Category Archives: Sweet wine

La Parilla

Once upon a time, in my former life as an English teacher, I used to teach at a bank on the corner of Szabadság tér in Budapest. Opposite the main entrance was a very sorry-looking building – blackened walls, held up by equally blackened wooden scaffolding.

KI_B7188

Szabadság tér is one of my favourite squares in Budapest, a large, open expanse, surrounded by magnificent buildings, thankfully now mostly in a good state of repair. KI_B6849-HDREven this derelict black building has been brought back to life and is now occupied by the luxury IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel, which opened in October 2016. An independent restaurant, La Parilla, now operates on the ground floor. It has an elegant red, black and beige interior designed by a Spanish designer and from April you’ll also be able to enjoy its terrace with a great view of my favourite square.

The food on offer is mostly Mediterranean style, but they also have great steak or DSC_3479mangalica and Hungarian food, as well as an impressive dessert menu.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to taste a selection of the wines from their 100-strong wine list, featuring both Hungarian and international wines and to sample the cuisine of chefs Peter Szabó and Balázs Papp.

Wines tasted:

AnDSC_3499na de Codorniu Rosé Brut / Spain, Penedés

Anna de Codorniu Rosé Brut is the rosé version of Codorniu’s most iconic sparkling wine.

Elegant and subtle, made from 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. A fresh wine with cherry and strawberry notes and a fine mousse.

Gizella Barát Hárslevelű 2015DSC_3776

A vineyard selection from the Barát vineyard in Tokaj.

A rich, broad yet lively wine with intensive varietal flavours of tropical fruits, mango, lemon and lime.  It’s spicy with plenty of mineral notes and a long finish.

Bodegas Faustino, Rioja, Spain, Faustino VII white 2015

Pure Viura, aka Macabeo, better known for use in Cava.

Crisp and spicy with apple, peach and delicate, floral notes. Tangy on the palate with rich fruit and a fresh finish.

DSC_3743

Bott Frigyes, Rajnai Rizling 2015

A special wine using only eight tiny clusters per vine, selected in three tries, whole bunch pressing followed by spontaneous fermentation in barrel. Owing to the perfect vintage and biodynamic cultivation, it required only light filtering and no fining.

A wonderful wine, initially a little reserved, it opens up nicely to reveal a rich, floral, herbal and apricot nose with plenty of minerality.  Crisp and elegant. A wine to be savoured.

Masi, Veneto, Italy, Masi Masianco 2015

A winery better known for its Amarone, a dry red wine made from the red varieties used to create Valpolicella. This white is also made from partially dried Pinot Grigio and Trebbiano grapes.

Restrained but opens to show attractive tropical fruit aromas. Palate is a little chalky and strangely earthy but fills out on the mid-palate allowing the fruit to blend with a touch of honey. Finishes dry with a citrus twist.

DSC_3781Vida Öreg Tőkék Kadarkája 2015

Kadarka is the oldest grape variety in the historic wine region of Szekszárd and these vines date back to 1996-7. Kadarka is a thin-skinned variety, thus sensitive to the weather, so this is not made every year.

Light and elegant with a wonderful spicy nose. Soft but characteristic flavour of red fruits on the palate should be a real crowd-pleaser.

Heimann Barbár 2013

This wine, made by one of the most prominent winemakers in Szekszárd is named after a DSC_3759composition by Béla Bártok, the famous Hungarian composer. It’s made from a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Tannat and Kékfrankos.

A dense nose followed by a vibrant palate of sour cherry, fruits of the forest, blackcurrant and dark chocolate coated prune. A youthful wine that’s both taut and flavoursome, but with still slightly grippy tannins.

Faustino I Gran Reserva 2004

Produced from Rioja’s typical grapes of Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo.

Intense, bright cherry red colour. Aromatic and complex, with notes of tobacco, cedar and leather against a background of ripe fruit, jam and spices. On the palate, powerful yet velvety, with flavours of rich red fruit, liquorice and minerals with smooth, ripe tannins with some spice and vanilla on the medium finish.

Peter Lehmann, Barossa, Australia, Futures Shiraz 2012

This is the winery’s top wine. Is named in honour of how Peter financed his winery – when he wanted to start making wine, he didn’t have sufficient capital, so, he asked people to pay in advance for his wines. Enough people seem to have trusted him and he’s still going strong today!

The wine is matured in French oak to integrate the intense, spicy fruit flavours, resulting in an approachable and supple wine. Deep red-black colour with a nose loaded with spicy plum and chocolate notes. The palate is firm and rich with a long finish, a legacy of the low yielding vineyards of the north-west Barossa.

HDSC_3779oldvölgy Exaltation 2012

Awarding winning dessert wine made from 100% Sárgamuskotály from the Nyúlaszó vineyard in Tokaj.

Luscious wine with floral aromas and notes of peach, honey, rose and lychee.

With our wines, we were served a selection of dishes including a blue cheese tart, olive jelly, breaded pork with homemade ajvar, and toast with chickpea and octopus cream.  Avocado and chocolate mouse and a mango tart kept those with a sweet tooth happy.

DSC_3510

La Parilla is open from 7 am for breakfast, there is a weekly lunch menu and you can dine until midnight. I was impressed by both the food and the wines on offer. Although, admittedly, the Hungarian wines we tried won the day for me. So, if you are in the vicinity of Szabadság tér, it comes recommended, especially once the terrace opens and you can look out on the square.

Advertisements

Tokaj Grand 2015

tokaj_grand_logoA unique opportunity to try all the Tokaj wine region has to offer is coming up in Budapest shortly.

Tokaj Grand’ will take place on 28 March at the five-star Corinthia Hotel. It is being organised for the first time by Winelovers and promises to be a remarkable event.

Most people are familiar with Tokaj because of the sweet, botrytised aszú wines. However, kesei_szuretelesu_furtTokaj also produces some fabulous dry whites and some late harvest wines too. Tokaj Grand will give you the chance try some of these as well as the more famous aszú.

In addition to the opportunity to walk around and try the wines (over 200!) of more than seventy producers, if your Hungarian mesterkurzus_foto_graselly_balazsis up to it, you could also choose to attend one of the eight thematic masterclasses on offer during the day. Of course, you could just go along to the classes in order to try some great wines in a more relaxed environment! You’ll need to buy tickets for these in advance though.

Choose from themes such as:

  • Dry Tokaj wines and their international rivals
  • Mádi Kör selection
  • Disznókö 5 Puttonyos aszú vertical tasting
  • Szepsy masterclass
  • Tokaj Kereskedőház masterclass (in English)
  • Wine, intoxication…Bénye
  • Tokaji autumn
  • Mindszent Havi Mulatság

See you there!

Tokaj

Where is it?
tokaj map

Named as a World Heritage Site in 2002 under the name Tokaj Wine Region Historic Cultural Landscape, Tokaj is probably the most famous wine region outside the country. It lies in the far north of the country, in the foothills of the Zemplén Hills, in fact the historic area extends into the southeast corner of what is today Slovakia.

A bit of history

botrytised grapesHowever, its fame long predated this distinction because it is the origin of Tokaji aszú wine, the world’s oldest botrytised wine, which has been produced since the time of Ottoman rule. Legend has it the harvest was delayed in Lorantffy Mihaly’s domain due to fears of the Turkish invasion until the grapes had shrivelled and Botrytis had set in, creating the ‘noble rot’. Nevertheless, the pastor Szepsi Laczko Mate turned them into wine and presented the result to the daughter of his lord.

Moreover, Tokaj’s system of wine classification is the second in the world, dating back to 1737, when the decree of Emperor Charles VI (Charles III, King of Hungary) declared the area a closed wine region and classified the vineyards based on soil, aspect and propensity to botrytis.

tokaj

Wine has actually been produced in the region and vines have been cultivated here for more than a millenium The name ‘Tokaj’ may be derived from a word for grape in Armenian that came into the Hungarian language in the 10th century, thus giving us an idea of when the settlement was formed. It is also evidence that viticulture was already being practised here at that time.

Tokaj wines have been enjoyed by royalty over the centuries. It was famously christened by Louis XIV of France “Vinum Regum, Rex Vinorum” – Wine of Kings, King of Wines and Tokaj wines were a favourite tipple of Queen Victoria. The Russian emperors actually maintained a de facto colony in Tokaj so the supply of wine to the imperial Court could be ensured.

Terroir

tokaj3

Tokaj boasts unique natural conditions and centuries of wine-making tradition. Its local climate helps to create a special terroir; it is bordered by two rivers Tisza and Bodrog whose mists, along with the sheltered slopes on the south-eastern fringe of the Zemplén hills, help to ensure perfect weather conditions to ensure the regular development of Botrytis (noble rot) and the subsequent desiccation of grapes in the long autumns. The vines, planted at altitudes of 100-300m produce the botrytised grapes (aszú), which make the luscious sweet wines for which the region is famous.

tokaj2

The Tokaj region is comprised of a wide palate of bedrocks and soils, mostly clay or loess on volcanic subsoil – vines planted at altitudes of 100-300m

A labyrinthine network of cellars carved into the mostly volcanic rock provide a constant temperature of around 10-12°C; their walls are covered with a characteristic mould which feeds off the alcohol as the wine ages and maintains a humidity of 85-90%, ideal for the aging of Tokaji wines.

The wine region consists of 28 named villages and 11,149 hectares of classified vineyards.

Approximately 6000 hectares are currently planted with vines.

Tokaj is both a region and a district and contains one protected geographical indication (Tokaj) and one country wine or protected designation of origin (Zemplén).

The wines

Tokaj is most famous for its delicious amber sweet wines made from the aszú grapes, known through the English-speaking world as Tokay. These grapes impart aromas reminiscent of linden, marmalade and dried fruits, notably quince and apricot.

puttonyosAszú are individually picked as late as mid-November into buckets (‘puttonyos’) and crushed to a paste. Varying amounts of this aszú ‘dough’ are then added to non-aszú must or wine made from a mix of Furmint, Hárslevelű, Sárgamuskotály (Muscat Blanc Peit Grains), Kövérszőlő or Zéta, and left to ferment for 24-48 hours, stirred occasionally.tokaj cellar

It is then racked off into wooden casks and left to mature for several years in relatively small barrels in a labyrinth of cellars in the soft volcanic tuff, where walls thickly blanketed with fungus regulate the humidity.

mouldy bottles

The number of puttonyos of aszú added to a 136 litre barrel of must traditionally determined the concentration and the sweetness of the wine. Nowadays, the puttonyos refers to the content of sugar in the mature wine. Aszú ranges from 3 to 6 puttonyos.

Aszú conditions may not occur every year, thus a large quantity of dry Furmint is also produced. Furmint makes up approximately 60% of production; other grapes grown in the area are Hárslevelű (30%), Muscat Blanc, Kövérszőlő, Kabar and Zéta – these are the only grapes permitted for use in the region.

tokaj aszu

Although Tokaj Aszú is its most famous product, a wide range of types and styles of wine are also made in the region, ranging from bone dry Furmints, through Szamorodni (either dry or sweet), Forditás, Máslás, late harvest wines (késői szüretelésú) to the dentist-friendly sweet Eszencia.

Dry wines are sold as varietals: Tokaji Furmint, Tokaji Hárslevelű, Tokaji Sárgamuskotály and Tokaji Kövérszőlő.