth Gabay visited Romania, she met with one of Romania’s leading winemakers, Dr. Géza Balla, who she says is the Transylvanian Hungarian: Géza was one of the first winemakers of Romania who realized, immediately after the revolution, the importance of the quality of the whole range of his wines. Visiting Bella Géza’s Princess Winery is a refreshing surprise. This bright, modern winery, founded in 1999 and designed to welcome the large number of wine tourists who visit every weekend, nestles at the foot of a range of hills overlooking the river Mures. Dr. Géza Balla is an Hungarian-Romanian from Minis, a old wine district in western Romania on the Hungarian border, that was part of the historical region of Transylvania. Fluent in both languages, his wines reflect the two cultures. He is found equally at home amongst Romanian wine producers as well as being a member of the prestigious Hungarian Wine Academy. Of his 105ha, he produces 80% red wines, 20% white and somewhere in-between some rosé wines. A few international varieties are present (Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) but the focus is on the traditional varieties of the Carpathian basin: Feteasca … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #130: Balla Géza Mustoasă de Măderat

#WineWednesday Spotlight #123: Balla Géza Fetească Neagră

“There’s much more to Romanian wine than cheap Pinot,” writes wine columnist Henry Jeffreys in Food & Wine. “ The country has a wealth of indigenous grapes such as Fetească Regală and Crâmpoşie for whites, and for reds Fetească Neagră, Novac and the wonderfully named Negru de Drăgăşani (it’s pronounced something like Drer-ger-sharn which sounds like a character from Game of Thrones).” A trip to visit Romanian wineries took him to the historical city of Timișoara in Western Romania and the nearby Balla Géza Winery: Timișoara has the feel of a miniature Vienna or Budapest. The west of Romania used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and there’s still a strong Hungarian influence. Balla Géza, owner of another vineyard near the city, Princess Winery (they do love a Princess in Romania) is Hungarian. Alongside the Romanian and international varieties he grows Hungarian grapes such as the white Furmint (famous for Tokaji) and the reds Kadarka and Kekfrankos (Blaufrankisch in Austria) He was manager for the state wine company and when Communism collapsed managed to buy up the best land at very reasonable prices, he told me with a glint in his eye. Tourism is very important for him too. … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #123: Balla Géza Fetească Neagră

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