Category Archives: Etyek-Buda

Raising the profile of food and wine in Székesfehérvár

2019-01-12 12.34.53Sitting in the Hatpöttyös restaurant in Székesfehérvár, Viktória Fáncsi of the Pántlika winery laments the state of gastronomic culture in the city. This city of 100,000 inhabitants about forty-five minutes drive from Budapest once played a greater role in Hungarian life. During the Middle Ages, it was capital of Hungary and the first Hungarian kings were crowned and buried here. It boasts the ruins of one of the largest basilicas in Medievel Europe. However, nowadays it’s only the ninth largest city in the country and, perhaps due to its relative proximity to the capital, there’s a dearth of quality gastronomy and wine.

’There are over sixty restaurants’, says Viktória, ’but they mostly have the same wines, from Bortársaság. Nobody offers anything local. Anyway, many of the restaurants come and go relatively quickly.’ In terms of wine, there’s a Borhaló and one wine merchant, but nothing more. She’s been involved with trying to raise the food and wine profile of the city for the last ten years and has now organised the Nagy Fehérvári Bormustra (a walk around wine tasting event) for the fourth time. She tells us that on one of the previous editions, one lady called her up and asked her how far they would have to walk and what kind of shoes she should wear – a good indicator of how inexperienced the locals are regarding this type of event, which is practically a weekly occurrence in the capital.

We’re having lunch at the Hatpöttyös restaurant, a bright spot on the city’s 2019-01-12 12.40.03gastronomic horizon. Not only is the restaurant somewhere where you can always find a vegetarian option on the menu, it is the second restaurant in the country to be staffed mostly by disabled employees. It’s a serious undertaking – the restaurant serves up to 170 meals a day, including deliveries – and already has plenty of regulars who subscribe to its daily menu. This always includes a vegetarian option and something more traditional; they’re trying to bring back some old-fashioned dishes as well as do more trendy things.  Although only open at lunchtime (11-4, Monday to Saturday), the restaurant also does outside catering and organises wine dinners. They’ve laid on the food for today’s Bormustra too. Véra Nagy, the owner, tells us that all the servers working here are self-taught, none have done an apprenticeship. The chef, Imre Halasz, not self-taught, serves us up an example of what the restaurant is capable of – a salmon tartar tart with rocket, sweet potato soup with bacon chips, chicken breast roulade with herbs and goat cheese, served with pureed parsnip and roasted baby veg, and finally a chocolate brownie and mousse with fruits of the forest. Not bad for somewhere whose main profile is their lunch menu! Although they do have a chef’s dish or two each week.

We taste some local wines with and between courses. Véra apologises for the chunky wine glasses, saying that they don’t serve much alcohol during the week and they only really need them for big groups of pensioners at the weekend – and they don’t really seem to mind. Local wines, in this case, are wines from around Fehérvár (a short form of the longer Székesfehérvár), Etyek-Buda and Mór. Viki points out that there are increasingly good wines to be found around nearby Lake Velence.

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Weighed down by our delicious yet generous lunch, we head off to the Bormustra, 2019-01-12 17.18.39being held just a five-minute walk away. This year, there were a total of 25 wineries taking part – the usual suspects like Géza Balla, Koch, Holdvölgy and Etyeki Kúria – including 11 more local ones. Despite Fehérvár’s apparent lack of wine culture, Viktória told us she had no problem selling the 350 tickets and has enticed along four local restauranteurs for the trade and press tasting to try and get them to include some local wines on their wine lists.

As usual at these events, time was too short to taste as much you’d like. However, we managed to taste wines from Mór, Lake Velence and Pannonhalma.

Small family winery, Friday, from Mór showed a range of Ezerjó wines, including a sparkling and a rather oaky version, and two Chardonnays. They had used less oak on the 2017 than the 2016, so it was more balanced. They called themselves Friday, as it’s the best day of the week, said Gergely Németh, the owner.

Staying with Mór, Geszler winery showed their Mámor Ezerjó 2017, aged in untoasted oak. The idea being to bring back the old style – balanced, fresh and crisp, with well integrated oak and lovely acidity. We also tasted their Zenit 2017 (Ezerjó x Tramini), beautifully aromatic with a touch of residual sugar. Their aromatic Irsai Olivér 2017 and Vertes Kincs (Chardonnay-Zenit blend) were also very attractive wines.

Sáfrán winery, also in the Mór wine region, had a Csabagyöngy 2018 – which I’d never tasted before as a varietal wine. They say that they can pick this very early so it’s a good bridge between two vintages. It was floral, bright, aromatic with plenty of zesty lemon and a touch of white pepper. Perfect fröccs material.

Moving just to the north of Lake Velence to Pázmánd, Nagy Gábor és társa, whose vines are next to those of József Szentesi, showed us a lovely Zenit 2018 with plenty of tropical fruit, a beautifully restrained Sauvignon Blanc 2018 and a Kékfrankos 2018 tank sample, still fermenting a little, but shaping up nicely. We had tried his lovely Riesling 2015 with lunch, which was already developing attractive petrol notes.

Apró Kertek have 1.8ha in 8 or 9 small parcels, hence the name ’tiny gardens’. They had an intriguing blend of Csókaszőlő, Kékfrankos, Kadarka and Neró. The grapes came 25-30-year-old bush vines from three different vineyard parcels hence the name 3 Kert 2017. A juicy, bright very quaffable fruity wine with plenty of acidity, silky tannins and flavours of plum, cherry, spice and floral notes.

The Csóbor winery from Agárd on Lake Velence showed two very attractive traditional method sparklers, vinified by Szentesi, a Brut Natur from Riesling and Chardonnay which was fresh and crisp with an attractive mousse and a Brut from Zőldveltelini and Riesling with plenty of zesty green fruit.

We finished up in slightly further afield Pannonhalma with beautiful lively, mineral Riesling 2016 and bright, plummy Merlot 2015 from the Cseri winery and a very drinkable fruity Kékfrankos 2017 with plenty of crunchy cherry and cranberry from Babarczi winery.

So, blinded as we may be by the bright lights of more prestigious Hungarian wine regions, it’s worth seeking out wines from smaller wine regions that often fly under our radar, such as Mór, the Lake Velence part of Buda-Etyek and the more northerly region of Pannonhalma.

2019-01-12 14.34.28Oh, and if you happen to find yourself in Székesfehérvár during the day, do pop in and enjoy Imre’s cooking and the welcoming service at Hatpöttyös restaurant. You won’t be disappointed and certainly won’t leave hungry!

*Trip to Székesfehérvár organised by Borsmenta.

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Think pink!

No, I’m not going to be talking about rosé, trendy though it might be. Wine grapes are either red or white, right? Well, in fact, there are plenty of varieties whose grapes are pink-skinned, except you wouldn’t know, as many of these are used to create white wines.

Szűrkebarát
Think Pinot Grigio aka Pinot Gris aka Grauburgunder, or, as it’s known here in Hungary, Szűrkebarát, after the Cistercian monks who planted the variety in Badacsony near Lake Balaton in the twelfth century. Szűrkebarát means ‘grey monk’.

Pinot GrisGiven the oceans of thin, almost transparent Pinot Grigio that emerge from northern Italy and are quaffed around the world, you’d never guess that it’s berries are actually pink. Even the more opulent style of Pinot Gris produced in Alsace doesn’t give you any indication that the grapes have pink skins. Incidentally, the variety used to be called Tokay in Alsace until it was forced to refrain from using this name on the insistence of the Hungarians who objected to its use, as this engendered confusion with its naturally sweet wines from Tokaj, whose name Alsatians likely appropriated in the past to benefit from the former’s fame.

Pinot Gris is in fact a colour mutation of Pinot Noir, so a kind of red grape in a pink grape’s clothing. Its grapes range from pinky-purple to almost Pinot Noir colour in hotter sites, which perhaps explains the colour of one of the wines we tasted. A fellow taster exclaimed, “How long did they macerate it? Two years!”

Perhaps the more traditional Friulian and Venetian ramato style of Pinot Grigio, whereby the Pinot Grigio is macerated on its skins, producing a coppery coloured wine, nowadays referred to as amber or orange wine, would give us more of a hint of the berries’ clothing.

Taking a look at four very different Hungarian versions:

Centurio Szürkebarát 2017 (Mátra)
Ludányi szürkebarátIts pale onion skin colour, delicate herbal notes and spice point to some skin maceration. Attractive nose of mandarin, spice peach and orange. Full-bodied and layered on the palate with a buttery, creamy texture, Plenty of ripe fruit, spice, salinity, touch of toasty oak and a slightly warming, relatively long finish. A lovely wine. 84 (84)

Nádas Borműhely Vagy mi? 2016 (Etyek Buda)
Nádas Vagy miA Pinot Gris that’s the colour of Pinot Noir! Initially I found it very tannic and a little bitter with plenty of beautiful spicy cherry, rust and blood orange on the nose. Perhaps a little lacking acidity, but attractive fruit, beetroot and a touch of mushroom on the long finish. The points here reflect my initial taste, but on coming back to it at the end of the tasting, it had opened and the tannins no longer felt so bitter, so I would push it up a little. Intriguing wine. 80 (81)

Villa Tolnay Pinot Gris 2016 (Badacsony)
IMG_9849A pale lemon wine with plenty of autumn fruit and peach. A little rustic on the palate with slightly sour acidity and some savoury, cooked vegetable notes. A slight sweetness and warming alcohol on the finish. 78 (82)

Laposa PINO 2017 (Badacsony)
Laposa szürkebarátPale lemon with a hint of onion skin. Unappealing aromas of straw, wilted flowers and wet garden with some toasted sesame seeds. A touch of tannin on the palate with some floral and peachy notes. Savoury and spicy but lacking in acidity and too much residual sugar – a typical problem in traditional-style Badacsony Szűrkebarát. 78 (80)

Tramini
Another pink-berried variety that’s more usually found as an opulent golden wine in Alsace as Gewürztraminer and in northern Italy as Traminer Aromatico. Interestingly, it is genetically identical to Savagnin Blanc of Jura fame and Savagnin Rose, of which it is thought to be an aromatic mutation.

TraminiThe variety is known for its deep golden, full-bodied and headily aromatic wines with perfumed aromas of rose petals, lychees and exotic fruit. Alcohol is generally on the high side and acidity can sometimes be low, thus rendering the wines flabby. The name Gewürztraminer, comes from the German word ‘gewürz’, meaning spicy or seasoned, as its distinctive scent is often referred to as spicy.

Tramini under its various names is widely planted in Hungary and across Eastern Europe, where it is generally lighter, and its trademark aroma muted due to high yields. If grown on volcanic rock, e.g. Somló, it retains better acidity.

We put two Hungarian Traminis to the test, both from abbey-related wineries – Apatság meaning abbey in Hungarian.

Somlói Apátsági Pincészet Tramini 2016 (Somló)
SAP TraminiPale gold in colour with plenty of opulent tropical fruit, honey, grapefruit and stoniness on the nose. Rich and ripe on the palate with peach and quince complementing the tropical fruit along with some melon, caramel and orange. Characteristic of the variety, perhaps a little lacking in acidity, but full-bodied, complex, layered and smoky with a long, warming finish. Star of the show. 86 (86)

Pannonhalmi Apátsági Pincészet Tramini 2017 (Pannonhalma)IMG_9851
Aromatic on the nose with fresh tropical fruit, grape flower and plenty of perfume. Clean and fresh on the palate with bags of lemon, yellow rose and peach. Long finish with a touch of bitterness. 84 (83)

Korai Piros Veltelini
Fruhroter VeltlinerDespite the name, this is not the brother of Zöld Veltelini (Grüner Veltliner); it has many relations, but its green namesake is not one of them. A natural crossing of Roter Veltliner and Silvaner, it is the sibling of Neuburg and the half-sibling of Rotgipfler and Zierfandler. As a grandchild of Savagnin, it’s also related to Gewürztraminer, but the relatively neutral wines it produces bear no resemblance to their distant relation’s. Greatest plantings of it are in Niederösterreich (Lower Austria), where it is known as Frühroter Veltliner; it’s also grown sparsely across the border in Sopron too, where our wine originates.

Taschner Korai Piros Veltliner (Sopron)
Taschner KPVNose of grapefruit and apple with perfumed, waxy notes as well as slightly oxidised, cider vinegar character. Relatively high acidity makes it fresh and zesty, but rather lacking in fruit. A slight prickle appears on the short finish. The palate is slightly more pleasant than the nose. The wine lives up, or down, to the variety’s reputation for neutral wines meant for early drinking. 78 (78)

Hungarian pink berries, ancient and modern
And now to three varieties that few outside Hungary, and probably within Hungary too, will have heard of, let alone tasted!

Kövidinka
Jancis Robinson’s ‘Wine Grapes’ describes Kövidinka as a ‘common pink-skinned Hungarian variety making commonplace whites’. Allegedly already cultivated in the Middle Ages, it’s widely planted in Central and Eastern Europe, mainly in central and southern Hungary on the Alföld (Great Plain), an area not best known for its quality wine production. It’s a resistant, hardy chap, hence perhaps its popularity in this region known best for bulk and table wine, producing light, fairly neutral wines for early consumption.

Font Pincészet Kövidinka 2017 (Kunság)
Font kövidinkaPale lemon in colour with a waxy, peachy nose of yellow apple and mandarin with some floral notes. Rather simple on the palate with some tropical fruit and an artificial banana and pear drops note. A slightly sweet, short finish, low alcohol and lack of acidity rendered the wine quite flat and unbalanced. 78 (81)

Pintes
Another ancient Hungarian variety, believed to have been extinct following phylloxera, Pintes was rediscovered at the foot of the Mecsek hills near Pécs in 1968. Nobody knew what its original name was, so it was renamed Pintes thanks to its massive, high-yielding bunches (a ‘pint’ is a Hungarian measure equivalent to 1.69 litres). It was then officially recognised and 12 hectares planted around the country. Now only 1.5 hectares remain, accidentally ending up in the hands of the Vinum Veress winery in Csáford, who decided they would do what they could with it, despite the fact that it’s late-ripening, susceptible to disease and its wines are somewhat rustic, and so now have the honour of producing the only Pintes in the world.

Vinum Veress Családi Borpince Pintes 2017 (Zala)
Veress PintesMedium lemon in colour with a citrus and floral nose along with a touch of musty chalk. The restrained palate is dominated by grapefruit, along with its associated bitterness, and some yellow apple. Rather mouthpuckeringly sour and reminiscent of crab apples, the finish leaves you with the impression of a high-alcohol cider. 76 (78)

Generosa
A modern Hungarian crossing obtained in 1951 from Ezerjó and Piros Tramini (Savagnin Rose), tested at the Kecskemét viticultural research centre and finally christened Generosa in 2004, although it has nothing to do with the Portuguese variety of the same name. The variety is now growing in popularity, apparently having met its aim of obtaining a grape easier to enjoy and grow than Ezerjó! Kunság, Hajós Baja and Mór now boast 400 hectares of this variety, producing fresh, easy-drinking wines with peach, pear and citrus flavours.

Frittmann Generosa 2017 (Kunság)
Frittmann generosaA rather one-dimensional wine with aromas of ripe apple and stone fruit and some floral hints. Fresh, zesty acidity with a touch of sweet lemon curd and a hint of minerality. Cloyingly sweet on finish. 82 (81)

All wines were tasted blind by a group of journalists as part of a series of press tastings organised at the Kostolom borbar in Budapest by Edit Szabó of Borsmenta. The first scores are mine, the second (in brackets), the rounded aggregate of all tasters.

Csoportkép 1

It’s a sparkling June

Budapest will shortly see the fourth edition of its Grand Sparkling Tasting – ’Pezsgő Június’, to be held at the Corinthia Hotel on 16 June.

In honour of this occasion, journalists were invited to sample several bubblies along with a couple of amuse bouches at the Caviar & Bull restaurant attached to the Corinthia.

You’ll be able to taste around 80 Hungarian pezsgő (that’s Hungarian for traditional method sparkling wine), Cava, Crémant, Prosecco, Franciacorta Sekt and New World bubblies. And if that’s not enough, there’s also a special Champagne room with 120 Champagnes, including two from the Palmer house which are making their official debut in Hungary at the event.

2018-06-06 11.43.00These two Champagnes, the Palmer Brut Reserve and the Rosé Reserve, were the focal point of our mini-pre-event tasting along with Schlumberger Traditional Method Sekt Brut from Welschriesling (as Olaszrizling is known in Austria), Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay, a creamy, zippy bubbly with crisp acidity and lovely apple notes. We also had the chance to try this year’s Hungaria limited edition, a Pinot Blanc Brut, an elegant, fresh wine with peach, white fruit and floral notes.

Incidentally, Hungaria has been making a special edition sparkling each year for the last ten years, when they turned 55 years old. However, sparkling wine production in Hungary dates back to the mid-nineteenth century when they were churning out serious quantities first in Bratislava (then Pozsony) and then in Budafok just outside Budapest. By the end of the century, Hungary boasted  eight important pezsgő manufacturers, four of which remain today.

Our Champagnes were accompanied by some delightful creations from the Caviar & Bull’s chef. The Brut Reserve, a more modern style of Champagne, was paired with delicate sea bass with cauliflower purée and grated lime zest and the Rosé with salmon tartar with white pepper, mustards seeds, strawberry and redcurrants, perfectly complementing the red berry notes of the Rosé.

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And to complete the experience we were entertained by a spot of sabrage – the art of opening sparkling wine with a sabre. Interestingly, it was the first time I’d seen this done with a sabre rather than a shoe or any other handy implement.

2018-06-06 11.19.40Hopefully, this has whet your appetite to attend next week’s Grand Sparkling Tasting. It’s open from 2 to 10 pm, so plenty of time to taste the bubblies on offer.

You can taste sparklers from well-known Hungarian pezsgő manufacturers like Törley and Garamvári as well as those from smaller producers and wineries that you may be more familiar with for their still wines.

Etyek-Buda, considered the Hungarian wine region most closely resembling Champagne, will be present on a common stand with wines from eight producers, and if you still crave the real thing, Anett Varró-Turóczi, Champagne merchant, has assembled 120 Champagnes from both small and large houses, vintage and non-vintage, and will be introducing many small Champagne houses.

The tasting is more international than ever with seven countries and fifty non-Hungarian wines represented (other than the Champagne, of course).

If you’d also like to learn something, there will be two exclusive masterclasses – pairing sparkling wine with oysters and a presentation of eight Prestige Cuvée Champagnes. Four mini courses cover Somló terroir and traditional method sparkling, production of traditional method sparkling wine, Austrian Sekt and Spanish Cava.

And if you don’t want to miss out on the World Cup matches, there’ll be the chance to keep up to date while you’re there too!

So, if you’re truly a sparkling wine lover, make sure you head off to the Corinthia Hotel Budapest (Erzsébet krt. 43-49) this coming Saturday!

Hungarian winemakers put their football skills to the test

borasz_foci_szekszard_2015_2On 18 July, winemakers from Balatonboglár , Etyek-Buda, Hajos-Baja, Szekszárd and Tolna did battle for a trophy. However, this time, the trophy had nothing to do with wine. The winemakers donned their football boots and went out onto the footbal pitch.borasz_foci_szekszard_2015_3

This year, Szekszárd provided the pitch for the winemakers turned sportsmen, who have been honing their tackling and scoring skills for the last ten years since the first ‘Winemakers’ Battle’ in Pannonhalma.

borasz_foci_szekszard_2015_5Szekszárd’s András Takler organised the event this year, but it was originally the brainchild of Eger’s Tibor Gál, who organised a friendly between Eger and Pannonhalma ten years ago. Since then, other wine regions have joined the fray. Not only does the event give the winemakers the chance to keep their ‘foci’ skills from getting rusty, it’s also a good opportunity for them to get to know their colleagues from elsewhere better.

The reigning chborasz_foci_szekszard_2015_4ampions, Balatonboglár succeeded in holding onto their title. The opening match between Etyek and Szekszárd ended in a 2-2 draw. György Takács from the south of the Balaton was the tournament’s top scorer, clocking up twelve goals in four matches. Etyek boasted the best goalie, Richárd Csalánosi.

borasz_foci_szekszard_2015_6But the fight was still on for the wine of the tournament, should it be the Szekszárdi cserszegi fűszeres or the kékfrankos rosé? Maybe that was decided at the tasting and dinner in the evening.

Drop of bubbly anyone?

pezsgo_szalon_garamvari(1)
Budapest is the place to be in the next couple of weeks for sparkling wine lovers. The city is hosting Pezsgő Szalon (pezsgő being Hungarian for sparklng wine), a series of events and special offers connected to the theme of bubbly taking place both in Budapest and throughout the country.

You should put the following dates in your diary at least:pezsgo_szalon_torley (1)

Saturday 20 June – Nagy Pezsgő Kóstoló (Grand Tasting) taking place at the Corinthia Hotel.

Here you have the chance to try a wide range of sparkling wines from both Hungary and elsewhere. You could also attend one (or more) or the three masterclasses on offer (Hungarian language only): Champagne and other premium Euopean sparkling wines, Tokaj and sparkling wine, or a vertical tasting of wines from the Garamvári Szőlőbirtok. There pezsgo_szalon(1)are limited places available for the masterclasses, so prior booking is essential.

There will be more than 40 sparkling wine exhibitors with their wares for you to taste. 7,900 HUF in advance and 10,900 HUF on the door. Don’t miss it!

Also as part of the Pezsgő Szalon programme, the Etyek-Budai Pezsgő Szalon at VinoPiano on 25 June.

In this case, the sparkling wines of Etyek and Buda take centre stage with the following wineries in attendance: Kertész Pinc, Kálna Pince,Gombai Pince, Kattra Pince and Törley Pezsgő Pincészet.

If you’re feeling studious, you can also participate in some masterclasses with some winemakers. For example on Champagne orpezsgo_szalon(4) New World Pinot Noir.

There will also be some artisan chocolate and bonbons on offer too. What more could you want?

Cheers!