Last month, Wine & Spirits Magazine published its “Year’s Best Hungarian Wines” comprised of 16 wines rated exceptional (90+ points) by Executive Editor Tara Q. Thomas and her tasting panel. Here is what she says about the Kikelet Lonyai Hárslevelű: 90 points. French vintner Stéphanie Berecz worked at Disznókó before marrying a Hungarian and starting to produce wines from his family’s vineyards in 2002. Hárslevelu has become one of her specialties, as this wine shows: From a vineyard rich in loess, in Tarcal, it’s silky and broad, with a linden-leaf fragrance. The acidity feels a little edgy, highlighting some of the bitterness of the phenolics, which gives the wine the cut to match a fatty fish, like halibut. Lónyai vineyard lies within the commune of Tarcal in Tokaj where Stéphanie Berecz and her husband Zsolt live. Its soil, made of deep loess mixed with volcanic rocks, brings a bright acidity and aromatics to the wine. It’s a very distinctive Hárslevelű built to age. Find it on our webshop and try it with a Paprika Fisherman’s Stew.
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.
Back in 2012 Blue Danube attended a large tasting called “Furmint Február” at the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture in Budapest. 55 producers and 100% Furmint (Foor-mint). At this point, we had 6 wines made from Furmint in the portfolio. At this year’s event, there will be 94 producers and we have 25 wines made from Furmint in the portfolio. Too much? Most certainly, and we hope our lack of self-control inspires you to give this grape an extra push this month. Very few grapes continue to humble us as much as Furmint and they get better every year. It also turns out that Furmint is in good, albeit better known, company. DNA profiling has identified it as an offspring of Gouais Blanc and therefore likely a half sibling of Riesling, Chardonnay and Gamay Noir among others. It’s remarkable acidity, balance of residual sugar, and terroir driven nature certainly pulls from these genetics. Add to this a massive range of styles from dry, under flor, sparkling, and a whole magical spectrum of refreshingly sweet botrytized wines and it’s undeniably deserving of our attention. “Furmint is one of central Europe’s greatest white grapes. It’s more savoury than fruity, deeply stony in certain … Continue reading First Ever International #FurmintDay is February 1st
This is the second article on Tokaj by Blue Danubian Eric Danch featured on GuildSomm.com. This one focuses on how a new generation is embracing the appellation’s pedigree while also improving farming and winemaking and then outlines the different wine styles of Tokaj. Tokaj-Hegyalja is the product of 20 million years of volcanic activity. This means that whether in the loess-covered south or the diverse range of rocks and clay locally called nyirok, the subsoil is largely tuff, guaranteeing that vines will struggle. Many of the most famous dűlői (crus) in the appellation are on the slopes of these formally active volcanoes, adding to their struggle with erosion, drainage, and exposure. As the aim was to supply industrial levels of production for consumption in the former USSR and the other former Bloc countries, growers quickly resorted to fertilizing, spraying heavily, and planting on the flats where large Russian-built tractors could easily operate. Vine density decreased, and famed terraces and steep sloped vineyards went fallow or were eventually consumed by the Zemplén Forest. Many forgotten vineyards are visible while driving through the region or walking up into the forest from existing sites. It’s a surreal sight. Today, producers are reverting to … Continue reading Tokaj Part 2: Quality Over Quantity
There is a new article on Tokaj by Blue Danubian Eric Danch featured on GuildSomm.com. It is the first of two installments and it provides some useful background on the appellation and outlines the history of one of Europe’s oldest wine regions: Hungarians are chronic storytellers. Perhaps it’s in their DNA, or the result of relying on oral history to preserve their national identity as kingdoms, empires, occupations, and wars have defined their land. Another identity-ridden Hungarian pastime is wine. The appellation of Tokaj-Hegyalja (“foothills of Tokaj”) in northeastern Hungary and southwestern Slovakia represents both; Hungarians even sing about the sweet nectar of Tokaj in their national anthem. Very few wine regions possess as much unbroken history, so significant a heyday, and such a decided fall into obscurity. As such, the focus of most Tokaj literature is about past greatness and hopes of reclaiming it. Much of what has been written also highlights King Louis XIV’s famous phrase, Vinum Regum, Rex Vinorum (“Wine of Kings, King of Wines”), and ends with a discussion of the collectivized quantity-over-quality industrial production under Communism. While both are true and important in understanding the region, Tokaj is no longer static, looking backwards, or dreaming … Continue reading Tokaj Part 1: Sweet Relevance
In the special fall issue of Wine & Spirits Magazine that featured conversations and tastings with 50 sommeliers, critics and wine educators, one of the articles was an interview of the Wine Director of Oakland’s À Côté restaurant Jeff Berlin by John Szabo MS: “Imagine the vineyards of the Côte d’Or being ripped out or abandoned, and then witnessing their rebirth” says Jeff Berlin, wine director at À Côté in Oakland, California. He’s describing the excitement he feels watching Hungary’s Tokaj region recover after a half-century of Soviet rules. In the interview, Jeff Berlin lists his favorite Tokaji wines including the Bodrog Borműhely Furmint Halas, produced by young winemakers János Hajduz and Krisztián Farkas: This wine, Berlin says, represents a riper, fruitier expression of furmint. The Halas vineyard, which once belonged to co-owner János Hajduz’s grandfather, is a warm, south-facing parcel that slopes down to the Bodrog River in the village of Bodrogkeresztúr, and its 50-year old vines grow in rich red volcanic clay. “These factors combine to make fat, happy furmint grapes and round, juicy mouthfuls of wine,” Berlin explains. “But the wine also demonstrates how the volcanic minerality and naturally high acidity of furmint can support a fuller, … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #55: Bodrog Borműhely Furmint Halas
It is Wine Wednesday and my family and I are in Tokaj, visiting Samuel and Mathilde Tinon. The day is sunny and warm, which is excellent news for the ripening of the grapes. Thanks to the rainfall we had two days ago, the soil has now the right moisture, which will allow the botrytis to develop on the berries: 2016 is going to be a good year! Samuel takes us to the famed Hatari vineyard up the hill with glasses and a bottle of dry Hatari Furmint 2015. The wine is rich and concentrated like the berries that we taste from the vines that has not been harvested yet, as they will be saved for the Aszú production. Back to the Tinons’ house, we’re greeted by Mathilde with 2 pitchers of fresh water and 2 bottles of dry and sweet Szamorodni. Both are exquisite wines with a unctuous texture and great complexity. The dry version leaves a taste of walnut and curry spices and is delicious with the pieces of Comté cheese that Mathilde has prepared. The sweet version is rich in sugar but perfectly balanced thanks to its acidity. Mathilde explains to us that sweet Tokaji shouldn’t be restricted … Continue reading #WineWednesday #52: Spotlight on Samuel Tinon
The story started with a photo of the Jewish cemetery in Mád, Tokaj. The photo can be found on Gabor and Carolyn Banfalvi’s food and wine tour website Taste Hungary, where they offer a Tokaj Jewish Heritage & Wine Tour. The photo shows headstones with names of local Jewish families including the Zimmermanns who owned a property in Mád, today the location of the Royal Tokaji winery. Beverly Fox and her mother Zsuzsanna Zimmermann — a Hungarian-American Holocaust survivor who is now called Susy Oster — recognized the cemetery and also one of the nearby buildings in front of a war monument as Zsuzsanna’s childhood house before she was deported in 1944 with her mother Blanka. In fact, Oster still has a postcard of the monument and the house. But on Royal Tokaji’s website, in the section on the winery’s history, there was a mysterious gap between the 1700s and the Communist and post-Communist eras. After this surprising historic find, the family approached the company. After a year of hard negotiations, Royal Tokaji has finally revised its historical section and on June 24 2016, unveiled two plaques on one of the exterior walls of the winery: “This was the home … Continue reading A postcard leads to a discovery of a Jewish family’s lost vineyard in Hungary
Contributed by Colm FitzGerald. Colm was born in Ireland, grew up in Southern California and now lives in Hungary. He’s passionate about exploring new cultures and off the tourist-trail destinations. His blog, The Paprika Project was born from the idea of sharing Hungary’s rich culture and natural beauty with the world. Learn more about The Paprika Project in our blog. Füleky Pallas Tokaji Late Harvest 2012 Made from overripe shriveled grapes creating a sweet, but balanced wine. A great introduction for those new to Hungarian dessert wines. Sticky sweet, but with acidity, with hints of butterscotch and ripe fruit. I never understood what people meant when they said a wine had the taste or smell of “cut straw” or “cut grass”. Now I know. Long finish of residual sweetness. Delicious. You can read about Colm’s full visit to the Füleky estate here.
Bordeaux vigneron Samuel Tinon, settled in Tokaj with his family after making wine all over the world. His wife, Mathilde, a wine journalist, tells their extraordinary story in a matter-of-fact way, but even her words are soaked with the beauty of Tokaj. “Wherever we were in the world, we always just thought about Tokaj, coming back here. The botrytis is perfect here, and we were fascinated by the aszú. We were on a quest, to discover the aszú berry”. In fact, “aszú”, the Hungarian word for the noble rot, botrytis, does enjoy the climate of Tokaj. Nights of thick fog are followed by warm sunshine in the fall, allowing the healthy development of botrytis. Today’s wine is dry Szamorodni. Partially botrytized bunches are picked as a whole (versus berry-selecting for an aszú wine) and fermented, resulting in Tokaji Szamorodni. Being really popular in Poland, the name “szamorodni” comes from the Polish word “as it is”, or “as it grows”. What makes this particular Szamorodni so unique and wonderful, is that Tinon went back to the original, traditional way of making this wine: aging it in partial barrels and allowing flor, the surface yeast to develop. The result is extreme complexity: … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #12: Tinon Dry Szamorodni