It’s official – our newest fascination is Hungarian wine. This seems lone overdue for one of the most historic wine regions in the world, having a viticultural history dating back 2000 years. Hungary’s wine culture is the product of a unique intersection of ancient practices based on Roman tradition, esoteric Central Asia influences and modern Western European methods, all working within the context of exceptional terroirs, many volcanic. The products of this rich and sophisticated mix of cultures have remained largely unknown to American wine drinkers. However, now more than 20 years following the end of the collectivization which followed WWII, a flood of very fine producers are now represented in the United States. Blue Danube is America’s premier importer specializing in these wines.
The legendary wines of Tokaj – produced in volcanic soils south of the Carpathian Mountains in Hungary’s far northeast – are well known to connoisseurs, however there is much more to Hungary’s rich wine culture than wildly expensive Tokaji Essencia. [Tokaji Essencia does deserve its legendary status. It is the first wine to be subject to appellation control laws, decades before Port, and the Russsian Czars are said to have deployed a division of Cossacks each year to accompany the Imperial shipment back to the Imperial cellars.]
Our pronunciation of these wines and regions may be embarrassingly bad, though our ardor is true and clear. We are thrilled to be able to share and learn more about them alongside fellow wine geeks. They are fascinating, wildly distinctive and, most importantly, delicious. They deserve a place at your table and/or in your cellar.
Frank will be back for a third time at Soif to lead us through a rare tasting of these tremendous wines. The line-up includes:
2011 Fekete Béla Juhfark – Somló
Juhfark literally means "sheep's tail" and comes from the tiny region of Somlo, an ancient dormant volcano. The wine, made by Fekete Bela “The Great old man of Somlo”, is intensely mineral, spicy and truly unique.
2012 Bott Furmint "Csontos" – Tokaj
Csontos literally means "strong boned," a perfect description of this sturdy wine. The vineyard is planted on a mix of clay and volcanic soils, and is situated right at the edge of the Zemplèn forest which protects it from the harsh winds of the north. The wine is both opulent and well-structured.
2013 Tinon “Olaszliszka” Hárslevelű – Tokaj
Olaszliszka has been officially attached to the Tokaj appellation since 1560. The volcanic and red clay soils are predominately planted to the Harslevelű grape, one of the secondary grapes used for the production of Tokaj sweet wines. The name literally means “linden tree leaf” referring to the shape of the grape clusters. When vinified on its own, the wine has exotic aromas of elderflower, lime leaf, stone fruits and honey (sounds good right?). There were only 700 bottles of this wine produced, and you and I and my friends are lucky enough to taste it!
2009 J&J Eger “Eged-Hegy” Kékfrankos – Eger
This kékfrankos, aka bläufrankisch - is made by J &J Eger, a partnership between a Canadian-born Master Sommelier and a Hungarian winemaker. Eger is one of Hungary’s most famous regions known for the Egri Bikavér or “Bull’s Blood” wine that is produced there…you have to join the tasting to hear how this wine got its name. Though “Bull’s Blood” can be a blend of up to 13 different varietals, today, Kekfrankos dominates the blend. Eger is one of the most northerly red wine regions in Europe with predominately volcanic and limestone soils, so the wines are spicy, high in acidity and quite serious.
This wine is a departure from the rest of our tasting line up. Made from international varietals (Cabernet Franc, Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon), the Kopár Cuvée is considered the finest wine produced by Attila Gere, and indeed one of the finest red wines made in all of Hungary. Villány, in the far south of the county has a winemaking culture that pre-dates the Romans. Attila Gere established the winery in the early ‘90s when the communist regime was dissolved, with the desire to showcase the potential of this unique region. His international-style blend is delicious now and will age gracefully.
2013 Eszterbauer “Nagyapám” Kadarka – Szekszárd
Szekszard sits just above Villány in Hungary’s south. The Celts first cultivated grapes her over 2000 years ago. Kadarka, a thin-skinned, large-berried varietal is the king of this region, even though it is not the most widely planted. It is notoriously difficult to grow, so it requires the utmost care and expertise, a challenge that the Eszsterbauer family has accepted for several generations. This wine is dry, spicy and fresh; some would say it is reminiscent of a spicy Loire Valley Cabernet Franc.
2012 Füleky "Pallas" Late Harvest Furmint – Tokaj
Tokaj, where to start? This fabled region has produced legendary wines for centuries. This honeyed nectar is in a class of its own. Join is to taste the wine and discuss the unique production method, the history and of course the flavor!
Don’t miss this great event!
Tickets are $20 per guest which includes snacks, and are by reservation only. As always, wine club members are allowed one free seat. Please call us at 831-423-2020 or email email@example.com to reserve your seat today!
Featured Wine Flight Starting Saturday, November 8th
Featured Wine Flight Starting this Saturday:
The Wines of Nino Negri
I recently had an amazing opportunity to travel to the Valtellina region of Northern Italy to visit Nino Negri, a producer that we have loved through numerous vintages both here at Soif and at our sister restaurant, La Posta. Barolo and Barbaresco may have have the name and the fame when it comes to the Nebbiolo varietal, but this region situated at the base of the Italian Alps is one to take note of.
Vines have been cultivated in the Valtellina region since the 9th century, but it wasn't until the 1500s when the region was under Swiss control, that Chiavannesca (the local name for Nebbiolo) was planted because of its ability to survive the journey back to Switzerland. The grape was dubbed Chiavannesca, which literally meant "plus wine" because it was capable of making red wines of great quality and ripeness- a commodity at the time in the Swiss marketplace.
I said before that I already liked the wines, and in my limited research I had seen photos of some of the terraced vineyards that are the landmark of the region, but I could not have imagined how staggering, steep and striking they were in person! Some of the grapes were even picked up with a helicopter after harvest to expedite the laborious process of climbing back down the hill....errrr mountain. They named the hill Inferno for a reason.
The scenery was amazing, but so were the wines! While Nebbiolo is prized for its power in Piemonte, in the Valtellina, it is cherished for its elegance and charm.
So, after all this talk of roaming around the Valtellina, it would only be fair to share my experience with a flight of these incredible wines. This week only, we will be pouring two exceptional wines from Nino Negri, one of the most important wineries in this region.
We will be featuring:
2010 Nino Negri Fracia - a cru (or specific vineyard) owned by Nino Negri that lies within the Valgella Subzone. This particular plot takes time to ripen and is usually one of the last vineyards harvested. The fruit is remarkably concentrated, bright and juicy. It is a wine that will gratify many different tastes with its charming fruit and generous structure.
2009 Nino Negri Sfursat - "Sfursat" meaning strained or forced, is the name given to wines that are harvested and dried for several months before pressing and fermenting the juice. The grapes are harvested a bit earlier to insure that the acidity is intact and balance is achievable. The drying process concentrates the sugars so ample acidity is imperative for vitality in the finished wine. The wine is a brilliant mix of lively fruit and serious structure. The tannins walk the fine line of being present without being harsh.
10% Off the Txomin Etxaniz Txakolina - Basque Country Spain $27
Txakoli (pronounced CHOCK-oh-lee), hails from the basque region of Spain.
Its electric zing of acidity, slight salinity and zippy effervescence make it the perfect wine to sip on a hot afternoon. Pair it with a salad of heirloom tomatoes, grilled fish and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for a sublime summer meal.