Whenever I hear Pétillant-naturel, methode ancestrale, Pét-nat, or even Peneče, I don’t immediately think Loire, I think Berkeley. Back in 2011 while working harvest for Donkey and Goat Winery, this was the first year they made Lily’s Pét-nat. Leading up to this, I remember experiments of filling up beer bottles by hand with rough estimates of what would happen post crown cap (residual sugar, yeast populations etc…). Often, while doing other winery work, bottles could be heard exploding like distant artillery fire. It was during this time I really got a sense for what gross lees smell, taste and feel like. Eventually, they figured it out and I discovered how great wines like this could be as well. For Blue Danube, it was only a matter of time before the huge array of Central/Eastern European high acid grapes would eventually lend themselves to the oldest way of making sparkling wine. Štoka was the first to lead the charge with Teran and Vitovska from the Kras appellation in Slovenia. Tadej and Primož Štoka already produced a traditional method cave aged sparkling Teran. They knew Teran had the acidity and balance but had to reverse engineer a few things for a pét-nat. … Continue reading That’s what I do. I drink Peneče and I know things…
Pétillant Naturel, or Pét-Nat for short, is a modern trend but its origin is not so new. Pét-Nats are made using the Méthode Ancestrale, the oldest way of making sparkling wines. It dates back to the 16th century and was invented by monks in the Limoux region in southwestern France. The wine is bottled before finishing its fermentation, allowing a second fermentation to naturally occur in the bottle using the residual sugar. The sediments are not removed and the wine is not filtered, producing a light and fizzy wine, often cloudy, due to the remaining lees and lack of filtration. Enjoy the fresh and lively Štoka Pét-Nats, White, Rosé, Red, made from the Slovenian grapes Vitovska and Teran. Méthode Champenoise produces sparkling wine by creating a second fermentation in bottle. The second fermentation is accomplished by adding a mixture of sugar and yeast to still wine. The wine is then bottled, capped, and aged on its lees for several months, which develops texture and complexity. When the wine is ready, the neck of the bottle is frozen in order to remove the sediments. The cap is removed and the frozen sediments shoot out of the pressurized bottle. In Hungary, Kreinbacher … Continue reading Pét-Nat, Charmat, Champenoise: plenty of bubbles for the Summer
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!
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!
Kreinbacher sparkling wine on its lees Acid, spices, smoke and volcanic heritage 4-5 million years ago, lava erupted in Somló, building a mountain of basalt above an ancient sea and creating a unique environment for growing grapes. Since 2011, the Kreinbacher Estate is combining the traditions of Champagne with Somlo’s distinctiveness. Blending highly mineral Furmint sourced from the coolest, eastern slopes of the Somló hill with a dash of Chardonnay, they produce terroir-driven sparkling wines full of spices, smoky flavors and acidity. A 16 g/l dosage provides their Extra-Dry cuvée with a pleasing roundness. Törley Winery’s old posters Densely chalk-ridden soils and vibrant acidity in Etyek-Buda. There’re several similarities between the Etyek-Buda region near Budapest and Champagne: located at nearly the same latitude, they both have a unique terroir of limestone subsoil producing wines with high acidity. These similarities led József Törley in 1882 to build a sparkling wine production in the region, quickly winning an international reputation. A bright blend of Királyleányka, Riesling, and Grüner Veltliner, Törley Gála Sec is a sparkling made with the Charmat Method and a great Prosecco alternative. Much sweeter, the aromatic Törley Fortuna (a blend of Cserszegi Füszeres, Muskat Ottonel, Csabagyöngye) is a perfect … Continue reading End your summer with a sparkle
“Munchausen, I know you Christians are judges of good wine. Here is a bottle of Tokay, the only one I possess, and I am sure that never in your life can you have tasted better.” – The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen, 1785 I was recently reflecting upon my last meal in Budapest that I happily consumed just over a week ago. Despite being fed whipped pig fat, goose cracklings, paprika laden stews, kolbász, pickled everything and so on 3-4 times a day for 11 days, I still felt compelled to order basically the same thing when finally given the chance to order for myself. I even upped the ante a bit and went right for rooster testicles and cocks comb stew with an Irsai Olivér Fröcs (aka Spritz). There was so much delicious fat, bright raw onions, smoke, garlic, paprika, and fermented flavors over the course of the dinner that it was difficult to think about drinking anything other than Hungarian wines. Maybe a volcanic Canary or Etna here or there or perhaps some Chenin or Riesling, but after you had a Tokaj Aszú with over 300 grams of residual sugar, 12 g/l total acidity and 7% alcohol that … Continue reading Reflections from a Final Meal in Budapest
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