Pannon-demic Outbreak: Bott Frigyes, Wetzer, Kolonics, Apátsági and Heimann

The final container of 2018 is a coincidental snapshot of some of my favorite things happening in the region. We’ve added another Somlói tier than falls in between Fekete Béla and Apátsági with Kárloy Kolonics (I know….pronounced Kolo-nitsch). We’re finally venturing into Slovakia’s Južnoslovenská region with Bott Frigyes and we’ve finally convinced Peter Wetzer to cough up some Tokaji Furmint and single vineyard Soproni Kékfrankos. Last but not least, a new vintage of our go-to Szekszárdi Kadarka from the tireless Heimann family – a grape that I believe will be a signature red from all over Central Europe going forward. BOTT FRIGYES, Južnoslovenská, Slovakia 2017 Bott Frigyes Hárslevelű 2017 Bott Frigyes Kadarka Bott Frigyes Kékfrankos I’ve always been curious about the pre and post Trianon Treaty wine traditions of Hungary. In short, after WWI, Hungary lost around 71% of its territory to Romania, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia (Slovakia), Yugoslavia (Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia) and Austria. Over 3 million ethnic Hungarians found themselves outside of Hungary. I’m by no means treading into political/nationalism waters here, but instead focusing on the grapes and traditions that never stopped or are now coming back to life beyond the present day borders of Hungary. On the southern slopes … Continue reading Pannon-demic Outbreak: Bott Frigyes, Wetzer, Kolonics, Apátsági and Heimann

#WineWednesday Spotlight #157: Heimann Bikaver

“When it comes to Hungarian wines, Tokaji immediately comes to your mind, but what about reds?” asks wine lover Dmitry over at russian_in_wine. Both Eger and Szekszárd can legally make Bikavér (Bulls Blood), Hungary’s traditional full-bodied red wine, a Kékfrankos based blend that is rich, spicy and fruity. But what sets Heimann’s Szekszárdi Bikaver apart is the addition of the tannic Sagrantino, a red grape indigenous to the region of Umbria in Italy: Bikavér (bool’s blood) is a full bodied red blend produced in the northern part of the country in Eger (Egri Bikavér) and in its southern part in Szekszárd (Szekszárdi Bikavér). It’s 300 km between these 2 regions, so as you might expect climatic differences are notable. Talking about grape varieties it makes sense to mention that a lot of international and local varieties are allowed in the blend. Blaufränkisch (locally named Kékfrankos) usually forms a foundation of the blend and adds tannin and spiciness to the wine. Kadarka (also known as Gamza) requires careful yield control, with the right viticultural approaches it adds concentration and softness to the blend. International varieties in the blend might be represented by Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and some others. … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #157: Heimann Bikaver

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

The Rise of Blaufränkisch

It seems that in the last few years, Blaufränkisch (German for blue Frankish) has become Austria’s most successful red wine variety. It’s not a new grape: based on its name, we think that it had been growing in Central Europe since the Middle Ages. The name Fränkisch comes from Franconia, a German region praised for its quality wines in the Middle Ages, and so at the time, grapes that were producing superior wines were called Fränkisch. Better rootstock, denser plantings, better cover crops management and nuanced winemaking explain the recent rise in quality with more and more Blaufränkisch wines showing great complexity and finesse. Some producers describe Blaufränkisch using the “triangle” comparison: the grape has the elegance of Burgundy Pinot Noir, the pepperiness of Northern Rhône Syrah, and the structure of Piedmont Nebbiolo. Its home is Burgenland where many of the finest examples are grown. Carnuntum, a region just southeast of Vienna, is also a source of quality Blaufränkisch where they are especially fresh and elegant. Burgenland was part of Hungary until 1921, when most of it was annexed as Austria’s ninth and easternmost state after the dissolution of he Habsburg Empire. The exception was Burgenland’s capital Sopron, which was … Continue reading The Rise of Blaufränkisch

#WineWednesday Spotlight #96: Heimann Kadarka

Chilled #kadarka on a hot Friday afternoon? Yes, please. Today’s #WineWednesday Spotlight is a contribution from Orshi Kiss, Blue Danube Wine Co. Southern California Sales Manager. For sure, Kadarka is one of her favorite grapes! Thought to be originally from the Balkans where its still commonly planted – and where it’s also known as Gamza – Kadarka by now thought of in Hungary as one of the traditional red grapes. It is naturally low in tannins and usually a lighter bodied wine, which makes it a perfect, chillable summer red. Some of the best examples come from the region of Szekszárd — enjoy this spicy, elegant yet fun Kadarka from Heimann Winery. Kadarka is a delicate grape variety producing delightful wines and it is great news that planting is slowly increasing in Hungary and neighboring countries. Check that article to learn more about it: Kadarka, Cadarca, Gamza.

Kadarka, Cadarca, Gamza

Based in the South of France, Master of Wine Elizabeth Gabay has contributed on Provence and Hungary for winetravelguides.com and has updated the Provence sections for both Jancis Robinson’s The World Atlas of Wine and Oz Clarke’s annual pocket wine book. An active educator, she works on the MW education program, gives masterclasses and runs a local wine tasting group. Hungary is increasingly looking to its vinous history and indigenous varieties. There is a growing number of winemakers, who, with the help of research institutes like the one at Pécs, are replanting varieties which were almost lost during the phylloxera epidemic. Kadarka is one of those varieties now seeing a revival. It also happens to be my current favourite variety. Recent research suggests that an ancestor of Kadarka, the Papazkarası variety found in the Strandja region of Thrace, on the border between Bulgaria and Turkey, was taken westwards and planted around Lake Scutari on the modern Albania-Montenegro border. There, it was crossed with a local variety, Skardarsko, creating Kadarka. It would have stayed little more than a local variety if political events had not intervened. In 1689 the Ottoman army defeated the Austrians and, in fear of further attacks, the … Continue reading Kadarka, Cadarca, Gamza