Category Archives: Badacsony

Grape varieties – Kéknyelű

badacsony hillKéknyelű is a relatively rare white variety which grows only in Hungary, principally on the volcanic soils of Badacsony on the northern shore of Lake Balaton and in the Balaton Felvidék, although there are some plantings in Etyek-Buda, Zala and Kunság. Once widely planted, indeed it was once one of the most widely planted Hungarian varieties, much of it was grubbed up in the seventies in favour of more productive and reliable international varieties.  At the end of the twentieth century, there were approximately 40ha remaining in Badacsony, although there have been some new plantings of the variety recently. It is named after its bluish stalks.

It was for a long time assumed to be the same as the Picolit variety found in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, however this was disproved in 2006 as a result of isoenzyme and microsatellite tests.

It is not the easiest of varieties to grow and is cultivated in the ancient style with separate keknyelurows of both male and female grapevines; it needs its male counterpart, Budai Zöld, in order to pollinate as it only has female flowers. Then the wind is relied upon for pollination to ensure proper yields. It is thick-skinned, with small to medium-sized berries and relatively small clusters. It is susceptible to frost, but tolerates drought well, and thanks to its thick skins, doesn’t succumb easily to rot. It is late maturing and is generally harvested early to mid-October. In the past its relatively low yields led to local peasants calling it the ‘Gentleman’s grape’, as this meant it was rather expensive. Despite this, it was popular before phylloxera, although it was then eclipsed after WWII by high-yield varieties.

The variety responds well to both reductive and oxidative wine-making. It can be rustic and simple, but when well made, it is a unique, exciting, aromatic variety.

The wine has a pale lemon colour and can yield a savoury, smoky wine with hints of gunpowder, lemon, stone fruits, white blossom and herbs. It is generally full to medium bodied, with high acidity and high alcohol and demonstrates well the minerality of Badacsony’s characteristic basalt terroir. It is a heady, perfumed andlaposa keknyelu refined wine, which shines with a sense of place. It can be drunk young but thanks to its high acidity, it comes into its own after a few years, developing an attractive honeyed nuttiness with bottle age.

Now, as many wine lovers are look for more interesting, unique wines, it is gaining in popularity again. It pairs well with grilled fish or goats cheese.

Producers to watch out for: Szeremley Birtok, Laposa Pincészet, Borbély Családi Pince, Nyari Pince and Istvándy Családi Pincészet



Olaszrizling around the Balaton

Next we moved into Hungary, more specifically to the Balaton, where Olaszrizling has been widely planted since the beginning of the twentieth century in most of the wine districts lying around the lake and forming the Balaton wine region: Badacsony, Balatonboglár, Balaton felvidék, Balatonfüred-Csopak, Nagy Somló and Zala.


The Balaton offers a variety of terroirs, including volcanic, basalt and tufa soils, enabling the grape to display different characteristics depending on the region.

We tasted a flight of eight wines from various points around the Balaton:

Jásdi – Csopaki Rizling 2013 (Csopak)
Figula – Olaszrizling 2013 (Csopak)
Káli Kövek – Rezeda Olaszrizling 2013 (Balaton felvidék)
Pálffy – Káli Király Olaszrizling Válogatás 2013 (Balaton felvidék)
Légli – Banyászó Olaszrizling 2012 (Balatonboglár)
Bakó Ambrus – A Rózától Olaszrizling 2012 (Badacsony)
Villa Tolnay – Olaszrizling 2010 (Balaton felvidék)
Györgykovács- Olaszrizling 2011 (Nagy Somló)
Bussay – Olaszrizling 2011 (Zala)

Top three in this case (in no particular order)

Káli Kövek

This ‘garage winery’ is sited on the volcanic Fekete hegy (black hill) in the Káli basin on the north side of the Balaton. Its first vintage was in 2008.

The wine was elegant and rounded with long, salty minerality. It also displayed the typical flavours and aromas of Olaszrizling, namely lemon, almonds and a hint of almond blossom on the nose. Lovely.


Légli’s vineyards are located on the southern shores of the lake and he was one of the first wineries to produce nice, structured Olaszrizlings. The southern side of the Balaton generally has loess soils with a high limestone content.

A creamy, complex wine with toasty aromas of vanilla and coffee, a burst of almond blossom and luscious white stone fruits. It comes from Ottó Légli’s favourite vineyard, the Banyászó dülő.

Bakó Ambrus

badacsonyThis winery is located in Badacsony, one of my favourite areas for white wine in Hungary. This wine district generally produces very mineral wines due to its volcanic, basalt soils. The wine was very mineral with floral and lemony notes, a complex, creamy wine with a bitter almond character. Gets my vote.


Sabar tasting at Secessió Café

Festival season is now over, during which time, I managed to get lounging around reading and faffing down to an art. When not at a festival, that was what I was doing. Now it’s time to get myself in hand again and be disciplined in writing up tastings and posting regularly.

P1090331So let’s rewind back to July when I went to an interesting tasting at the Secessió Café in the fifth district, close to Szabadság tér. I had been wanting to go there for ages, being a big fan of art nouveau buidlings, and this was my chance. Both a café and a museum of art nouP1090329veau, it is ornately decorated in rather an ecclectic way. Although more interested in architecture and decor than furniture, it was great to sit amongst all these treasures for the tasting.

They have regular wine-tastings on Friday nights, but seem to be taking a break for the summer. I’m not exactly sure when they’ll be starting again, but am looking forward to attending one or two more.

P1080296I first came across Sabar borház on a trip down to Badacsony in April. I went on a kind of ‘guerrilla’ wine weekend at the beginning of April, organised by VSOP Balaton-felvidék and Badacsonyi KÖR, of which the Saturday involved tasting 30+ wines from eight vineyards at five different locations (five of said vineyards) and being driven around by two car companies (no name-dropping here) promoting their cars.P1080297

Sabar was the third stop on our whirlwind tour for my group, so we were all fading a bit by then. According to my notes, still quite legible, at that point, but very brief, we tasted the Cabernet Sauvignon rosé 2013 (a lovely pale, bone-dry rosé), Olaszrizling 2013, freshly bottled (fresh and fruity, floral notes), Kéknyelű 2013 (mineral) and the Sauvignon Blanc 2013 P1080302(classic, vegetal notes). Given the brevity of my notes and my not entirely fresh palate at that point, I was glad to have chance to taste some of their wines once again in slightly more restrained surroundings.P1090330

Nádasi András, Sabar marketing, took us through the wines we were tasting. First, though, we learnt that the name comes from the hill on which the vineyard stands, that is the Sabar hegy.

Our first wine was a dry Muscat Ottonel 2013. A light, fruity wine meant for early drinking. Forward primary fruit flavours and aromas of white flowers. Ideal as an aperitif. The vines for this can be found on the Hercegföld dülő, next to Csobanc hegy.

P1090333We then moved onto a Sauvignon Blanc 2013. Classic Sauvignon Blanc on both the palate and nose – elderflowers, cut grass and nettles. Very elegant. Lovely tipple with fish.

Szürkebarat 2013 (Pinot Gris to non-Hungarian speakers) was next up. Much richer on the nose than the previous wines, it delivered up grapefruit and yellow flowers, with some vanilla, toast and nutty notes.

The final white was an Olaszrizling 2013. Yellow-green in colour, full-bodied, zesty lemon and herb notes burst on the palate, backed up by strong minerality. Well-balanced with good acidity.

On to the rosé, a Cabernet Sauvignon rosé 2013. Very pale salmon, almost onion skin in colour. An elegant wine full of strawberries, with some minerality in the background. Really enjoyed this. Still have a bottle lying in my wine-rack, awaiting my pleasure…P1090338

And the only red… Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, and indeed the only photo of a bottle of wine (taken at home later). Bordeaux style wine bursting with blackcurrants and blackberries, peppery, smokey and spiP1090334cy, with some green pepper. I enjoyed it, but it could probably benefit from another couple of years in the bottle. Also enjoyed the chocolate cake served with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice-cream that accompanied it.

I had been planning to have a light snack with my imminently arriving visitor when we finished. However, most of the wines were served with something to nibble, so no room for any food after. A very good value evening with great wines and tasty snacks.