Tag Archives: white 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Grape varieties – Kéknyelű

badacsony hillKéknyelű is a relatively rare white variety which grows only in Hungary, principally on the volcanic soils of Badacsony on the northern shore of Lake Balaton and in the Balaton Felvidék, although there are some plantings in Etyek-Buda, Zala and Kunság. Once widely planted, indeed it was once one of the most widely planted Hungarian varieties, much of it was grubbed up in the seventies in favour of more productive and reliable international varieties.  At the end of the twentieth century, there were approximately 40ha remaining in Badacsony, although there have been some new plantings of the variety recently. It is named after its bluish stalks.

It was for a long time assumed to be the same as the Picolit variety found in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, however this was disproved in 2006 as a result of isoenzyme and microsatellite tests.

It is not the easiest of varieties to grow and is cultivated in the ancient style with separate keknyelurows of both male and female grapevines; it needs its male counterpart, Budai Zöld, in order to pollinate as it only has female flowers. Then the wind is relied upon for pollination to ensure proper yields. It is thick-skinned, with small to medium-sized berries and relatively small clusters. It is susceptible to frost, but tolerates drought well, and thanks to its thick skins, doesn’t succumb easily to rot. It is late maturing and is generally harvested early to mid-October. In the past its relatively low yields led to local peasants calling it the ‘Gentleman’s grape’, as this meant it was rather expensive. Despite this, it was popular before phylloxera, although it was then eclipsed after WWII by high-yield varieties.

The variety responds well to both reductive and oxidative wine-making. It can be rustic and simple, but when well made, it is a unique, exciting, aromatic variety.

The wine has a pale lemon colour and can yield a savoury, smoky wine with hints of gunpowder, lemon, stone fruits, white blossom and herbs. It is generally full to medium bodied, with high acidity and high alcohol and demonstrates well the minerality of Badacsony’s characteristic basalt terroir. It is a heady, perfumed andlaposa keknyelu refined wine, which shines with a sense of place. It can be drunk young but thanks to its high acidity, it comes into its own after a few years, developing an attractive honeyed nuttiness with bottle age.

Now, as many wine lovers are look for more interesting, unique wines, it is gaining in popularity again. It pairs well with grilled fish or goats cheese.

Producers to watch out for: Szeremley Birtok, Laposa Pincészet, Borbély Családi Pince, Nyari Pince and Istvándy Családi Pincészet

 

Wines from the volcano

Somló wines are quite distinct in character. Sticking your nose into the glass, you can often tell at first sniff that they have been produced in Somló. A whiff of smoky volcano tends to dominate the nose. They are rather high in acidity and can be lacking in fruit. Although the best examples combine ripe fruit and smoky stoniness.

2015-04-20 17.18.38Last week I attended a tasting of twenty Somló wines presented at the Gellért hotel. I am usually quite a fan of well-made Somló wines, enjoying the combination of minerality and juicy fruit. However, on this occasion, I was a little disappointed by some of the wines, finding them rather tart, overly acidic and somewhat ‘fruit backward‘. I particularly enjoyed the following wines:

Györgykovács Imre’s 2012 Hárslevelű – A potent, mouth-filling 2015-04-26 12.14.44concoction of ripe peach and mandarin, with aromas of honeysuckle and hazelnut, tempered with a little saltiness and lingering in the mouth with a long elegant finish. Delicious.

Kreinbacher’s 2012 Öreg Tőkék (Hárslevelű, Olaszrizling and Furmint) – Produced from old vines, this wine showed flavours of honey, baked spiced apple, apple, lemon and mandarin. A touch of salt and a lingering finish.

Zsirai’s Somlai 2011 (Olaszrizling, Juhfark and Hárslevelű) – Having visited the Zsirai winery in Mád a few weeks ago, it was great to have the chance to try one of their Somló wines. One of fruitiest of the wines tasted today – baked apple, spicy vanilla, with a touch of salted almonds. The rich fruit balanced the acidity nicely.

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Fekete Pince’s 2009 Juhfark – Juhfark is a variety typical to Somló, probably an acquired taste in many cases, but definitely worth seeking out if you want to try something unusual. A pale golden wine with a pronounced intensity. In some ways rather austere, with a good dose of smoke and flint, but a lot of ripe stone fruits – apricot and peach –  and some honeysuckle helps to balance this. Some lovely tertiary flavours of marmalade and honey coming through and, leaving the best to last, a bit of cat’s 2015-04-20 18.27.29pee (probably what makes Juhfark a bit of an acquired taste! Can be a bit pungent sometimes.). A slightly bitter, but not unpleasant finish.

Somlói Apátsági Pince’s 2013 Juhfark – An off dry full-bodied wine bursting with ripe mandarins, pears, apricots and peaches. A slightly waxy nose with some hints of vanilla.

T2015-04-20 18.28.11ornai Pincészet’s 2013 Premium Juhfark – A complex, oily wine with orange, peach, pear and grapefruit, some floral and vegetal characteristics and a long slightly bitter, stony finish.

Somló Kincse Kézművés Kispince’s 2013 Bolyongó (késői Olaszrizling) – A dry late harvest wine with bags of fruit – apricot, pear, marmalade, spiced baked apple, nuttiness, honey and a pinch of salt. A waxy complex wine with a touch of botrytis; it has the waxy bitterness of an orange wine.

The tasting was presented by the Somlói borok boltja, where you can buy these wines, indeed they stock over 160 types of Somló wine if you develop a taste for it.

Somló

somlo picSomló is Hungary’s smallest wine region, comprising 599 hectares. It is situated in the North-west of Hungary in Veszprém county. The wine region is on the slopes three extinct volcanoes, which gives the wines a unique smokey nose and palate. Wines from the Somló region are white and typically made from Hárslevelű, Furmint, Juhfark, Olaszrizling, Traminer and Chardonnay.

In the past, the region consisted of large vineyards owned by the nobility or religious institutions, such as monasteries, whereas now it is dominated by small plots, many of which belong to hobby winemakers.

The climate is moderate, with a mild winter and an early spring. Summer temperatures rarely reach above 25 degrees Celsius and the autumns are warm sunny, thus providing ideal ripening conditions for the grapes. The basalt of the hills retain the heat and act as storage heaters on chilly days.

In the past, the wines of Somló were said to have rivalled those of Tokaj. Indeed it is said that many Habsburg kings and emperors enjoyed the wines of Somló.

As a result of the basalt, loess and sandy soils, the moderate windy climate and traditional, oxidative wine-making, the wines tend to have a unique acidic, mineral taste and usually age well.

Great Tokaj Wine Auction

P1110830Last November I was fortunate enough to be in Beaune during the weekend of the P1110851auction of the Hospices de Beaune. I had the chance to attend various events connected with this, including various cellar visits, tasting of the auction lots from the barrel at 8am with the locals, an impromptu informal tasting with Gina Gallo and Jean-Claude Boisset, and the Sunday evening ‘Diner de Gala aux Chandelles’. Quite an experience!P1110859

For the past couple of years, a similar event has been organised in Tokaj as part of the ‘Tokaj Spring’, taking the ‘Vente de Vins’ as its inspiration. This year will be the third occasion that the auction has been held. It will take place on the weekend of 24-26 April and offers a unique opportunity to sample some wines that are not on the open market, from dry white wines right up to 6 puttonyos aszú.

Great Tokaj Wine Auction 2014So if you have some surplus cash and fancy investing in a barrel of Tokaj of your own, Great Tokaj Wine Auction 2014here is your chance!

Of course, if you don’t have that much cash to splash around, you could always just take the opportunity to enjoy what should be a unique weekend in Tokaj.

Start off on by travelling style and taking the ‘Tokaj Express’ to travel to Tokaj. A heritage train with the opportunity to thumbs_tokaj-grand-02try some wines even before you arrive in Tokaj. Take part in one of three guided tours led by winemakers, one of which will be led by Mr Szepsy himself.

Great Tokaj Wine Auction 2014On Saturday you’ll have the opportunity (if you have registered, that is!) to taste the auction lots in Sárospatak castle, followed by a picnic lunch. It will initially be a blind tasting, so you won’t know whose wine you are trying. You’ll only find that out later, when there will be the oppportunity to retaste the wines.

You can find a list of the auction lots on the Tokaji Bor Lovagrend website. I unexpectedly had the chance to try the Zsirai Betsek Furmint from the barrel when visiting their cellar in Mád on Saturday.

A gala dinner dance will end the day and on Sunday you can visit participating producers.

A portion of the income will go towards supporting the Tokaj wine regon – a UNESCO world heritage site; so definitely a worthy cause.

At Tokaj Grand last weekend, we were able to taste some of the wines auctioned in 2013 and 2014. If these are anything to go by, if you do head off to Tokaj, you are in for a treat.

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