Category Archives: Grape Varieties

Kikelet – A vineyard name with no ‘funny’ Hungarian letters!

I’ve been to a couple of interesting tastings this week or so. The first of which was a flight of wines from the Tokaj Kikelet pince run by Stéphanie and Zsolt Berecz in Tarcal since 2002.

tarcalIt was a particularly interesting tasting for several reasons:

  • The winemaker
  • The ‘entertainment’

The winemaker

The winemaker, Stéphanie, a graduate from Bordeaux University, came to work in Tokaj for three months in 1994, met her husband Zsolt and stayed put. They later bought a vineyard in Tarcal and tried to come up with a suitable name. Stéphanie explained that she had wanted to choose a word that contained none of those ‘weird’ Hungarian letters like gy, ny, ly, ű, ü, ö, ő, so that non-Hungarian speakers might actually have a clue about how to pronounce it. They settled on Kikelet, which has only ‘normal’ letters in it.

Stéphanie gave us a lot of interesting background about the vineyard, the soils and the vintages.

We tasted Furmints and Hárslevelűs from a couple of ‘dülő’s (individual vineyards and containing some of those lovely Hungarian letters) – Váti, Lónyai, the estate (birtok) and various vintages.

As much of the soil around Tarcal is a variety of volcanic soils, all of the wines displayed a high degree of minerality.

The flight:

Váti Hárslevelű 2011 – mineral, salty, crisp, lemon and honey

Birtok Furmint 2011 – mineral, lemon, almond and quince, with bitter notes

Birtok Furmint 2012 – bitter on nose, honey, smoky minerality, almond and quince. Still young, will benefit from another six months in bottle

Lónyai Hárslevelű 2012 – A premium wine, so entitled to be bottled in kikeletthe new style Tokaj bottles (the same shape as the aszú bottles, but 0.75l). Delicious rich mineral/smoky notes with honey, quince and almond. My favourite of the dry wines!

Váti Furmint 2012 – Salty, quince, honey and almond with spicy notes

Késői szüret 2009 – (Late harvest) Luscious sweet wine – mandarine, almond, mineral with some petrol notes (70% Hárslevelű, 30% Furmint)

Máslás 2004 – Golden honeyed notes, mineral, quince, some botrytis, kikelet maslasmandarine and toast. Also displaying some tertiary characteristics. 100g residual sugar.

And a final surprise, as Zsolt could not join us due to the harvest, he had sent along a bottle of Törköly pálinka. Yum.

The ‘Entertainment’

Some entertainment, quite inadvertently, was provided by someone who we could only assume was a regular to the wine bar when open for normal business.

He kept trying to gain access to the bar, while the owner tried to shoo him away. He finally succeeded in getting through the door and János decided to give him a pint (presumably to try and finally get rid of him). While he was waiting for the pint to be poured, he looked around at us winetasters and settled on me.’You’re swirling that glass like a pro,’ he slurred. The lady next to me pointed out, ‘perhaps she is an expert’.

The rather drunk regular was then escorted out with a pint. Within about two minutes, he stumbled back in with an empty glass. Everyone looked at him in estonishment. He got that down him quickly. He was engineering to get another, but János was not having it this time. Out he went.

He was fended off several more times, to the amusement of all, as he returned several times to peer hopefully in through the door. ‘That’s right,’ remarked someone at my table jokingly, ‘let’s not let in any of the regulars!’

He gained access once more with the promise of some Lécsó for János, so got another pint. János went out with him and he proceeded to demonstrate some large lamp he had brought with him, or so it seemed, switching it on and off as they hovered outside.

‘I’m surprised he can even stand up,’ remarked a fellow taster at one point. Whatever, he certainly provided a little light entertainment during the ‘serious’ business of wine tasting :-).


Red wine from Tokaj??!!

No, I hear you say, that’s not possible, a red wine from Tokaj.Tokaj only makes white wines.

Well, at a tasting of rather a lot of Pinot Noir on Friday, most of which was from Hungary, one of the other participants had brought along something a bit unusual for us to try – a Dobogó Pinot named Izabella utca, after the road in 4896_7a9a322cbe0d06a98667fdc5160dc6f8Budapest just around the corner from where I live.

A bit sceptical, despite having tried a Dobogó Betsek Furmint at a Furmint tasting earlier in the week, I sniffed the minerally Pinot Noir in my glass. Pure Tokaj on the nose, mineral and salty.

A sip confirmed the Tokaj minerality. A cool, elegant smoky wine, bursting with red fruits.

The grapes for this unusual wine came from the ‘Urágya’ vineyard, which literally means the ‘Lord’s bed. Well, these low-yielding vines certainly have produced an interesting wine.

I quote from their website: “It symbolises the Dobogó way, which is to reach down to the depth of the Tokay tradition, like the vine searching for water, while bringing to life something new and exciting, that keeps us up at night”.

Strictly speaking though, it can’t be classified as Tokaj wine as Pinot Noir is not one of the grape varieties permitted in the region, so it has to be classified as country wine.

Am now looking at where in Budapest I can get my hands on a bottle for myself.

Grape varieties – Ezerjó

Hungary grows many standard international varieties, such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, but there are also a myriad of local grape varieties commonly found in the Carpathian Basin.

Let’s start with Ezerjó for no particular reason, except that I’ve been tasting a few of them lately, including the excellent full-bodied Pontica Pince Móri Ezerjó 2012.

This is a grape variety that is widely planted within Hungary, but little known outside the country.


Ezerjó has its place among historic Hungarian grape varieties, a true Hungaricum. It originates from the Nógrád and Hont counties, but has since spread throughout the country. It got its name from the Buda grapes, where it was once a popular variety

It has many other names, amongst others zátoki, korponai, budai fehér (Buda White), Korponai or Kolmreifler, and in Transylvania, it is known as fehér bakator (White Bakator).

Until 1884, it was widely cultivated in the Sopron wine district. Nowadays, it is more commonly found in the Kunság, Neszmély and in particular Mór wine districts.


The Mór district is particularly well-known for its Móri Ezerjó. Indeed many people associate the variety closely with this area. Here it yields a light, crisp, refreshing easy-drinking wine.

In the north-west of the country, it can also produce lively dry whites for early consumption

It is a early-ripening, high yield variety, sensitive to frost and rot.

Its wine is high in alcohol, often with a slightly harsh taste, with pronounced acidity, pale green in colour, dry and relatively neutral in flavour.

It can also be used to produce sweet wines, in good vintages containing some botrytised grapes.

Literally translated, it means ‘a thousand boons’.

When is a rosé not a rosé?

Recently in Vác, I had the opportunity to try an interesting rosé from Villány. This is a rosé that’s not a rosé, I was informed.

Curious, I agreed to taste Iványi Zsófi’s 2008 Cabernet Franc rosé.

P1090062 The first unusual thing is, of course, that it was a 2008 vintage, given that you usually want to consume rosé’s within a year or two in order to benefit from their fresh, fruity primary flavours. The second is that it is an unfiltered, artisan wine. Late harvested, low-yield Cabernet Franc grapes were used to produce this wine. Spontaneous fermentation and nine months maturation in barrel also contribute to making this a very unusual wine.

The wine is a lovely, deep salmon colour. Discrete, elegant nose, with aromas reminiscent of the grapes themselves. The wine is dry on the palate and the 14% alcohol provides a warming aspect. The primary flavours still exhibit themselves in juicy fruit notes; however, not the tutti frutti raspberry-strawberry fruit bomb that many Hungarian rosés demonstrate, rather elegant, mature and discrete, like on the nose. Delicious.

Queuing up before shop opens to get a bottle of Cserszegi fűszeres?!

No, not me! Those of you out there who are thinking my wine rack was empty and I was desperate for some wine. It was not me queuing…

It never crossed my mind to head on down to the wineshop before it opened in order to secure a bottle of Sándor Zsolt’s Bükki Cserszegi Fűseres 2013, which had been recommended to me the week before, nor indeed to secure my bottle by placing an order on the internet. I had received an email on Friday that it would be possible to buy this at the Pincearon shop (, only in Hungarian) from Tuesday.

Silly me – I decided to saunter over there (or rather take the tram as it was pouring with rain) shortly after it opened at 4 pm, thinking I’d be pretty much first in line. The shelves were bare! Antal informed me that it had all been snapped up within about 10 minutes, the bottles had flown off the shelf; in fact, people had been queuing outside the shop to get their hands on it when he arrived 15 minutes or so before opening. Crazy. A bit like the Harry Potter books or the latest iPhone phenomenom, I pointed out, although unfortunately I won’t be able to get a bottle of this at a later date either.

As I had made the effort to go across town, I decided to invest in Zsolt’s Zweigelt and his Zweigelt Siller.

Feeling hard done by, I decided to pop open, or rather unscrew, the Zweigelt and drown my sorrows.

A beautiful intense purple. On the nose, rich fruits of the forest wafted out of the glass – blackberries, raspberries and raspberries. Luscious notes of cherry and blueberry on the palate, rounded off with a smokey chocolate flavour. Lovely.


More and more people in Hungary are coming to appreciate well-crafted artisan wines, of which the number is also increasing, and are prepared to go the extra mile to try them.

Lesson learnt. When the Losonci Bálint Turan comes in (expected imminently), I’ll be sure to secure a bottle or two online or at least give Antal a call to put a couple aside for me.

Pontica Pince Móri Ezerjó 2012

DeVine Hungarian Wine

I was persuaded to try this wine with the recommendation that I would never have tasted such a rich, creamy Ezerjó. This advice turned out to be correct.

Medium gold in colour, distinctly mineral on the nose, luscious, mouthfilling dried fruits (apricot and peach), led by firm minerals, off-dry in the mouth, despite being a dry wine. Rounded acidity and creaminess make this a wine to savour. Delicious.

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Another unusual Hungarian grape variety I came across on a recent trip is Pintes. A local, long-forgotten grape producing a uniquely flavoured rustic white wine. This wine, I am reliably informed, is only produced by one vineyard, Vinum Veress Wine Cellar(, who have 1.5 hectares of vines in Csáford.


It was pretty much wiped out by Phylloxera, but was identified again in 1968 near Pécs by Márton Németh, a great Hungarian ampelographist. Its medieval name has been lost and its modern name, Pintes, is derived from its high productivity. The ‘pint’ is a Hungarian unit of measure, and one vine can produce in the region of 1 pint (1.6 litres) of wine.

Pintes has a pleasant apricot, honeyed scent and flavours. Unfiltered, produced using reductive technology, this rich, uniquely flavoured straw-coloured wine can be considered a real Hungaricum, with a production of only a few thousand bottles per year.