#WineWednesday Spotlight #78: Muhr-van der Niepoort Spitzerberg

Dorli Muhr
Dorli Muhr – Photo: Stuart Pigott

On International Women’s Day, let’s praise Dorli Muhr’s outstanding Blaufränkisch, especially her flagship wine, the Spitzerberg, thanks to a contribution from British wine critic Stuart Pigott:

Nowhere that I know of does it give more fragrant wines than on the slopes of the Spitzerberg in the small region of Carnuntum (named after the ancient Roman city there). Dorli Muhr of the Muhr – van der Niepoort estate winery, pictured above, is the most important producer of these wines and in the 2013 vintage she made the finest Spitzerberg Blaufränkisch I ever tasted… there’s an earthiness behind the floral charm. The one thing that is eye-popping about this it is how vivid and energized it tastes, a dramatic contrast to many warm climate reds with their high alcoholic content and low acidity levels. In common with the best Blaufränkisch from Moric (in Mittelburgenland) and Uwe Schiefer (in Südburgenland), this wine has enormous depth and serious dry tannins, yet great balance and delicacy. For me, those are the hallmarks of world-class wines from this grape.

You should check the whole blog post: New York Wine Diary: Day 5 – The Fragrance of Austria.

Meet our Women Vintners

Women Vintners
Some of our top women vintners

Do you know that as many as 13 of the wineries in our current portfolio are run or co-run by women? Witnessing an increasing number of talented women involved in the wine industry on International Women’s Day is exciting.

They may have taken different paths — some took over their family estate from their parents, others founded their wineries from scratch — but they are all passionate about their work. Whether they have a degree in oenology or learned the trade while working with their family, these women are making important contributions to viticulture and winemaking.

In Austria, grower and winemaker Ilse Maier pioneered organic farming in Kremstal when she took over Geyerhof, the family estate, in 1986. Dorli Muhr resuscitated her family vineyards in Carnuntum and now produces some of Austria’s finest Blaufränkisch.

Bott winemaker Judit Bodó
Bott winemaker Judit Bodó (right)

In Tokaj, Hungary, winemakers Judit Bodó and Stéphanie Berecz founded respectively Bott and Kikelet wineries with their husbands and are now making some of the best wines of the region. In 2014, Stéphanie was awarded by her fellow winemakers the prestigious title of “winemaker of the winemakers”. Sarolta Bárdos who owns and runs Tokaj Nobilis was the winner of the prestigious award of 2012 Winemaker of the Year in Tokaj-Hegyalja. Also in Hungary, Birgit and Katrin Pfneisl are managing the Pfneiszl Winery and farming organically their ancestral Hungarian vineyards in Sopron. Julia Dóra Molnar, who co-owns Csendes Dűlő with her mother Beáta on the northern shore of Lake Balaton, has revived the rare white grape Kéknyelű. In Villány, under the leadership of owner Monika Debreczeni, Vylyan won in 2008 the title “Winery of the Year” in Hungary. Daughters Andrea Gere in Villány and Ildikó Eszterbauer in Szekszard are actively involved in the family business with their fathers.

Santomas winemaker Tamara Glavina
Santomas winemaker Tamara Glavina

In Istria, Slovenia, winemaker Tamara Glavina runs the Santomas winery with her father Ludvik, focusing on the local Refosco and Istrian Malvazija. On the island of Hvar, Croatia, Ivana Carić co-owns Vina Carić with her husband Ivo, producing distinctive wines from the native Bogdanjuša as well as Maraština, Kuč, and Pošip. And in Thrace, Turkey, businesswoman Güler Sabancı founded Gulor, a modern boutique winery offering high quality blends of both international and indigenous grape varieties such as Öküzgözü and Boğazkere.

Experience the wines of these talented women with our new Winemakers 6-Pack and in the meantime, happy International Women’s day!

#WineWednesday Spotlight #77: Shavnabada Saperavi

Shavnabada Saperavi
Shavnabada Saperavi label and the old cellar in the monastery

Jeff Berlin of Oakland’s A Côté was recently interviewed by wine writer Tara Q. Thomas on selling glass after glass of Georgian wine. This is what he says about the popular Shavnabada Saperavi:

the Shavnabada [a top by-the-glass pour]—anytime you’re able to say that a wine is made by monks in a monastery, they eat that one up. And it’s not cheap. But it’s a great wine, and also, it has an advantage because the wines have had a few extra years on them. That’s been really important even for me, to be able to see how these wines age. They change so much; they take on new personality and structure. It’s so rare to have the chance to taste older Georgian wines—it’s a combination of the culture, in which each person makes a small amount of wine and they drink it over the course of a year, and recent history; they simply don’t have much older wines to sell. Aging, however, does take the edges off the wine. If we could get more aged skin-contact Georgian wines, they’d blow people away.

Find the whole interview here and check our comprehensive selection of Georgian wines in our webshop.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #76: Amiran Otskhanuri Sapere

Otskhanuri Sapere
Photo: Michael Trainor @awordtothewine

Today, an Instagram contribution by wine lover Michael Trainor @awordtothewine: have you tried the Amiran Otskhanuri Sapere 2015 with Cigarillos?

It’s dark and oily. It’s got acid. It’s got structure. A bit viscous, maybe. It’s reminiscent of a freshly tarred road or roof in the hot Summer of my childhood and I could even feel that creeping anxiety of the new school year approaching. It pairs so perfectly with r/mr skirt steak. Keep it simple. Salt. Pepper. A slab of salted butter in the pan. Sizzle. Burn the flesh so you get that bitterness on the outside and maintain a beautiful bloody interior. Narrow slices, place it in your mouth, chew, then sip. Taste that? It also pairs well with #tobacco. I don’t typically enjoy tobacco with wine, but this pairs so well with Zino @davidoffcigars Brasil #Cigarillos

Follow Michael on Instagram here.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #75: Fekete Bela Juhfark

2012 Fekete Bela Juhfark
Photo: Kerry Winslow

This is another great contribution from Kerry Winslow over at Grapelive:

Fekete Bela Juhfark 2012:

The 2012 Juhfark, looks set to be the second to last harvest for the rumored to be retiring Bela, is a beauty, more vibrant than the 2011 I last tasted, and with wonderful precision as well as subtle density and extract, it was left on the lees without batonage and the finesse shows here, allowing a rich mouth feel, but vital and vigorous.The nose is Riesling like, but showing it’s volcanic spiciness along with fresh citrus, tropical notes and tangy stone fruits, this iron/steel white feels light to medium bodied and is amazingly dynamic for it’s age, very youthful, as well as having a hint of chalk/stones, bitter herbs, white cherry, kiwi/mango, a hint of almond, delicate florals and tart lemon/lime. This is a white wine of inner energy and class, unique and with a tense of history and place.
93 Points, grapelive

You can also follow Kerry Winslow on Instagram here.

Too cold to drink rosé? No way!

Stoka Rose
Stoka Rosé

Should you drink Rosé in Winter? What about having Rosé for Valentine’s Day? In his latest Wine Column, wine and food writer for The Washington Post Dave McIntyre think we’re wrong to consider Rosé as a summer wine:

The market is up against two consumer misconceptions: That rosé is only for summer, and that only the most recent vintage is worth drinking.

Here’s the problem: We match rosé to the season, but we pair any other wine to the food we’re eating. You still eat pizza in winter? Salads? Anything garlicky, or with a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern accent? Don’t rule out rosé: It doesn’t clash with long sleeves.

And don’t worry about drinking the 2015s; they’re just fine. In fact, I recently found some forgotten 2014s from California and France in my basement. They were delicious — less fresh and invigorating for gulping, perhaps, but age had given them a bit of character that made them shine with food.

We have plenty of delicious Rosés in our portfolio for your Valentine. Check them out.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #74: Gulor Sayeste Öküzgözü Boğazkere

gulor sayeste okuzgozu bogazkere
Gulor Sayeste Öküzgözü Boğazkere 2011

The Gulor Sayeste Öküzgözü Boğazkere 2011 is our first #WineWednesday Spotlight from Turkey! Do you know that since the beginning of the month, we have two new Turkish producers imported by Meritaj on our webshop, Gulor and Suvla and 11 Turkish wines available in our portfolio?

Few people are aware that Turkey is one of the most ancient wine regions. The discoveries of ancient wine vessels and evidence of winemaking suggest that wine was produced for the first time in Transcaucasia, a region south of the Caucasus Mountains that encompasses what is today Eastern Turkey as well as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Northern Iran. The first evidence of viticulture and wine making in Anatolia (central Turkey) dates back 7,000 years.

Thanks to its large size and benefiting from a wide array of climates, Turkey is home to between 600–1200 indigenous grape varieties. While the coasts have a mild Mediterranean climate, Central Anatolia, where many vineyards are located at altitudes near 1,250 meters (4,000 feet) above sea level, has a continental climate with hot summers and cold snowy winters.

gulor vineyard
Gulor Vineyard

Founded in 1993 by Turkish businesswoman and philanthropist Güler Sabancı, Gulor is a modern boutique winery with 12 hectares of estate vineyards located on the north shore of the Marmara Sea. They’re mostly planted with Bordeaux grape varieties as well as Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese and Montepulciano. The winery also grows indigenous varieties like Öküzgözü and Boğazkere in Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia. Öküzgözü is from Hankendi, a town in the province of Elazıg in the northwest corner of the Euphrates River valley, and Boğazkere from Ergani on the right bank of the Tigris River.

Native to Eastern Anatolia, Öküzgözü likes cold winters and hot dry summers. The name derives from the Turkish word for bullseye, which refers to its large dark berries. Quite resistant to drought, Boğazkere is from Southeastern Anatolia. It means “Throat Scratcher” and is Turkey’s most tannic grape.

A blend of 70% Öküzgözü 30% Boğazkere, the wine is dark in color with notes of black cherry and berry. It is quite earthy and full-bodied with good tannins. We enjoyed it with a simple Chicken Provençal, at least my version of it. I cook the chicken in a skillet with diced onions, celery, carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes and herbes de Provence. I also add some dry-cured black olives to the sauce and I must say, their ripe flavors went pretty well with the wine.

“I am Tribidrag” Conference

Crljenak Kastelanski
One of the original Crljenak Kastelanski vines identified in 2001 as genetically identical to American Zinfandel

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 register.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #73: Kreinbacher Brut Prestige

Kreinbacher Brut Prestige
100% Furmint in this bottle

Today is International Furmint Day and we’re also celebrating my son’s birthday. So let’s pop the bubbles and enjoy a 100% Furmint sparkling wine!

A 100% Furmint sparkling wine is pretty intriguing. The fact that the Kreinbacher Brut Prestige comes from the Somló hill, Hungary’s smallest appellation and one of the best volcanic terroir is even more fascinating.

The wine is made with carefully selected Furmint grapes — zero botrytis — coming from the cooler, windier eastern slope of the Somló volcano and meticulously vinified in the traditional Méthode Champenoise with the help of Champagne house Paul Bara.

In short, the wine has a unique distinctiveness and it’s also delicious, showing its light golden color, fine bubbles and an inviting yeasty nose of apple compote. The palate is dry and toasty with a firm acidity and pleasing honey aromas. So, are you ready to toast with me?

Happy #FurmintDay!

First Ever International #FurmintDay is February 1st

tokaj furmintday

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.

furmint grape
Furmint grape in the Határi Vineyard in Tokaj

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 Berries
Showing the progression from fresh to Aszú berries

“Furmint is one of central Europe’s greatest white grapes. It’s more savoury than fruity, deeply stony in certain (volcanic) terroirs, and is also amazingly versatile, excelling at bone dry and lusciously sweet, botrytis affected styles, and everywhere in between. Acids stay high even at high ripeness, and it handles steel and wood with equal grace while retaining a vineyard’s signature. Simply put, it’s a brilliant variety.” — John Szabo, Master Sommelier

volcanic stones
Volcanic stones from the vineyard are on the table wherever you drink Furmint in Hungary

So what is International Furmint Day and what is Blue Danube doing about it? Basically, the idea is to drink Furmint on February 1st, and then share your experience by using the hashtag #furmintday. Become an ambassador and make some connections around the world. Whether you’re drinking Furmint from Hungary or from Slovakia, South Africa, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, or even from the few hectares here in California, it’s a great excuse to focus on something special.