When conditions are just right, nature can hold a usually nasty fungus in such check that something special happens. Instead of destroying a crop, the fungus creates grapes with incredibly concentrated flavor that can make some of the world’s sweetest, most precious wines. The fungus, Botrytis cinerea, is more affectionately known as “noble rot.” writes Anne Krebiehl, MW in the current issue of Wine Enthusiast Magazine. And the Patricius Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 2006 is one of the best: Patricius 2006 Aszú Six Puttonyos (Tokaj); 95 points. Tantalizing aromas of apricot, bananas foster, beeswax and pineapple upside-down cake transfer seamlessly onto the palate. It then opens up further, with pronounced flavors of lemon meringue and acacia honey. The texture is luxurious, silky and voluptuous. Editors’ Choice. The wine is a sweet golden nectar, made from the best terroirs and only in exceptional vintages. Enjoy it with Foie Gras, Blue Cheese or an Apricot Tart.
Somló, a lone volcanic butte and Hungary’s smallest appellation, is a unique terroir of hardened lava, basalt, and ancient sea sediment. The Apátsági winery on the Somló hill was originally owned by the Benedictine Pannonhalma Archabbey (Apátsági means Abbey in Hungarian). After being expropriated during Communism, it was brought back to life in 2001 by Zoltán Balogh, grandson of local winemakers, and four other people including the grandson of the last pre-war winemaker. Zoltán believes in “terroir wines”, natural wines with a distinctive sense of place. The vineyard is dry farmed without herbicides or pesticides. The grapes are hand picked very ripe and then spontaneously fermented in 600-2000 liter oak barrels. Thanks to their high acidity, the wines are rich, lively and well-balanced. His Hárslevelű just received a great review in Wine & Spirits Magazine: Zoltan Balogh has developed a style for ripe, full-bodied wines at Apatsagi. It works well in this hárslevelu, a wine that reminded some panelists of chenin blanc in its rich, broad texture and multifaceted flavor. Grown on basalt and vinified with ambient yeasts in 600-to-2,000-liter barrels, the wine feels like a late-harvest cuvée, rich and sweet in its notes of pineapple, pear and strawberry, but … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #88: Apátsági Hárslevelű
Great review and 90 points from Wine & Spirits Magazine for the Kikelet Kassai Hárslevelű 2015: French-born Stéphanie Berecz has a soft spot for hárslevelű, with half of her 12 acres of vines given over to the aromatic variety. She makes this wine from a single, south-facing parcel of loess, fermenting it with ambient yeasts and aging it on the lees in French and Hungarian oak barrels for for to five months. That treatment has built a lot of texture into this 2015, a wrap of honeyed richness to temper the weft of tannins that give it grip. The flavors range from Bosc pear to orange oil and tangelo, with scents of lemongrass and lime leaf that give it lift. Pour it with something rich, like pork chops baked with peaches. 90 points Her 2015 Furmint had also a great review: Stéphanie Berecz packs her estate cuvée with extract, giving the wine a broad frame and an almost meaty feel. It’s ripe but not pushed, the juicy peach notes held in balance by a firm minerality. It feels supple despite its size, a generous partner for a thick fish steak doused in brown butter. 90 points Enjoy Stéphanie’s wines, they’re … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #87: Kikelet Kassai Hárslevelű
Olaszliszka is an important village along the Bodrog River in Tokaj that dates to at least the 12th century when it was simply named Liszka. It was renamed Olaszliszka after a group of Italians settled in the village —’olasz’ means Italian in Hungarian — in the mid-13th century. The village has been renowned for its top crus for hundreds of years. The terroir is rich with volcanic rocks mixed with clay soils and planted mostly to the Hárslevelű grape. The Amici Vinorum Olaszliszka (Latin for Olaszliszka Friends of Wine) is the combined efforts of 10 local winemakers to reaffirm the village’s historical identity. Members of the association are combining their fruit sourced from vineyards like Csontos, Határi, Meszes, and Palandor that date as far back as 1641, to produce one single “village” wine. As just a village wine, should we dismiss it? Better not says Hungarian wine lover Peter Klingler, over at Borwerk: half-dried lime peel, flower meadow, peaches in summer sun, marzipan. The peaches gain the upper hand with time. A wine of depth and respect…Honey comes up, sulphured apricots, yellow-orange dried fruit, pineapple, banana. The sweetness persists in an easy existence, gently floating, pleasantly unobtrusive. And then there’s … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #79: Tinon Olaszliszka Hárslevelű
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
A contribution by wine writer and photographer Kevin Day who just published A First Taste Guide To Hárslevelü. The 2013 Csendes Dülö Szölöbirtok Hárslevelü was his first taste of the Hárslevelü grape: Not knowing my Szölöbirtok from my Hárslevelü, I twisted the cap and poured a glass with delightful bewilderment. Such is the fun of being an adventurous wine drinker. Here is his tasting note: Pale yellow-green color. Lovely and inviting nose that recalls lime zest as well as green apple, underripe pineapple rind and a general springtime scent of freshness and floral aromatics. Comes across as a bit spicy and peppery on the palate, giving the wine a distinct edge. Roaring acidity that makes it exceptionally food-friendly. Tingling sensation on the finish. Now, do you want to know 3 good reasons to try Hárslevelü? Check Kevin’s Guide To Hárslevelü. Looking for a Hárslevelü wine? Here is our Hárslevelü selection on our webshop.
This tasting note has been translated from the original German text written by Peter Klingler for his blog Borwerk (a Hungarian-German word combination meaning “WineWorks”). As if German is not tough enough, Peter’s distinctly short-hand style is not easy to transfer to English prose. We tried to make it readable and still retain the flavor of his personality. Most striking at first: how inconspicuous both wines are. It seems as if the Kéknyelü – AKA Blaustengler in German – and the Hárslevelü as well, do justice to the name of the estate: Csendes Dűlő. Quiet, tranquil vineyard. But unobtrusiveness and silence change over time. Formative for a specific style, if you can say that at all about one of the first vintages of a new producer on the fine wine market, the impression of a distinct character remains, nevertheless. This can simply be explained with time, or rather with their youth. In the first few minutes in the glass, both wines appear closed. This changes over time, mainly with the Kéknyelû. After a few days it packs a bunch of flavors on top. The fruit remains rather sparse, pears, quince, yellow stone fruit, half-ripe and somewhat restrained. A fine mineral … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #37: Csendes Dűlő Kéknyelü & Hárslevelű
French photographer, writer and blogger at Wineterroirs, Bertrand Celce recently visited the Tokaj region and was impressed by the dynamism of its young winemakers. The Tokaj region may be felt like an established wine region from abroad due to its documented tradition in the past centuries but oddly it’s also a very dynamic region in terms of young artisan winemakers, it’l like if Burgundy met Touraine or Anjou, and there may be several reasons behind this, one of them being possibly the socialist interlude during which the parcels on the slopes, the equivalent of the Burgundy climats were abandoned under the post-war communist rule in favor of massive plantings on the flatland for productivist efficiency : Since freedom of enterprise came back around 1989, daring vignerons had all these slopes (then covered by bushes and woods) to reconquer with great potential for making quality wine again During his trip, he visited the vineyards and cellars of Bott Winery owned by Judit & József Bodó, and tasted the estate’s latest production: Teleki 2015, made with Furmint and a bit of Hárslevelű (there are a few complanted vines). Vines are 70 years old, their oldest parcel. Loess soil with lots of chalk. … Continue reading Wineterroirs visits Judit & József Bodó in Tokaj
There are a slew of brand new producers from Hungary landing in the coming months. For many, this will be their very first time in the United States. This is of course an exciting and somewhat terrifying proposition. How will a Kéknyelű from Badacsony be received? Traditional Method sparkling Furmint from outside of Tokaj? Hárslevelű with Benedictine roots planted on a Basalt volcano? I have no idea and I can’t wait to get started. Upon our last visit to the Hungarian appellation of Somló we were fortunate enough to run into Zoltán Balogh from Apátsági Winery. Their estate and cellar were originally owned by the Benedictine Pannonhalma Archabbey. After WWII, the land was expropriated and redistributed during Communism. It was brought back to life in 2001 with 5 people (including the grandson of the last winemaker before the war), 3 hectares, no herbicides, no pesticides, and using large oak fermenters. Their 2013 Hárslevelű exemplifies what Zoltán admires about the appellation as a whole, “When you have Somló acid, why not find balance with sugar.” A concentrated and alive wine. Speaking of acid, but without skin contact and botrytis, Somló is also home to Kreinbacher. While they do make some still … Continue reading Basalt buttes, a massive lake, and volcanic traditional method. 3 New arrivals from Hungary
In the Spring of 2013 we hosted Judit and József Bodó of Hungary’s Bott Winery in California. With their giant map of the Tokaj appellation, box of soils, and rock samples, I dragged them all over the Bay Area for the usual sales gambit. In addition to all of the tastings, dinners, and semi desperate pleading with many of you for some sit down time, we also took a short trip to California wine country. The shared experiences and risks of growing grapes and making wine for a living quickly bypass the often stale formalities between strangers. Within minutes Judit and Cathy Corison were digging into gender politics of the wine business and József was on his hands and knees inspecting old vines at the Library Vineyard with Tegan Passalacqua. After their first (ever!) encounter with Mexican food, our final stop was with Steve and Jill Matthiasson. As it turns out, Jill has both Hungarian heritage and a penchant for Furmint and Hárslevelű. We tasted through the one another’s lineup, ate oranges off their tree (too cold in Tokaj for citrus), walked through the vineyards, and the Bodós attempted to hide their feverish jealously over the new Matthiasson tractor. While … Continue reading New California and New Tokaj: Furmint and Hárslevelű