The book Wine Grapes refers to Juhfark (Yew-fark) as “perhaps the least modern or internationally appealing of Hungarian varieties.” Sold! We now have five very different Juhfarks. Overkill? Knee-jerk buying? Blind faith? All plausible in tandem with loving to drink them. With hindsight, these selections also represent a learning curve. Not a curve based on quality, but rather on adding or subtracting elements from this grape to better understand what the hell is going on. There’s nothing else like it Hungary or a distinct relationship to another known grape. When we first started with Fekete Béla in 2012, I couldn’t find evidence of another Juhfark ever on the market. Somló, where the vast majority is grown and where most of ours come from, has over 1200 individual growers, just over 40 commercial producers, and the whole place is about half the size of the Jura. Not an easy maze to navigate. Now we’re encountering the grape more and more along Hungary’s Lake Balaton, Neszmély, and Etyek-Buda appellations along with southern Slovakia and Austria’s Styria. For me, winter is arguably the best time to drink Juhfark. Part of that is that I mostly visit Somló in the dead of winter, but … Continue reading Don’t fear the Juhfark
Blogger and wine educator Matthew Gaughan likes to write about the different wine regions and grape varieties of the world. “What an extraordinary wine this is,” he recently posted on Instagram while tasting Béla Fekete’s Hárslevelű 2013. Béla Fekete aka Béla Bácsi (Uncle Béla) is almost 94 years old and 2013 was the last vintage he made from start to finish. So you can imagine how special that bottle is! https://www.instagram.com/p/BqqP2Q9HLlt/ Follow Matthew Gaughan on Instagram and find Uncle Béla’s last vintages here.
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!
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
There’re so many fine places where you can find Blue Danube wines in San Francisco! In particular, note these three restaurants: they have great reviews in the October issue of Wine & Spirits Magazine and carefully curated wine lists that perfectly match the food in the menu. At August 1 Five, try gol guppa, which are crispy pastries filled with spiced potatoes, with Štoka Teran Rosé: Here, gol guppa crispy pastries filled with spiced potatoes—arrive with a flight of brightly fruit-flavored waters, poured in at table to maintain the crispness and burst of flavor with each bite: biryani is made elegant with long, long grains of rice and perfectly balanced seasonings. Austin Ferrari’s tightly curated wine list is in perfect sync with the food, focused on spicy, earthy wines like Stoka teran rosé and Inconnu Sonoma County cab franc. (Full review here) At Birba, try marinated anchovies with Fekete Furmint: You won’t find the usual suspects here, but rather things like sparkling pineau d’Aunis from the Loire, Béla Fekete’s volcanic whites from Somló in Hungary and six vermouths by the glass to go along with the charcuterie and olives and a soundtrack that veers from Beyoncé to salsa. (Full review … Continue reading Great places to drink Blue Danube Wines in San Francisco
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.
This week, we have a festive contribution from Kit Pepper of Kit’s Underground Wine & Spirits: Buying a fresh truffle has become an early-winter ritual for us in the past few years, an annual challenge to find a way to spotlight this one ingredient. Winter truffles (Perigord) were plentiful this year, so we once again took advantage of a friend’s wholesale account to play around. Truffles have a legendary pong—even a bubble-sealed fresh truffle will start to get you funny looks on the train, and stink up your fridge. But what no one tells you is that the aroma is most of the story—most foods increase in flavor intensity when you chew them, but truffles are ephemeral. Soak up the aroma and enjoy the stained-glass effect of the slices, because there’s no crescendo of flavor in your mouth, only a fragile mushroom texture. Delicate, earthy wines are the classic match for truffles—older Burgundies (white or red), old Champagnes or Piedmont reds. But I’m attached to the volcano wines of Somlo, and mushrooms aren’t unknown in Hungary . . . and on the basis of that flawless reasoning, we gave the job to Fekete Bela’s Harselvelu. The creamy weight of the … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #68: Fekete Hárslevelű
Somló is Hungary’s smallest appellation and once an underwater volcano. Now dormant, its slopes of ancient sea sediment, hardened lava, and basalt are home to some of Hungary’s steepest, most densely planted vineyards. Somló is also home to winemaker Fekete Béla, who only recently retired after 30 + years tending the same vineyard. Our spotlight this week is his Juhfark as reviewed by Portland-based wine writer, Christine Havens: From an obscure, nearly extinct grape variety, Juhfark translated literally means “sheep’s tail” so named because tightly clustered bunches have a distinctive curve at the tip. Found only in the Somló region of Hungary, this non-aromatic variety is typically aged in large oak barriques. Meyer lemon zest, cling peaches, chamomile, and white flowers round out the nose. It’s a broad-shouldered white with a coursing vein of acidity, along with a mineral upwelling that showcases an ashy, volcanic soil type. Although Béla recommends drinking it with roasted wild fowl, rich cheeses, smoked fish, and subtly spicy dishes are all welcome pairings. Happy Hungarian #WineWednesday!
San Francisco Magazine features an interesting article by John Capone in their latest March issue, exploring the diversity of Hungarian wine “Beyond Bull’s Blood”. Thanks to sommeliers and wine buyers eager to introduce “new” bottles to their customers, Hungarian wine is enjoying newfound respect on the well-vetted lists of restaurants like the Progress, Petit Crenn, Lord Stanley, Octavia, and the Slanted Door, and occupying hallowed shelf space at institutions like Bi-Rite and Bay Grape. Our Northern CA Sales Manager Eric Danch says: What’s most encouraging is that many of these wines don’t linger on lists; they move and get reordered. We’re seeing this in numbers; there’s undeniable growth. This year, we’re bringing in at least eight brand-new producers. What are the sommeliers saying? Jeff Berlin of À Côté on 2011 Fekete Béla Juhfark: “A fascinating grape that cab be rich and ripe, but always displays the (terroir) or its volcanic vineyards.” Courtney Humiston of Petit Crenn on Patricius Sparkling Brut: “…drinks dry but has enough richness to carry your meal”. Flora Gaspar of Da Flora on 2013 Vylyan Portugieser: “discreet spice, the jammy fruit backed by subtle tannins, and the slight lick of acid”. Chaylee Priete of The Slanted Door … Continue reading Beyond Bull’s Blood
When each month feels like uncharted and often terrifying water selling wines from the Balkans, Central Europe, and now as far as the Black Sea and the Caucasus mountains, it’s refreshing to look back at the progress made. Having just done so, it turns out things suddenly looks slightly less terrifying. We’ve continued to grow as a company, as a portfolio, and continued our proud tradition of steep learning curves. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve seen the market for these wines grow. We owe this growth to your support. As one form of proof, our slice of the wine world has garnered some promising press we’d like to share. All of that hand selling hasn’t gone to waste… The New York Times (Tokaji Aszu Wines Are a Taste of Hungarian Sweetness) and PUNCH (An Uncertain Future for the World’s Most Iconic Sweet Wines) recently covered Tokaj and Samuel Tinon in particular. Imbibe Magazine (East Goes West: Wines from Central and Eastern Europe are turning American heads) (PDF) did a wonderful focus on Central Eastern European wine featuring Fekete Béla, Kabaj, Vylyan, Piquentum, Štoka and Orgo. Vogue even singled out both Štoka (Champagne’s Cooler Cousin: 5 Pét-Nat Sparkling Wines to Try Now) … Continue reading The Growing Importance of Eastern and Central European Wine Regions