Julia Scavo DipWSET
Fiáker Budapest https://www.facebook.com/fiakerbudapest
Our Hungarian Wines study trip starts with Fiáker restaurant in Budapest and a lunch focused on the wines of the Monarchy. Actually the whole concept is about wines from Monarchy as the map up from the bar shows it. Fiáker’s owner is found of Austrian wines and he first opened this venue focusing on this subject. However, it could sound difficult to only propose Austrian wines in the heart of Budapest, so he spread his selection to Hungary then to all the countries that were part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The nowadays selection is extended to Süd-Tyrol (Italy), Croatia, Slovenia, Transylvania (Romania) and of course the two heads of the eagle – Hungary and Austria.
With the addition of Hungary on the Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards Program, Fiáker was among the two Hungarian restaurants awarded in 2020, and this also thanks to its 260- selection wine list which is both an original concept in its own and a real gem for good-value bottlings.
We started with a Badacsony Olaszrizling 2019 from Eliás showing typical varietal definition of green apple, pear and citrus, quite rich and mellow with freshness driven by bitter zests. Classic Smaragd Grüner Veltliner from Domäne Wachau – Ried Achleiten 2017 then followed, concentrated and exotic with notes of honey, spices and stone fruit, unctuous and dense held by phenolics that help getting a fresher feel. To finish, Dveri Pax Sauvignon Blanc from Stajerskà Slovenjia 2018, producer that is also known for sparkling wines. Very “Steiermark style”. These were diverse pairings we enjoyed with the roasted pork stuffed with foie gras and apple.
Adventure starts here as now we head to Bükk region! Follow us!
Evening in Miskolc – Bükk region which almost got extinct and that only its talented producers try to keep alive. Miskolc is one of Hungary largest cities, however it seems quiet, like most of the dormitory industrial towns. We arrived here after a summer rain that refreshed the heat and made Miskolc, or at least the part we visited feel greener. The grey sky however was the natural continuity of the concrete buildings built under Communism. 200 years ago Bükk was a famous wine region but after the phylloxera and Communism the organization changed pushing the industry and neglecting agriculture that went tremendously down. People almost forgot about the 2000 cellars carved under the vines.
Emigration, aged and exhausted vineyards with no youngster to take care off, the shadow of Eger to the West and mighty Tokaj to the East, these all contributed to the decline of this once famous region that used to spread on 18000 ha. Only 1750 ha are still counted, but less than 500 ha out of that are physically used. Most of the villages belonged to a two-fold classification with I and II classes but unlike the Tokaji classification their prestige was lost in time.
14 producers try to revive the region as mentioned above. Their goal is to erase the industrial image of the area and get it out of the twilight, highlight its original grape varieties and exceptional cellar network under the rhyolite tuff as well as focusing on respectful vine growing and winemaking to emphasis the terroir. The association is actually called “Terroir Bükk” and has a two level classification: “Classic Bükk” and “Terroir Bükk”, the latter being organically cultivated.
Borbély Roland – Gallay Pince https://www.gallaypince.com/ , one of the pioneers of the Association, officially started making wine in 2012 as a « garagiste » knowing that he had already vinified in the past in his father’s garage. Then he studied Oenology and launched the project. By 2012 the association Terroir Bükk was also formed with Roland one of the founder members. Its wines belong to two ranges: “Gallay” (name of his grandmother) and “Bistronautica”, and are sourced on 11 ha. Good to know, Roland worked as chief winemaker for Kovacs Nimrod Winery.
We tasted his wines on the historical Avas Hill that tops at 100m and used to be covered
with vines in the past. The souvenir of those times is still reflected by the impressive cellar and its white mould, now a museum rather than a working place. Avasi Cellarium http://cellarium.hu/EN offered us the perfect atmosphere to talk about the Bükk terroir.
Few words about the vine growing environment now. Soil is deep clayish in Bükk which could be considered as an advantage in warm years, but as Roland explained to us “it is difficult to stay on a sunny beach at 36°C degrees with the feet in cold water”. Roots stay cool, indeed. Slow ripening for some of the varieties depending on the root stock more or less adapted to this soil is one of the consequences too. Some grape varieties take advantage of it, other don’t.
1. Blend of Bükk – Genus 2019 (Chardonnay, Olaszrizling and Zenit) tank fermented and kept on lees, stirred many times. Discreet, leesy, with delicate hints of apple and pear, the nose is stony, with some herbal notes. Dry, with moderate acidity, it has a dense mouthfeel with light phenolics that balance the generous touch. This dense character impacts the texture and make it feel unctuous. Quite long and promising.
2. Gallay 2019 Kabar (Bouvier x Hárslevelü) this cross obtained in 1967, as resistant as it might be, only gives 7t/ha and most of it is found in Tokaj, but Roland told us about the existence of a producer growing it in Somlo. When it is getting too ripe, one can easily skip the harvest window. Early ripening variety. Nose is discreet, flinty, with some apple, citrus, leafy glints and almonds. The palate is dry, leesy, rich, acidity is medium, held by phenolics, with more intense flavours of apple, citrus, some pepper and almonds, with salivating finish. Roland owns 1 ha of Kabar out the about 20ha globally thriving in Hungary.
3. Nyékládháza 100% Zenit (Ezerjó x Bouvier cross obtained by Ferenc Király in 1951, sibling of Zengö and Zeusz) 2016 (barrel aged and barrel matured for 1 year). Pale lemon yellow, nose is clean and intense, with hazelnuts, almonds, apple and peach, buttery and nutty. Dry, with elevated acidity, lean, getting some phenolics, oak impacts both the flavours and the structure. It has elevated but digest alcohol and also some spices, nuts, almonds, long, lingering with spices. Very good. Within the “Super 12” last year by the Hungarian Wine Writers association.
4. Gallay Blanc 2014 (Pinot Blanc and Zenit, first vintage 70%/ 30%). Barrel fermented and barrel aged. Different sizes and ages of barrels, « Trust » cooperage, from 5 different forests, Sopron oak and Mecsek as well as Zmplen. The wine is intense, nutty, creamy, buttery, notes of hazelnuts, with spices, biscuit aromas, honey, and apple. Dry with medium plus to elevated acidity, oak is present with phenolics, oaky spices and almonds, long nutty finish.
5. Rosé 2019 100% Zweigelt The focus here is not making rosé, grapes are meant for red wines and this is a “saignée”. 1-2h soaking.
Medium pink. Clean nose, with delicate cherry, sour cherry, cherry pit, some flowers, such as peony, with herbal aromatics, dry, medium acidity, with light tannins, alcohol medium, and palate shows a peppery touch and classic cherry, sour cherry, herbal finish. Medium plus finish.
6. Bistronauta red 2015 100% Zweigelt 16 months in barrel. Light ruby colour. Crunchy cherry, sour cherry, flowers such as peony and violet, smoky, juicy, lean, alcohol is elevated but digest, with spicy feel, the acidity is medium, the body is medium with moderate tannins, fruit is extremely exuberant, cherry, sour cherry, herbal notes. Medium plus finish.
7. Turan 2017 Deeply coloured, intensely scented: flowers, potpourri, Christmas cake, cloves, tonka fava, « Mon cherry » chocolate, oak spices and also some smoke, chocolate. Dry, medium acidity, ripe and rich, high alcohol, rich and generous, with medium tannins but quite dusty, like spices and chocolate, mould wine, Christmas cake. Long aromatic
A good range with surprising wines. Happy to have tasted Zenit, Kabar and Turan! We also enjoyed a traditional pörkölt slow cooked by Roland with pogacse, not to mention pickles, paprika, sour cream and other Hungarian goodies to warm up after visiting the fantastic but chilling cellar.
Tomorrow morning time to go to Tokaj. Follow us!
Spectacular Tokaj on the Öreg Király Dülö Grand Cru vineyard of the famous village of Mád, going up at 343m and as steep as 66%. Mostly planted with “King” Furmint variety, there are also some Hárslevelü plantings. Other plots of Barta winery include some Sárgamuskotály and Köverszölö. They mostly use the T 85 clone (authorized since the 90s) with smaller bunches than the classic T 92 (authorized since 1973). The soil here is a mix of rhyolite and red clay with iron oxides. As the lava burst the gas could not escape from the cooling rocks and gave specific blisters on the stones, known as “monkey brain” (pictured here).
We experienced a great tasting of Barta wines in the vineyard, finishing with a 2013 Tokaji Eszencia. “Vinum regnum, rex vinorum”, indeed. Barta wines are both elegant and concentrated with the typically flinty smokiness. Depth, silky textures, never austere but firm with precise finish that makes one salivate and lingering flavours. Mastered oak maturing and a lot of sensibility led by the tremendous acidity we all know in the area. When it comes to the sweet wines, either Szamorodni or the Aszú they only make in 6 puttonyos version, not to mention the luscious Eszencia. Furmint is the only compound and has such a strong signature with incredible balance whatever the sweetness degree might be. Organic vineyards, some wines are Demeter certified and recently they also started getting into the sparkling area. One conclusion, just wow!
1. 2016 Öreg Király Dülö dry Furmint 12,5% abv. RS 8,9 g/l TA 6,9 g/l 85% in 500 l Hungarian barrel from Kadar.
Pale lemon yellow, clear. Nose is clean, pure and intense, with notes of tropical pineapple, peach, fresh almonds, more of a reductive character with flint, smoke, but also honey and white blossoms, a hint of candied citrus. The palate is dry, with mellow texture and high acidity, moderate alcohol and structure led by the vivid freshness. It has almost a tannic grip with phenolics, but the texture stays leesy and smooth, with silky mouthfeel. The wine is long, focusing on citrus, honey and fresh almonds. Very good, plus with a long cellaring potential of 10-12 years at least.
2. 2018 Öreg Király Dülö dry Furmint 12,5% abv. RS 9 g/l TA 7,2 g/l 85% in 500 l Hungarian barrel from Kadar.
Of a pale lemon yellow colour, the wine is more restraint, discreet and definitely needs some breathing to release it concentration with notes of apple, flint, smoke, again in a reductive style. Then come verbena and citrus. Dry, with high acidity, moderate alcohol level, lean and focused, getting a lot of concentration and offering citrus notes, almonds, spices as well as pepper, opening on some ripe apricots too as the wine breathes and warmth on the palate. The finish is precise, long, flinty, an outstanding wine with more than 15 years of potential.
3. 2019 Öreg Király Dülö dry Hárslevelü 13,1% abv. RS 8,3 g/l TA 6,9 g/l
Pale lemon green colour, intensely scented with tropical fruit, such as guava, mango, pineapple, white flowers and citrus as well as their bitter zests reminding the grapefruit. Some hints of almonds too. Dry, with elevated acidity, restrained texture, lean and precise, with a bitter touch. The wine has medium to medium plus alcohol, with lots of juicy tropical flavours: pineapple, mainly but also citrus and zests, the finish is long with almonds aftertaste.
4. 2015 Öreg Király Dülö Tokaji Szamorodni, sweet 11,82% abv. RS 99 g/l TA 5,2 g/l
Pale golden colour. Nose is concentrated with some Botrytis signature, then come apricots, honey, sultana, pineapple. Sweet, with medium plus to elevated acidity, the texture is lean and satin-like, intense flavours of pineapple, honey, almonds zest, with sultana and ginger long finish. A fresh wine baring noble rot signs, concentrating the freshness and balancing the sweetness. More than 10 year’s potential.
5. 2016 Tokaji Aszú 6 puttonyos 9,36% abv. RS 244,6 g/l 13,2 g/l
Glittering golden colour. The Nose is concentrated, almost flinty, volcanic, with deep dried apricots scents, sultana, honey, desiccated pineapple, markers of noble rot such as ginger, candied ginger, sweet spices, orange marmalade, and a hint of fresh mushroom. Luscious, but with such tremendous acidity and despite the low alcohol, it shows extract and texture with pronounced flavours of dried pineapple, apricot, sultana, honey. It is long and pure with bitter orange zests and lovely, salivating acidity, some ginger and spices. 15-20 years plus for the aging potential.
6. 2013 Tokaji Eszencia 1, 76% abv. RS 616,7 g/l TA 10,5 g/l
Deeply golden, its nose is concentrated, with notes of quince jelly, raisin, apricot jam, dried apricots, a hint of smoke, then come honey, sultana, ginger, in purely botrytised style. Luscious, with high acidity and an incredible balance despite 1,76 % abv and more than 600 g/l of sugar. Pronounced, with honey, marmalade, marzipan, ginger, long, almost interminable, like a dream.
Visit and picnic in the vines at Patricius Winery. Fantastic ampelographic collection and explanations on every grape variety and type of soil they possess on this 80ha estate with more or less 5 different sectors (villages).
Starting with the most obscure to finish with the three stars of Tokaji.
Purcsin and Kék Bakator are old red grapes that used to thrive in the Tokaji area, as nobles and kings enjoyed hunting and wanted to have some serious red to pair with.
The Sárga Ortliebi is in fact Alsace’s Knipperlé – a Pinot x Heunisch Weiss cross.
Balafant usually has a “hen and chicken” behaviour like Kéknyelu and Picolit.
Féher Járdovány is the same as Romanian Iordan/ Iordana or Iordovana, an old Heunisch Weiss offspring (curiously, this time the “Casanova grape” is the pollinated mother).
Polyhos Furmint or simply Polyhos meaning “Birdy” Furmint is also subject to the “hen and chicken” phenomenon – “millérandage”. So no chance to use it under communist rule.
The Piros Furmint is a pink mutation of Furmint and was used for long skin contact.
Valtozo Furmint – “the politician grape” changes colour during maturation and is a cross of Alba Imputotato and Heunisch Weiss which makes it a sibling of Furmint.
Török Gohér and Budai Gohér are known as bad pollinators. Very confusing, the Budai Gohér is also used as another name for Furmint, Hárslévelü or Juhfark.
Kabar – Bouvier x Hárslévelü
Zeta – Bouvier x Furmint
Köverszölö – same DNA as Grasa de Cotnari and an off-spring of Heunisch Weiss
Patricius produces about 300.000 bottles on 80 ha and has 6 different terroirs: Jaspe and Kalcedon, Pyroxene andesite, Rhyolite and Rhyolite tuff, andesite.
The 2017 Organic Tokaj 100% stainless steel brings resin notes and smoky character, lean, vivid and developing with a hint of grapefruit peel on the finish. The 50%Furmint/ 50% Harlsevélü Traditional method Sparkling Tokaj shows same herbal and resin touch, it is flinty, citrusy, with leesy autolysis, and tonic with zesty finish. Excellent pairing with the smoked rillettes and “moutarde à l’ancienne”. Tokaj Selection 2018 with 50% of the wine undergoing barrel fermenting -polished, silky with notes of apple, almonds, honey and white blossom, the wine is dry, smooth and fresh, showing leesy phenolics and bitter zesty notes, as well as a long nutty touch refreshed by its salivating acidity. Katinka Late harvest 2017 ( Furmint/ Muscat/ Köverszölö) is one of the biggest success as brand in the sector and proposes a digest version of sweet Tokaj with a hint of botrytis expressing some “mushroomy” character but very gourmand with apricot jam, sultana and honey and always lively to balance sweetness. We finished with a 6 Puttonyos Tokaj Aszu 2016, a fantastic vintage, majestic, deep, sweet but not luscious and concentrated with that naturally volcanic finish that makes it savoury.
1. Tokaj dry Furmint 2017 ( organic, stainless steel)
Pale silvery colour with greenish hues, the nose is both airy with citrucy terpen, balsamic resin and also down-to-earth showing smoke and flint. Dry, with high acidity, the alcohol is moderate offering a lean style, led by its silky texture where resin and citrus zests linger to the long refreshing finish that brings up some flinty notes again.
2. Tokaj Sparkling ( 50% Furmint / 50% Hárslevélü, 3 years and a half on lees)
The pale lemon yellow colour shows some goldish glints. Nose is clean, with piny resin, citrus and flint, few autolysis, more of a leesy character, almost bready. The palate is dry, with smooth mouthfeel tickled by tonic bubbles with refreshing high acidity and lots of zests, grapefruit flavour as well as pleasant bitter touch on the finish.
3. Tokaj dry Furmint Selection 2018 (50% of the wine is oak fermented and spends 7-8 months in barrel)
Pale white golden colour, the nose is clean with notes of apple, almonds, honey and white blossom. The wine is dry, smooth and fresh, showing leesy phenolics and bitter zesty notes, as well as a long nutty touch refreshed by its salivating acidity. The flavours are intense, again with layers of apple, citrus and honey, aftertaste is long, lingering with oriental spices and wax.
4. “Katinka” Late Harvest Tokaj 2017 Furmint/ Sargamuskatolay/ Köverszölö
Of a glittering golden colour, the wine has a gourmand nose with apricots, sultana, honey, highlighting some botrytis markers of ginger and mushroom. The palate is sweet with more than 120 g/l of residual, texture is creamy, with concentrated acidity of a high level, intense flavours such as those of the olfactory panel and the specific, almost flinty – smoky finish that balances the whole and gives savoury salivation.
5. Tokaji Aszú 6 puttonyos 2016
Deep golden colour with concentrated nose of dried apricots and jammy peaches, with figs and hints of noble mushroom, complimented by the pure botrytis touch of ginger powder and bitter marmalade. Sweet, with high acidity concentrated by the noble rot, majestic and complex flavours and specific volcanic finish with a smoky hint.
The day continued with the Hungarian Wines Gettogether 2020 Event https://www.hungarianwines.eu/gettogether-2020/ – a professional Wine Fair where we had the chance to taste a bunch of excellent producers from all over Hungary, among which: The Villányi Producers Association with wines from Bock Winery, Gere Attila, Gere Tamás Zsolt, Vylyan, Polgár Pince, and Günzer; Lajver Winery and Vesztergombi from Szekszáred, also visited the next day, Borbély Winery from Badacsony region, Grand Tokaj, Zsirai Winery from Tokaj, Sanzon from the same region, and of course our host Patricius plus a selection of old grape varieties from Wine Mosaïc and many other goodies tasted during the late dinner.
This was also the occasion to officially announce and award the winners of all the categories of the 3rd edition of the Hungarian Wines – WebWineWriting Contest 2020.
Cabernet Franc – English language: Julia Scavo and proudly absolute winner of the competition
Cabernet Franc – Hungarian language: Tamás Jakab
Wine Architecture – English language: Paul Caputo
Wine Architecture – Hungarian language: Zsanett Fürdős
Tokaj – English language: Sebastian Giraldo
Tokaj – Hungarian language: Márk Vargha
Congratulation to all winners and also all finalists for this tough mission! And many thanks to all my supports that granted me their vote for my article: “Cabernet Franc – a grape variety finding its own path”.
Traditional lunch on the Danube’s bank with Kadarka wine from Vesztergombi Winery in Szekszárd. Vesztergombi is one of the oldest producers in the area, their ancestors were mentioned as tasting judges or “hegybiro”, an important mission in the past. Their court of arms depicts a fox, as a symbol for the ability of their grapes to perfectly ripen on their plots, as foxes only enjoyed fully matured grapes. With 30 hectares they own an average size estate for the denomination. 20% white grapes (with Olaszrizling being the flagship and also most plated white grape in Szekszárd) and 80% reds, main colour of the denomination, with more Kadarka, Merlot and Syrah than any other fellow producers. Vesztergombi also own 0,5 ha of Malbec thought to have a good potential in the area. The estate is not yet organically certified but experiments with innovative techniques and plans to become “more than organic” in the coming years. This secret project had already given some results beginning with last year. The soil in the area is mainly red clay, a kind of Terra rossa, but some plots also have loess deposits. The Kadarka perfectly adapts to the red soil, and Vesztergombi owns 30% of their plots planted with this capricious grape (the Turkish synonym “Gamza” actually means “capricious woman”). This is a late-ripening grape, almost of the same period like Cabernet Sauvignon which explains its un-uneven ripening from one vintage to another and the fact that the region plants it at a 4% rate. Kadarka is considered to be an old grape variety and has many clones. Vesztergombi selected 5 clones from the 120 years old plots and replanted a new vine 10 years ago with these clonal material. They also experiment with clones from Balla Geza which have a thicker skin and smaller berries with aptitude for fuller wines. If the year is not worthy, they never market the Kadarka. The past decade they only labelled 2017 and 2018, as best vintages. Both 2017 and 2018 have pale ruby colour, showing cherries, strawberries, with hints capsicum. Medium alcohol with elevated acidity and light body. Drink young but certainly 2 or 3 years cellaring should bring more silkiness to this wine. Very good pairing with Danube freshwater fish soup Baja style. The Baja style is slow cooked so that the fish frees isinglass from the bones and gives more consistency to the liquid. It is different from the Szegedi style, where fish is pressed and added to the liquid. The two regions fight for the patent of this delicacy same way Szekszárd and Eger both claim to be the historical home of Bull’s Blood.
Pale ruby colour with a garnet tinge. The nose is clean, elegant and delicate, showing red fruit, cherries, strawberries, interlacing with herbal hints, some paprika and lots of spices such as pepper. Texture is silky, the wine is dry, with elevated acidity, moderate alcohol and light tannins with a firm grain. The wine is intense with red fruits, glints of flower such as peony and long peppery finish.
Pale ruby colour, the nose is delicate with notes of cherry, sour cherry, herbal hints and floral peony character, intermingling with spices. The palate is dry, acidity is medium plus to elevated, with light fine tannins and digest, moderate alcohol, the wine is silky with intense cherry and sour cherry notes, an herbal touch and capsicum on the long finish.
Lajver Borbirtok in Szerkszárd. Designed by a Chilean architect its spectacular cellar has a panoramic view on the sunny slopes of vines where they plant 5 white grape varieties ( Cserszegi Füseres, Chardonnay, Olaszrizling, Rhein Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc) and 7 reds (Kékfrankos, Kadarka, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir as well as some experiments with Petit Verdot they think interesting for the global climate changing) . It is quite original to find so many whites in a region for reds, but Szekszárd is all about micro-climates, so thongs can change from a valley to another. We are here at the edge of the Lajver valley, a small stream that gave the name of the winery. As they explained to us they master this variety of grapes by adapting each variety to the best plot: for instance, Pinot Noir and Olaszrizling in the bottom of the valleys searching for freshness and Merlot more on the top of a hill, paying attention that it is also an early ripening grape.
High end technology, all by gravitation, the site is monumental. In 2011 it was declared the most innovating cellar in Szekszárd. The whole site is trained by gravity, also reserving the coolest spaces such as the bottom of the cellar for whites and rosés. It finishes as usually with the barriques chamber, most of the barrels coming from Trust company with oak being sourced from Zemplen and Mecsek forests.
Vines are still young but potential is there. They also make some original wines such a Ménoir rosé and a Blanc de Noirs using Kekfrankos. The Ménoir grape was previously called Médoc Noir or Kékmedoc but its name changed in 2004 when Hungary acceded to the EU. This aromatic grape variety is a cross of Chasselas and Ingram’s Muscat and offers musky flavours as well as spices related to a Christmas cake character. Reds show a lot of fruit with ambitious oak maturing, that impacts the aromas with spices, toast and cocoa, but the wines are not over extracted and alcohol degrees tempt to be kept as digest as possible for this southern region. I enjoyed the Kekfrankos 2015 using an Austrian clone (A41) for this flagship grape of the area, showing its intense black fruit, red plums, spices, both varietals and from the oak, peppery, with fine herbal aromatics, dry but silky, with salivating elevated acidity, still moderate alcohol and juicy fruit complimented by the oak impact. Tannins are form but not tight as one can find with this grape, as the vines will age the wine will become deeper, the potential is there and this can age 7-8 years. Infinity Cuvée 2016 à very good Bordeaux Blend reminds us of something of a Saint Emilion.
1. Incognito 2019 Kékfrankos Blanc de Blancs
Pale lemon green colour with silvery tinges. The nose is clean, showing reductive technology and low temperature vinification character with notes of melon and crunchy Granny Smith apple complimented by aniseed. The palate is dry, with high acidity and some phenolics, a digest and refreshing wine bringing a touch of pleasant bitterness on the finish, reminding the grapefruit peel.
2. Pinot Noir 2017 Limited Edition almost whole berries with a very light crushing process and aging in old barrels.
Of a pale ruby colour, the wine shows a clean and medium intense nose, with notes of cherry, sour cherry, cherry pit as well as spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves). The palate is dry with elevated acidity, moderate plus alcohol and medium tannins. It is smooth and silky, the wine is juicy with notes of red fruit, such as cherry and sour cherry with lots of spices lingering on the finish. 5-6 years of aging potential.
3. Kékfrankos 2015 12 months in 500l barrels.
The colour is deep ruby with purple hues. Clean, intense, with black cherries, red plums, spices such as pepper and herbal tones intermingling with the spiciness offered by the oak maturing ( nutmeg, cloves), as well as toast and coffee. Dry with elevated acidity, tannins are elevated, texture is silky, alcohol is moderate, but warming with spicy and juicy character. Fruit is intense showing: cherry, black cherry and Morello cherry. 7-8 years of aging potential.
4. Merlot 2015
Deep ruby, clear, with intense nose of ripe strawberries, plums, hints of vanilla and chocolate from the oak maturing. The wine is dry, with medium plus to quite elevated acidity, generous alcohol that helps wrapping the soft tannins, of a moderate plus level, fine, powdered, dusty like cocoa powder. The fruit is pronounced showing lots of strawberries, plums, spices such as cinnamon and other oaky tones, lingering on the persistent aftertaste. 5-6 years of aging potential, I like the salivating acidity for this Merlot as it balances its generous, velvety character.
5. Infinity cuvee 2016 – Cabernet Franc/ Merlot/ Cabernet Sauvignon
Deep ruby – purplish colour. The nose is clean, pronounced, with layers of ripe cherry, black cherry, creamy blackcurrants complimented by oaky spices such as cinnamon, with glints of toast and vanilla, a concentrated nose that somehow reminds something from Saint Emilion. The palate is dry with ripe attack, the mouthfeel is mellow and velvety, led by the rich alcohol level and bringing a seducing envelope for its elevated tannins. Acidity is still fresh and salivating, thanks to the contribution of the Cabernet Franc and the fruit is deep, intense, showing cherry, blackcurrants, toast and vanilla tones with chocolate lingering on the long finish. A very good wine showing aptitude for 8-10 years of aging.
Josef Bock Winery – dinner and tasting
Dinner and tasting at Josef Bock’s Winery, in Villány. We were so warmly welcome in his Ermitage hotel, one of the top institutions in Hungary. Mr. Josef Bock is the forefather and president of the Villány producers’ association. Since 30 years, the southernmost Hungarian denomination demonstrates its uniqueness. Sub-Mediterranean climate with masses of warm air coming from the Adriatic, its limestone, lœss and clay slopes are protected by the Backony, Mecseck and of course Villlány massifs from northern cold air, so that Villány becomes a country for reds. Few whites are produced, being reserved to the Siklos area mostly. It is here where altitudes range from 120 to 330m that the famous Villányi Franc was created as a speciality in its own. But Villány not only protects this speciality, as it happens in the other PDOs, their rigorous system being extended to many other interesting styles of wines. Bock family takes care of this heritage being the oldest attested winemaker family in the area with history getting back as far as the 17th century when German settlers came here. Their activity as viticulturists goes back to 1850. They resisted the Communist expropriation and deportations and now their 80ha vineyard is built on the tiny 2ha plot they still reminded in the 90s. They now bread 7 red varieties and 4 whites all typical to the area.
We enjoyed the Blanc de Blancs 100% Chardonnay Pezsgö as an appetitive, with a ripe character and herbal, résine scents, still fresh, then the Harslevelü 2019 between tropical and refreshing characters with its smooth palate for the Foie gras and oignon confit. Further on a peppery Rosé 2019, blend of press and saignée from most of the winery’s red grapes, it was juicy and had a ripe exuberant red fruit with flowery notes. The Syrah 2017 reminded us of Southern Rhône Valley, while the Villány Cuvée 2017 (blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon in Hungarian oak) was so intense with its pristine black fruit, concentrated spices, with all structural parameters being high but well blended and wrapped into a velvety texture. The flagship Cuvée of the estate. We felt the care for each detail, in the way Mr. Bock shared his passion with us to explain the denomination with precise information, in the style of the wines and also how they welcomed us including the kids with royal portions of Schnitzel and the estate’s delicious grape juice. Cheers!
1. Blanc de Blancs 100% Chardonnay 2013 Pezsgö
Terpenic phase Chardonnay, with ripe character, getting its freshness through citrus notes, such as candied citron fruit and also some resin scents. Then come peachy notes, light autolysis reminding the fresh bread. The palate is dry, bubbles are fine, with medium, supple acidity, but the feeling is fresh, enhanced by zestiness. Finish is persistent with balsamic glints of resin and aromatic herbs.
2. Villányi Hárslévélü 2019
Slightly aromatic, between herbal and tropical scents, delicate and pleasant. The palate is dry, with fresh, moderate plus acidity, digest, medium alcohol, the wine gets its personality through aromatic scents, tropical hints, flowery notes and zesty finish lingering with enjoyable grapefruit- like bitterness.
3. Villányi Rosé Cuvée 2019 most of the producers from Villány create such a pink cuvée, blending the representative red grapes of the area. Each one has his/ her own recipe. Here we talk about a blend of 25% Portuguiser (or “Oporto” as Mr. Bock still like to call this grape. He explained to us that since 2004 when Hungary acceded to the EU, the names Kékoporto or Oporto were banned without any grace period, while other countries still had the right to label some wines with Tokay/ Tocai/ Tokaj…), 25% Kékfrankos, 25% Pinot Noir and the rest a mix of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Kadarca etc.
Of a medium peachy pink colour, the nose is intense, fruity with tones of strawberry, raspberry, some confected fruits too as well as a hint of pungent spices and pepper. Dry, mellow, catching all the fruit without phenolics, the wine is fresh and enjoyable, with peppery and spicy glints on the long, juicy aftertaste lingering with capsicum flavours.
4. Villányi Syrah 2017 The story of Syrah is Hungary is quite recent, with Mr. Bock and Monica Debreczeni pioneers in the area. However the first to have introduced it into the Hungarian wine world is supposed to be the late Gal Tibor Sr. by the 2000s with first vintage produced in 2003 in Eger.
Deeply coloured and scented, this Syrah reminds something from Southern Rhône Valley with tones of concentrated dark fruit, pepper and liquorice, but also herbal aromas that hint to Mediterranean scrubland. It is ripe, rich, still a dry wine with mellow attack, soft acidity and generous alcohol seducing by its velvety texture imprinted with smooth tannins. Lots of black fruits, liquorice, and pepper, long juicy finish with inviting, salivating character. 6-7 years of aging potential.
5. Villányi Cuvée 2017 Cabernet Franc/ Merlot aged both in French and Hungarian oak
Deep purple colour, with intense nose of black fruit, such as blackcurrants mainly, spices, pepper, liquorice and oak spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Dry, with ripe attack, salivating acidity that balances the rich alcohol. The tannins are firm, fine grained, with chocolate-like character, the flavours are classy, highlighting some balsamic, herbal touch. The aftertaste is long, lingering with pepper and spices. 10-12 years to go at least for this flagship cuvée of the estate.
Villány tasting in the fantastic cellar of Bock Ermitage Hotel
In the temple of Villány, with the Kings of Villány for a memorable tasting in this unique cellar of Josef Bock’s estate. Such an honour to taste the flagship wines of the area crafted by such talented winemakers.
Gere Tamás Zsolt – Villányi Kadarka 2017 DHC Villány from a more aromatic, spicy clone, the wine was airy, with flowers, carnation, spices and very close to the grape juice, with hints of cherry and strawberry. Dry, vivid, with soft tannins, like a Pinot Noir, its herbal scents interlaced with flowery perfumes and spices or ripe capsicum lingering on the long salivating finish. Its elegance and fragile appearance make us forget they this can really have long aging potential.
Gere Attila Fekete Járdovány 2018, a pre-phylloxera forgotten pearl, that seems to revive and thrive again in the area, on 1,2ha cultivated by the mythical producer Gere Attila. It has no genetic link with the Feher Járdovány and there is still a lot of shadow on this grape. The nose is savoury, wild, with a hint of graphite and spices, with both reminds from Pinot Noir and Kékfrankos- cherry, pepper, herbal spices. Dry, with high acidity and tanning grip like a Piedmont wine, its texture is lean, silky and the flavours explosive with flowers, aromatic peppers, spices, balsamic that intermingle with pure red fruit and linger in the long finish.
Vylyan Villányi Franc 2016 DHC Villány bursting with cherries, blackberries, and herbal sensations, some mineral graphite, pepper. It is dry and elegant, with moderate alcohol for the area, smooth acidity and classy tannins that are elevated, ripe and fine grained wrapped into juicy texture. Intense with both black and red fruit complimented by spices and pepper, the long finish highlights the black bitter cherry and boosts it to a long aftertaste.
Gere Tamás Zsolt Villányi Franc 2016 DHC Villány organically trained plot, reductive and serious, with black fruit, black berry, blueberry, earthy tones, and graphite. Dry with elevated acidity, high and fine tannins, a down-to-earth wine, focusing on texture more than perfumes, with mastered oak maturing and digest structure, a wine that lingers with lots of spices.
Bock “Libra” 2015 Cabernet Franc/ Cabernet Sauvignon Villányi cuvée DHC Villány Deep, typical nose, like a Saint Emilion with cherries, plums, herbal tones and balsamic airy hints that intermingle with creamy and mastered oak maturing. Dry with lovely elevated acidity the alcohol is generous and helps wrapping the edges of the high serious tannins that are fine, like bitter chocolate. With few tertiary elements such as tobacco, the wine has a lot of fruit getting plums, red and black elements, cocoa, spices, and precious oak on the long finish.
Gere Attila “Kopár” Villányi Cuvée 2017 DHC Villány driven by Cabernet Franc, the majestic cuvée that gets its energy from the thin limestone some of the Kopar terroir. Profound, with black fruit, vanilla, cocoa, fine balsamic, almost minty, with cinnamon , nutmeg, the wine is complex, dry with ripe attack, elegant and silky, juicy with high acidity, tannins and alcohol but in a such harmonious blend of matters, feelings and intensity of the fruit. The tannins are fine and polished with salivating grain, the wine is spicy, seducing with a mix of fruit, mastered oak and classy balsamics.
Built for a long aging potential.
Vylyan « Mandolás » Villányi Franc 2012 DHC Villány, a ripe, solar Franc from this plot that is a southern exposed amphitheatre where almond trees used to grow in this sub-Mediterranean mild climate. Creamy, rich with elegant toast and vanilla hints, it is juicy but not jammy, bursting with oaky spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg. Dry, with mellow attack, its acidity is elevated and the wine is generous, enveloped with pulpy texture, a lot of black fruit, spices and cocoa, a hint of tobacco come on the palate. Very youthful for its age, long and pure.
Josef Bock « Capella » Villány Cuvée 2009 DHC Villány 60% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot blend from Ördög- arok and Jammertal plots it shows noble tertiary, with undergrowth, cep mushroom, savoury meaty flavours, candied black fruit and cooked sweet bell pepper, a lot of concentrated liquorice. Dry and ripe, rich with high structural parameters, firm tannins of elegant nature, polished by the time, an extractive but elegant wine with concentrated and pronounced aromas, finishing on cloves, liquorice and tobacco with a touch of precious wood.
An incredible experience accompanied by the winemaker’s explanations, this was like the fireworks for our study trip!
Csányi Winery in Villány. Our last stop before our flight back in the afternoon. We followed the traces of Sigmund Teleki, famous Hungarian grafter and one of the creators of the 5BB and SO4 rootstocks. He owned the vineyard end of the 19th century and now the top brands bare his name. After a first part of the visit in the modern cellar at the edge of technology with all vats controlled by computer, then came the historical labyrinth of more than 1 km under the village of Villány, largest in all the South of the Pannonian Hungary. And the tasting in the traditional tasting room. We started with the new « Redy » concept that appeared in 2017 within the Villány producers association for easy drinking reds with at least 50% Portuguiser, then an excellent Château range Kékfrankos sourced from the Ördög-arok hill, vivid, spiced with mastered oak impact and digest alcohol, varietal definition, together with its firm tannins, 3 Villányi Franc beginning from the blend of plots under the Chateau brand to the mighty Kopár, the super-premium « Tradició 1881 » 2015 vintage. From pristine fruit and excellent digestibility to a developing wine with lots of youth, highlighting precious wood, tobacco, cedar, noble spices complimenting black currant and Morello cherry. An architectural wine upon high structural parameters with a lot of harmony. An un- released yet 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Kövillá selection (Kövillá was the stony little house in the vine belonging to Teleki), interesting comparison with the Villányi Franc 2015 from the same plot, but such a baby with juvenile structure and intense fruit, oak spiciness, a backbone based upon a trio of high acidity, tannins and alcohol feel, all wrapped into a silky texture down to the long salivating cocoa finish. Before enjoying some bubbles, a Premium Cabernet Franc 2002. As you might know, the Villányi Franc brand only exists from 2015, so before it only was a Premium. Developed, with tertiary, leafy forest floor and cep mushrooms, tobacco, coffee and Cocoa, with still very vivid fruit, the wine exposes a velvety palate, with young, harmonious structure and still 5-6 years to go. I wouldn’t have placed that wine as far as 2002 in a blind tasting! Bubbles before taking off, actually, Teleki’s cellar was well known for Pezsgö back in the times of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Now they produce a high technology rosé from Pinot Noir (already harvested yesterday for this vintage!) 2 years in the lees, few autolysis impact but lots of fruit and tonic character with tiny phenolics and juicy palate.
1. Teleki Villányi Redy 2019 13% abv. 60% Portuguiser, 20% Kékfrankos, 20% Blauburger, Kadarka stainless steel only, bottled in April this year.
Pale ruby, youthful nose with clean and intense fruit such as cherry, sour-cherry, herbal notes of rosemary and thyme, some spices. The wine is dry, with elevated acidity, offering crisp, tannins are soft, and the palate is digest, fresh with lots of fruit, pungent spices and herbal scents, aromatics that linger on the aftertaste. Drink young.
2. Teleki Selection Villány 2017 13,5% abv. A classic Kékfrankos aged in used Hungarian oak + 20% of 1 year barrels.
Medium ruby colour, the nose is fine and pronounced with notes of cherry, blueberry, mint and balsamic feel, also showing some pepper, few oak impact, with some cinnamon notes only. Dry, with high and vivid acidity, silky texture, and rich warming feel despite moderate alcohol. This enhances the spicy touch and wraps the firm tannins together with an envelope of fruit, spices and herbal sensations, rosemary lingering on the quite long aftertaste. A good to very good wine with 4-5 years potential and in any case an excellent value per money.
3. Château Teleki Villányi Merlot 2015 13,5% abv. 40% in new oak and 1st plus 2nd fill, 60% in big old casks for 18 months.
Typical varietal nose of plums, blueberries, cherry and strawberry with oak influence bringing some vanilla, toast. The wine is dry and ripe, with moderate to plus acidity, digest alcohol, elevated tannins that feel polished and enveloped into a juicy mouthfeel. With lots of fruits and spices, the wine is long with cinnamon finish. More than 4-5 years of supposed aging potential.
4. Château Teleki Villányi Franc 2017 14% abv. Premium level
Of a medium ruby colour, the nose is clean, with pure and intense cherry, sour cherry, blueberries complimented by herbal notes of capsicum and flowers such as freshly cut roses. Spices come along with pepper and liquorice mainly as well as some spices from the moderate oak impact. Dry, with elevated acidity, tannins are medium plus but firm, wrapped with the texture offered by the generous alcohol level as well as the ripe extract. The wine is still digest, with excellent harmony and interlacing warming spices with deep, concentrated fruit down to a long, salivating finish expressing herbal and flowery notes. Very good with 5-7 years of potential at least.
5. “Kövillá” Válogatás Villányi Franc 2015 13,5% abv. Premium level
As explained above, “Kövillá” is a plot selection (Válogatás) from the famous Kopár vineyard and its name come from Teleki’s small house that still exists in this vineyard.
Still deeply coloured, with clean, developing aromas and a hint of tertiary such as tobacco, mushrooms, graphite, the fruit comes out after breathing with plums, candied black fruits, cocoa and precious wood completing the whole. Dry, with high acidity, serious tannins with dusty grain, fine and gravely, reminding cocoa somehow. The texture is lean and silky with very digest and integrated alcohol. The structure is still very youthful by its freshness and tannic grip, but there is such a balance there, with even more fruit on the palate, slightly developing and lingering down to a long, juicy finish. 8-10 years to go, an excellent wine.
6. Tradició 1881 Villányi Franc “Kopar” 2015 13,5% abv. Super Premium level
Medium ruby colour, developing nose with vanilla and toast together with oak spices and precious wood, Santali, cedar complimenting an intense fruit: cherry, blackcurrant. Ripe, solar, showing some cocoa. A dry wine with fresh and high acidity, very digest alcohol of a moderate level for the area with high, fine grained tannins that stay firm, structuring the wine. Layers of fruits and spices come along with herbal balsamic, some cedar and blond tobacco, the finish is long and savoury. 10-12 years plus of aging potential for this excellent wine.
7. Kövillá Válogatás Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 80% oaked in French and Hungarian barrels, 20% in big casks for 18 months
Of a deep ruby colour, the nose is clean, vibrant with typical, pronounced varietal definition. It need some air or time totally express its juvenile blackcurrant, Morello cherry, complimented by thyme, rosemary, fine oaky spices , with a hint of toast and cream. Dry, with high acidity, elevated alcohol that feels warm and generous, with spicy feeling, the tannins are high, tight, and extremely young but integrated with the extract and the density of the structure. Lots of black fruits, spices, balsamic herbal aromatics with long salivating, almost savoury finish bringing up some cocoa. More than 12 years of estimated aging potential.
8. Premium Cabernet Franc 2002.
Still very deep garnet colour. The nose is developed with some noble leafy like forest floor tertiary, then come cep mushroom and tobacco, together with chocolate, ground coffee. Fruit is still there, with candied cherries and blackberry jelly. Dry, velvety, with ripe attack, acidity is high, tannins are present and fine, polished. Elevated alcohol that smoothens the mouthfeel and stays digest more than warming. The wine is harmonious, with youthful structure and long, savoury finish. Outstanding, still 5-6 years to go at least.
9. Pezsgö Pinot Noir 2017 with 2 years on the lees and 7 g/l dosage
Pale pink colour, with pure nose, close to the fruit, driven by raspberry, cherry with few autolysis reminding fresh bread, complimented by spicy notes. Dry, with smooth attack, fine bubbles, it feels fresh and tonic held by some tiny phenolics. Fruit is bursting on the finish: raspberry and cherry.
Our voyage ends here. I am most grateful to the Hungarian Wines, Ágnes Németh and all the producers and sponsors who made that possible! We lived 4 days in a dream during nowadays pandemics when people forgot to get together, time stopped for us and we got back to roots learning so much from this trip!