Category Archives: Pinot Noir

Badacsony in the New York

Every year, the Badacsony wine region shows its best in the extravagantly ornate, historic New York Palace Hotel in Budapest. In previous years, it had been held the elaborately decorated New York Café, but from last year, it has taken place upstairs in the more functional Roma Hall.

While I miss the unique experience of tasting the wines from one of my favourite Hungarian wine regions among the pomp and gilt of the café, it was a pleasure to have more space for the exhibitors and the throng of visitors. Thus, you could move around more freely and taste, avoiding the heat and crush of the smaller venue.

Record number of visitors

And it was a good thing it did take place in this large venue as a record number of visitors, more than 600, turned out this year to enjoy the flavours of the wine region. 37 wineries and 13 other businesses related to tourism showed their wares. So, as well as tasting the unique mineral white wines, you could also try some local cheeses, salami and bakery products, such as cabbage strudel, and pick up some information to help you plan your next visit to the iconic region.Istvandy

The Badacsony hills

This year the exhibitors were organised by ‘hill’, so visitors were orientated even more by the micro-location of the winery and its wines, although naturally some producers do have wines on more than one hill. Badacsony is not only defined by the characteristics of the region as a whole, but also by its individual hills, truncated volcanic buttes and cones, such as Szent György-hegy, Csóbanc, Szigliget, Orsi-hegy, Abráhám-hegy and Badacsony itself.

If you wanted to learn more about the differences between the hills, you could do so in one masterclass whereas in the other, you could learn about food and wine pairing.

Borbely

Visitors could also vote on their favourite winery, wine and other exhibitor. Tamás Borbély scooped up the best winery award, his Karós Olaszrizling 2016 was voted the best wine and the Lábdi market the favourite among other exhibitors.

Regional wine shows like this are a great way to get a an overall feeling for what a wine region is all about, its key varieties and producers. I particularly liked the way it was organised by hill this year, so that if you had the inclination, you could take a look at what differentiates the hills from each other.

The wines

Olaszrizling, which I can usually take or leave, seems to produce lovely weighty wines with zippy acidity in Badacsony, and I also scored Tamás Borbély’s Karós Olaszrizling very highly, along with his Bács-hegy Olaszrizling 2015. Folly Arborétem also had a beautiful 2017 on offer as did 2HA Szőlőbirtok. Szászi’s Szent György-hegyi Olaszrizling 2017 was also wonderfully juicy, ripe and full-bodied.

Another variety out in force was Badacsony’s flagship wine in waiting, Kéknyelű, with attractive versions shown by Szászi, Laposa, Istvándy, Németh Pince, Folly Arborétum and again Borbély, whose wines certainly scored highly with me overall.

Modern cross Rózsakő is also producing attractive wines in the region. Watch out for Németh Pince and Bagolykő Pince’s Rózsakő. The latter’s Olaszrizling-Rózsakő blend Ketten was also a lovely zippy wine with plenty of bright fruit.

I also enjoyed a couple of Zöldveltelinis from Villa Tolnay and Büttner Borbirtok as well as a lovely Pinot Blanc, rare in Hungary from Fischer Borászat.

Villa Tolnay

Rajnai Rizling, or Riesling, is also producing increasingly attractive, zippy wines here. Maybe there is something in Philipp Oser of Villa Tolnay’s remarks that the northern shores of the Balaton could produced great Riesling – they just have to try harder!  The king here is Villa Sandahl, showing five different excellent Rieslings, but I also tried beautifully balanced zesty wines from Gilvesy, Istvándy (cut with a touch of Sárga Muskotály), Baló Ambrus and Folly Arborétum.

Reds were thin on the ground, given that Badacsony is primarily white wine country, and many had run out by the time I got onto the reds, but Szeremley had a lovely crunchy, still very youthful, 2017 Pinot Noir and Fischer Borászat a bright, fresh 2017 Zweigelt, which I enjoyed.

Now looking forward to my next visit to Badacsony itself!

badacsony hill

*Photos, except the last, courtesy of the organisers.

Facelift for Villa Tolnay

The last year has seen a flurry of new labels for the wines of many of Hungary’s prominent wineries, often along with a tightening up of their ranges.

Villa Tolnay has joined this trend too, launching its new labels a couple of weeks ago at the Kóstolom Wine Bar in Buda.

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Swiss owner and chief winemaker, Philipp Oser, and co-owner and estate manager Laszló Nagy presented the new labels and showed a few of their revamped range of wines. Of course, they also filled us in on some of the other developments at the winery, as they’ve not only been working on the presentation of the wine itself, but also on the winery itself. They’ve built a large cellar including bottling line, 700m2, most of which is underground, so in line with their environmentally conscious way of thinking. They work organically, although are not yet certified, which Philipp points out is not the main thing anyway – it’s all about making the wines better. All their wines are spontaneously fermented, and they no longer use cultivated yeast or sulphur, no bentonite for clarification, only settling and gravity. The only time any sulphur comes in contact with the wines is during racking.

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Along with this winery renewal, they have decided to change their whole new corporate identity. Their new labels are bold, yet elegant and simple, focussing on the terroir and place, rather than the variety. Their three-star wines (more about this later) focus on the location of the winery and the vines – Csobánc, or the older version Csobáncz, which they’ve chosen to emphasise on their labels in large, bold print. The word Badacsony, the official wine region, is nowhere to be seen and the name of the variety and the single vineyard name are only featured underneath in much smaller letters. They’ve also opted to use soft wax instead of aluminium or plastic capsules in the interest of sustainability – red or white. It’s a nice extension from the label as it reflects the fact their work is based on craftsmanship; it’s elegant and doesn’t splinter when cut.

Philipp has been here in Csobánc for the last 14 years now and decided it was time to change a few thing. One of the most important things for him was to keep things simple and to show simplicity, which is just what the labels do.

The product line will now feature three levels, which he calls their one-star, two-star and three-star wines. One-star wines will be fresh wines which focus on the variety, e.g. the yet-to-be-released Sauvignon Blanc and perhaps a Zöldveltelini, two-star wines are blends such as Tenger and Névtelen, whereas three-star wines are the top wines, usually single vineyard and single variety, although there may also be blends, depending on the vintage. They will not hesitate to downgrade wines though, if the vintage is poor. Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc are their most important reds, with Riesling, Olaszrizling, Zöldveltelini and Chardonnay their key whites. There are no plans for a pure Furmint, which, although important, is needed for their Hidden Treasures wine – Balaton – a blend of Furmint and Riesling produced for Burgenland Roland Velich. Interestingly, the new labels bear more than just a passing resemblance to the labels for this series.

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Panororama Olaszrizling 2016

The Panorama vineyard is a one-hectare plateau in the middle of Csobánc with 35-year-old vines, which they keep saying they’ll grub up and replace as this old plantation, abandoned for at least a decade previously, always involves a lot of work and produces tiny berries with thick skins. However, each year they taste the wines and decide to wait another year. Philipp calls the wine Csobánc’s ambassador.

The wine shows great typicity of the volcanic terroir. Intense, yet austere and lean with beautiful lemon and almond notes and a salty, long finish.

Philipp’s favourite wine regions are Pfalz and Burgundy, so the aim is to create a style with less alcohol than the modern norm, so around 12-13%, that is lively, vibrant and light, but at the same time dense, something akin to the finesse of Burgundy, he hopes.

Panorama Zöldveltelini 2017

This wine also reflects the basalt terroir nicely with lively acidity, fresh green fruit and honey pepped up with spicy, floral and mineral notes. Lovely concentration, elegance and an attractive, long, salty finish.

Tenger 2017

A new brand for them – tenger means ’sea’ in Hungarian and reflects the fact that the Balaton is known as the Hungarian Sea and that this whole area was once also covered by the Pannonian Sea.

A blend of 50% Chardonnay with Zöldveltelini, Riesling and Olaszrizling making up the remainder. Philipp calls the wine Hungary’s answer to Chablis or Pouilly Fuissé. He uses a little oak to add some nuttiness to the blend.

The wine offers flavours of ripe autumn fruits and vanilla with zesty acidity and just a touch of grip It’s rich, creamy and complex, yet fresh and vibrant with a long saline finish. Pure Csobánc.

Panorama Chardonnay 2017

Lovely finesse, nicely integrated oak, a mouth-filling wine with crisp acidity, mineral notes and a long elegant finish.

Philipp’s philosophy is to make the best that he can, so they also source their vines from regions which produce some of the top wines from those varieties, so the Pinot Noir comes from Gevry Chambertin, the Chardonnay from Meursault, the Cabernet Franc from the Loire and the Riesling from Pfalz. Philipp has high hopes for Riesling from the northern shore of the Balaton. He just thinks they all need to try harder!

Unfiltered Cabernet Franc 2017

A crunchy red and black fruit salad of cherry, blueberry, raspberry and cranberry. Definitely more in the Loire than the Villány style. Vibrant, crisp and fresh with fine-grained tannins. Lovely to drink now but will be even better in a couple of years.

Star of the tasting for me. Philipp said the goal with this wine is that anyone who opens a bottle of his Cabernet Franc will want to finish it off themselves!

The five-year-old vines are planted on one hectare at the foot of the hill where the soil is soft, limestone sediment from the Pannonian Sea as well as the results of volcanic erosion, which helps keep the wines lean with lovely freshness, so that they will be drinking well after five or six years. Another of Philipp’s wishes is to be able to release wines a little later, which the spacious new winery will enable them to do.

’New Pannonian wine tradition’

With this slogan, Philipp hopes to build new traditions in the region, perhaps returning to the use of the hegy or ’hill’ in labelling, like with Csobánc, just as in the past. For him, origin is everything. The talk here inevitably turns to branding around the Balaton. A contentious issue currently. Brand-building in the wider region is difficult for various reasons. Csopak and Olaszrizling are already their own brand, Balatonfüred is nearer to the motorway and hence easier to reach, whereas heading to Badacsony requires more time and effort. Perhaps varieties should be more closely linked to each hegy even – e.g. Olaszrizling with Szent György-hegy or Kéknyelű with Badacsony. Food for thought….

Philipp is also aiming to start another Pannonian wine tradition – Winemakers @The Villa. The first edition of the event will take place on 5-6 April this year. It will consist of a mini winemakers’ get-together to connect western European producers with Pannonian ones, with debates on biodynamic or organic production and networking opportunities. They’ll begin with six or seven winemakers including several foreign guests from the Pfalz and Wachau, along with Tamás Kis from Somló, Zoli Heimann from Szekszárd and, of course, themselves. Over time, they’d like to grow it and turn it into an annual fair giving visitors the opportunity to taste international wines at the Balaton. However, it will be a small affair, at least this year, with a maximum of 40 guests.

Women winemakers out in force on International Women’s Day

The weaker sex? Certainly not!

Tomorrow, 8 March, is International Women’s Day, and in celebration of all women, 32 Hungarian women winemakers from 12 wine regions will present 104 wines to visitors of the Gyengébb? Nem! Cherchez la Femme wine show at the Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge.

This is the second time that the event has been organised by Edit Szabó of Borsmenta. The idea grew out of her book Gyengébb? Nem! Roughly translated, this means ’The weaker sex? No!’ It relates the stories of 26 women winemakers in Hungary and how they cope in a traditionally male-dominated industry, hence the title.

The winemakers will bring along some of their brand new novelties for curious wine lovers. For example, Katalin Toth will present their 2018 Kadarka Siller, Andrea Gere their 2017 Fekete Járdovány and Syrah, Júlia Dóra Molnár from Csendes Dűlő their 2017 premium Kéknyelű and Éva Gálné Dignisz will show their hot-off-the-press fizz. There’ll also be a couple of pet nats to try from the Szőlő Pincészet and the Heimann Családi Pincészet.

A gentleman, however, will look after the food! Alain Losbar, the Sofitel’s head chef will osztrigaensure nobody goes hungry and will delight your taste buds with fresh oysters, ham, cheeses and other French delicacies.

If you’re inspired to travel to the enchanting wine regions the ladies come from, or even beyond, three more ladies, from Wine A’more travel, are on hand to help you fulfil your inspirations with their offer of wine trips and tastings.

All in a good cause

Another reason to come along is the fact that the ladies have waived their fees for the event and thus half a million forints (around €1,600) has already been raised for charity. This total is sure to grow as visitors can also add their contributions in the collection boxes at the event. The monies collected will go to the Anyaoltalmazó Foundation, which helps 75-80 women and children in distress all around the country every year.

Chocolate and cheese-pairing masterclasses

Those who are interested in learning more about what wines to pair with various cheeses and chocolate can also attend two masterclasses. Tickets are available for these at 3,000 forints.

So, if you’ve nothing planned for tomorrow evening, head to the Sofitel to celebrate Women’s Day with a remarkably talented group of women!

When: 8 March 16:00-21:30

Where: Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge

Tickets: 7,000 HUF until midnight tonight, then 8,500 HUF on the door.

Advance tickets available online at: https://tixa.hu/CherchezLaFemme_avagygyengebb_nem?fbclid=IwAR1TaPt8VS6YXDgOuK48plDC0vgIIIKwB5Im406Hg_wDWZq8B9y5ObhEKQc

The price includes wines, nibbles on the winemakers’ tables and water.

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/2362393133989988/

Participating winemakers:

ANGELIKA ÁRVAY (Árvay Családi Pincészet), ZSUZSANNA BABARCZI (Babarczi Szőlőbirtok és Pince), KATA BADICS (Homoky Pincészet), EDIT BAI (Dereszla Pincészet), NÓRA BARACSKAI (Etyeki Kúria Borgazdaság), SAROLTA BÁRDOS (Tokaj Nobilis), STÉPHANIE BERECZ (Kikelet Pince), BOGLÁRKA BÖJT (Bortársaság), DOROTTYA BUSSAY (Bussay Pincészet), KRISZTINA CSETVEI (Csetvei Pince), MÓNIKA DEBRECZENI (Vylyan Pincészet), BERNADETT DUNAI (Dubicz Pincészet) TÍMEA ÉLESS (Szóló Pincészet), ÉVA GÁLNÉ DIGNISZ (Gál Szőlőbirtok és Pincészet), ANDREA GERE (Gere Attila Pincészete), SUSANN HANAUER, (Wassmann Pince), ÁGNES HEIMANN (Heimann Családi Birtok), ZITA KOVÁCS (Kovács és Lánya Borászat), ZSÓFI LAPOSA (Laposa Birtok), LILLA LATORCZAI-RÁCZ, ENIKŐ LUKA (Luka Pince), ANITA MAGYAR (Hangavári Pincészet), GABRIELLA MÉSZÁROS  (Préselő Pincészet), JÚLIA DÓRA MOLNÁR (Csendes Dűlő Szőlőbirtok), BEÁTA NYÚLNÉ PÜHRA (Nyakas Pincészet), FRUZSINA OSVÁTH (Sauska Borászat), ERIKA RÁCZ (Sanzon Tokaj), JELENA SZAVERCSENKO, (Kern Bor- és Pezsgőház), KATALIN TÓTH (Tóth Ferenc Pincészet), VIVIEN UJVÁRI (Ujvári + Barta Pince), MÁRTA WILLE-BAUMKAUFF (Tokaj Pendits), KATA ZSIRAI (Zsirai Pincészet)

Photos courtesy of Borsmenta, Ferenc Dancsecs and Gábor Vető

 

What, Switzerland makes wine?

Wine is not something that most people generally associate with Switzerland. Cheese, chocolate, mountains, watches, yes.

Landing in Geneva
Vines in Vaud

However, Switzerland does produce wine. They have six wine regions and approximately 15,000 of vines. Mostly white, typically Chasselas or Arvine, but also some lovely Pinot Noirs and Merlots, along with a fair few indigenous grapes that few will have heard of. The only thing is, that they keep most of it for themselves, only exporting about 1% of production.

A week or so ago, I attended the DWCC2014 conference in

View from hotel window in Montreux
View from hotel window in Montreux

Montreux to learn more about wine and all things digital, which gave me the ideal opportunity to try a few for myself.

For some strange reason, I seem to have developed an interest in obscure grapes, so decided to go along to the session on rare Swiss varietals with Jose Vouillamoz.

Jancis and Jose
Jancis and Jose

We had already had the Grand Tasting with Jancis Robinson and Jose, where we had tasting more typical varieties , such as Chasselas, Petite Arvine, Pinot Noir and Merlot. Now it was on to the curiosities.

The first wine we tried was a Räuschling from the area around Zurich. A progeny of Savignan and Gouais blanc, it has a deep yellow colour, fragrant and aromatic. Well-developed aromas gave hints of freshly cut hay and camomile. Although not big on the fruit, there was apricot and a savoury, smoky, earthiness.

Rèze, Vin du Glacier
Rèze, Vin du Glacier

We then moved on to a Rèze, an alpine variety previously widespread in Valais, but now there is only 2.5ha planted. It is also used to make a speciality of Valais, ‘Vin du Glacier‘, a wine made in the valleys but then brought up to the glacier and stored in a Solera system, producing a kind of Vin Santo. A smooth, honeyed wine with flavours of ripe yellow apple and herbs. The acidity on the finish keeping the mouth lively and fresh.

Next up, Humagne Blanc, of which there is only 30ha in the world, all of which can be found in Valais. A discrete nose, with aromas of straw and camomile, slight minerality and notes of mandarine and apricot.  A little lacking in acidity.

Lafnetscha was the next in our wine palette. From the German-speaking part of Valais, it is now only produced by four winemakers. Apparently in this part of Switzerland, the locals speak a rather incomprehensible dialect, little evolved since the Middle Ages. The name means don’t drink too early! Perhaps due to its high acidity. Powerful aromas of melon and white peach. Well-structured, persistent finish with a touch of bitterness, rather like that of a kumquat.

On to the Amigne, first mentioned in 1686 in Valais. There are now some 42.5ha remaining, mostly in one village. For many years, this wine was made with some residual sugar without actually mentioning it. Now bottles carry little bee symbols to denote sweetness, one being dry, two off try and three semi-sweet. One bee means a wine with residual sugar of less than 8g. A wine with a powerful golden nose, flavours of ripe pair and honey. Full-bodied, almost oily with good acidity and a bitter, almondy finish.

Our final white was Completer. There are 3ha remaining, principally in Graubünden. As the vines yield tiny bunches with very low yields, only ten producers persevere with it. A wine with a more powerful nose. Toasty, almondy with an oily texture. Creamy with mandarine and melon in the mouth. Jose informed us that this wine ages well.

First up in the reds was a Bondola, which is produced in Ticino and representing a typical alpine red. Good with salami and the local polenta, we were reliably informed. Cherry aromas and a cherry stone bitterness, with quite gentle tannins.

Next was the intriguingly named Plant Robert, no not Robert Plant. Although an internet search on this varietal will doubtless return lots of hits about rock stars! An old clone of Gamay, which was most likely introduced from Burgundy, although it is no longer found there. A red fruit  and cherry bomb, similar to Gamay from Beaujolais, but with more tannins and structure.

Cornalin was our next varietal. Originating in the Aosta Valley, in Piemont, it was introduced to Switzerland around 1900. Ironically there is now about 130ha in Valais and only 1ha remaining in Aosta. A tannic wine with dark fruits and chocolate, dried vine leaves reminiscent of a vineyard in November (Jose’s description, not mine), earthy, yet fresh and drinkable. I particularly enjoyed this variety and found a few more to try on the walkaround tasting later.

And last but not least, Rouge du Pays. Certainly not least, as it was the most expensive of our tasting! Also originating in Aosta, it can now only be found in Valais (122ha).Nervy, fresh and zingy with cherries and a lengthy finish. Delicious!

So, there is in plenty more to the Swiss wine palette than Chasselas.

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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.