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
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
A few weeks ago, journalist Chris Wilson attended his first wine tasting brunch: ten Hungarian-inspired small plates and ten different Hungarian wines, hosted by the Hungarian Embassy in London. Impressed by the breadth of styles and flavors of the wines, this was for him a revelation. Also organizing the tasting was British wine writer Oz Clarke, an Hungarian food and wine enthusiast who sees a bright future for Hungarian wine around the world. Among his top 10 Hungarian wines that he recommends, here is the Kolonics Juhfark: Once we’d got over the similarity of the producer’s name Kolonics to the word ‘colonic’ and stopped sniggering into our shirtsleeves here was a wine that was rich and full with concentrated tropical and stone fruit characters and a chewy, Burgundian texture. Made from the Juhfark grape – which means ‘sheep’s tail’ due to the long, cylindrical shape of its bunches – this hails from Somló where 80% of the world’s Juhfark is planted. Károly Kolonics (pronounced Kolo-nitsch) is one of our newest producers from Hungary. He is a 4th generation winemaker whose grandparents were born and raised in Somló. His labels show photos of his great-grandparents from the late 1800s. Today, Károly … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #158: Kolonics Juhfark
Boom: Volcanic Wines Are Heating Up Around the Globe writes Wine and Spirits columnist for Bloomberg News Elin McCoy. As she was attending the International Volcanic Wine Conference in New York last month, she was wondering why volcanic wines were getting such a buzz recently. She asked master sommelier John Szabo, the author of Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power and organizer of the conference: Wines from the several types of volcanic soils—lava, pumice, ash, basalt, and more—can vary widely, but most share complex aromas, mouthwatering high acidity, and salty, savory, earthy flavors. The porosity of these soils stores more water, which contributes to the wines’ characteristic freshness and exuberance. But we shouldn’t underestimate the power of romance: But the image of volcanoes may be the secret reason these wines are getting buzz. As Eric Guido, director of wine and marketing at Morrell and Co., emailed me: “Just think of the romance that surrounds wines grown in soils born of molten earth and ash!” She highlights eight volcanic wine regions around the world including Somló, Hungary’s smallest wine region, which lies on the slopes of an extinct volcano: Though the country’s volcanoes are no longer active, violent eruptions millennia ago … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #135: Apátsági Juhfark
“I was intrigued to see Matt Kramer’s article this summer highlighting four wonderful wine regions to visit: Santa Barbara, the Douro Valley, Ribeira Sacra and Tokaj,” explains wine lover and blogger John Brooks in his recent blog post The Charm of Somlo. But on one of these trips, he found the lesser-known and tiny Somló appellation and the vineyards growing on this cone-shaped volcanic mountain: The grapes in the vineyards on the hill at Somló include furmint and harslevelu–as do the vineyards in Tokaj–and olaszrizling, a soft and fruity grape known as welschriesling in Austria (unrelated to the better known riesling). But the signature grape of Somló is juhfark–Hungarian for “sheep’s tail” because the long and tightly clustered bunches which curve at the end bear resemblance to a sheep’s tail. Juhfark, which is only grown in any significant quantity in Somló, is considered something of a transparent grape–it takes on the characteristics of the place it is grown. In Somló, the juhfark grapes get good sun, producing a wine of richness–on a frame of strong minerality with the hints of saltiness that can be found in some volcanic soils. Accompanied by Eva Cartwright, owner of the Somló Wine Shop, he … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #112: Apátsági Juhfark
In 1945, Endre Tornai, the only survivor of his family, walked home to Hungary from the Russian front. Linka, a girl he fancied from before the war waited for him and they got married at Christmas of the same year. They bought a one acre vineyard on the Somló hill, and in 1946 they had both their first child and their first harvest. Anna, one of his grandchildren says “my grandfather was in love with the Somló, and so is my father”. This love made the Tornai family endure, and led them to dedicate their life to the Somló. After communism ended in ’89, they could buy back their old lands and now are farming 70 acres. They are open to innovation while working with the traditional grapes of the Somló: Juhfark, Furmint, Olaszrizling, Hárslevelű. The Somló is the smallest appellation of Hungary – basically one basalt hill popping up from a flat landscape. It’s one of the most expressive terroirs in the world, a truly magical place. We are excited to have another producer from this tiny yet powerful region. The Tornai Juhfark and Furmint will be available later this month!
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.
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!
Recently Frank Dietrich led an in depth tasting of Hungarian wines at Soif wine bar in Santa Cruz, CA. The wines represented many of the major appellations and indigenous grapes of the regions. Wine writer Christine Havens attended this event and has graciously permitted us to share her blog post, in which she provides detailed notes of the wines tasted as well as a little of her own connection to Hungary. You can view the original post, and all of Christine’s other reviews on her site. Hungarian Wine Tasting at Soif Wine Bar & Merchants by Christine Havens. My mother is Hungarian. My father was mostly English with some other nationalities thrown in, like most Americans, his family tree included a pinch of German and a nip of Irish. My dad never talked about his heritage, but my mother has always been fiercely proud of her ancestry. I suppose that’s why I’ve always identified as Hungarian, the country with some of the world’s most beautiful women and a famously high rate of depression, pessimism and overall gloominess. After my grandparents had passed, photos of my great grandparents emerged from dusty albums stored and long forgotten in their basement. My predecessors … Continue reading Hungarian Wine Tasting Review by Christine Havens
James the Wine Guy continues his tasting exploration of Hungary’s volcanic appellation of Somló with this review of Fekete Béla’s distinct Juhfark: This wine variety is completely new, beautiful, gorgeous yet distinctive, knowing this wine as a indigenous grape variety from Hungary, the only place you can find it in the world and very few acres, under 200 acres from what I understand.  What I like about these Juhfark variety wines is that they are really nuanced, there’s significant minerality to these wines and yet very approachable. So what I like about this wine is its distinctive mineral statement, fantastically beautiful, confident, and something that I think is so original and memorable. Watch the video: