Tag Archives: grape varieties

A new name for the Riesling pretender?

Olaszrizling is Hungary’s most widely planted white variety. Its name often leads to confusion as it can be translated as Italian Riesling. However, the variety is not Italian nor is it related to Riesling as far as we know. Indeed sometimes Hungarians simply refer to it as Rizling, which admittedly I find rather confusing. Riesling is known here as Rajni (Rhine) Riesling.olaszrizling_1

Three Balaton winemakers’ associations have decided to try to put an end to this confusion, especially as regards export markets. The Balatoni Kör (Balaton Circle), Rizling Generation and Csopaki Kódex are part of an initiative seeking a new name in Hungary for the variety. Although interestingly, the Italians call it Riesling Italico, it is known as Welschriesling in German-speaking countries (it’s grown widely in Austria) and Graševina in Croatia, by which it is referenced in ‘Wine Grapes’. As Hungarians generally consider this a Hungarian variety, many felt somewhat snubbed when Graševina was the name selected for use in this mighty reference tome.

Of course, you can’t just change the name as you wish, any new name has to be approved by the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) headquartered in Switzerland.

So, what names are on the table?

Oris – This name reflects its current name of Olaszrizling, i.e. a merging of the two words.

Nemes – This name aims to identify the variety as a noble variety, not a mass wine, which many consider it to be, given that it is often sold as bulk wine for very low prices. In northern Europe, it also has the reputation of being rather poor quality due to large quantities of Yugoslavian Laski Rizling exported under communism. Although the variety is capable of producing attractive, concentrated wines if the yields are controlled. The word nemes means noble in Hungarian.

Mandola – This name probably refers to the almond note which is one of the typical flavour and aroma characteristics of Olaszrizling.

So the race is on for a new Hungarian name for the variety. But what about the name Welschriesling, which also contains the word Riesling? English speakers will often refer to the variety by this name too and then it gives the impression it is from Wales, i.e. Welsh Riesling. However, Welsch doesn’t actually mean Welsh in German, it means Latin, Southern European or foreign. Welsh is actually Walisisch in German. But now perhaps I’m being over picky.

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Furmint Február

Going to a major wine-tasting event with still relatively blocked sinuses is not really conducive to sniffing and t2015-02-05 15.43.20asting ability. However, it is Furmint Február and this also means the annual Nagy Furmint Február Kóstoló held at the scenic Vajdahunyadvár in Városliget, so I gave it my best shot.

Seventy-nine producers from around Hungary and across the border were offering up their wines for our delectation. With five hours to taste, not much chance of trying them all, but I managed to taste a fair few – from around thirty producers, mostly from Tokaj or Somló, but also one or two from elsewhere, such as Eger. Dulled senses prevented me from being overly analytical, but still got a good impression of the quality and range of wines on offer.

I didn’t really taste any of the sweet and aszús, concentrating mainly on the dry and off-dry offerings.

Some highlights:

A 2013 blend from Bott Frigyes, Super Granum, which included not only Furmint but also Hárslevelű and Juhfark. The Juhfark had been macerated on its skins for four days giving it notes reminiscent of szamorodni or orange wine. Delicious.

A fruity, crisp mineral Kikelet 2013 Váti Furmint.

A rich, fruity, honeyed off-dry 2009 Csontos Furmint from Bott Pince bursting with ripe stone fruit.

The interestingly named 2013 Furmintage from Portius – a mouthful of minerally peach, quince and tinned pear.

The concentrated and complex Demetervin Király Furmint 2013, produced exclusively from grapes harvested from the Király dülő’s upper slopes.

If you missed out on the ‘Grand Tasting’ and want to get stuck into some Furmint, there are still plenty of other Furmint-related events happening in February – http://www.furmintfebruar.hu/hu/programok/ (only in Hungarian – the English does not appear to work).

Furmint

furmintAs it is currently ’Furmint Februar’ here in Hungary, this is as good a time as any to introduce you to one of Hungary’s key white grape varieties. Although Olaszrizling is more widely planted, Furmint is perhaps more emblematic of the country’s wines. It is one of the main varieties to be found in Tokaj, which could be considered its homeland, and is usually one of the principle elements in the aszú and szamorodni wines produced in the region, along with Hárslevelű and Sárga Muskotály (Muscat blanc à petits grains). As well as Tokaj, it is typically cultivated in Somló and can be found in some areas around the Balaton and elsewhere in the country.

Outside Hungary, Furmint is also grown across the border in Slovakia (previously part of the Hungarian Tokaj wine region) and in Slovenia, where it is known as Sipon. In the past, it was prevalent in the Austrian Burgenland, where it was used to make Ausbruch wines until it was pretty much abandoned in preference for Welschriesling, as Olaszrizling is known in the German-speaking world. Although it is enjoying a bit of a revival now. Here it is known as Zapfner.

A late ripening grape variety, Furmint is capable of producing a wide range of complex sweet and dry wines. Serious acidity means that even the sweetest of late harvest and aszú wines are not cloying. It is also susceptible to the development of botrytis cinerea, noble rot, producing the wonderful orange marmalade, apricot and marzipan flavours to be found in aszú wines.

As the taste for sweet wines is waning, larger volumes of dry and off-dry Furmint are being produced. Typical flavours found in dry wines are pear, quince, lime peel and a steely smokiness.

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 :-).

Pintes

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(http://www.vinumveress.hu/vinumveress_en.html), who have 1.5 hectares of vines in Csáford.

P1090337

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.

pintes

 

Turán

A dark-skinned grape variety (known in the US as Agria), with deeply pigmented flesh, most commonly used to enhance colour in blends. It forms an important part of Egri Bikavér. However, I had the chance to try this as a varietal from Szeczkő pince. Luscious dark berries, perfumed mouth-filling flavours, beautiful dark violet in the glass. Only 445 bottles were produced, so sadly I don’t think I’ll be able to get my hands on another bottle.

Szecsko_Turan_11

Unusual grape varieties galore

The last month or so has seen a myriad of wine-tasting events or opportunities – in Budapest, Pécs, Vác, Vienna – in which I was on a voyage of discovery of unknown (to me, at least) grape varieties. Many of these varieties were local, auctocton, unusual or ’forgotten’. Forget Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Co and take a voyage of discovery into local, unusual grape varieties. Try a glass of:

Whites: Kövidinka, Ezerjó, Pintes, Zoldfülű, Mézes Fehér, Szerémi Szerelem, Nektár, Zeus

Reds: Turan, Fekete Leanyka, Medina