Blue Danube Wine is my primary source for Eastern Europe wine and they supplemented my passion by hosting this week's #winechat discussion. The focus of this tasting was Hungarian wines and Blue Danube chose three very traditional wine grapes: Kadarka, Furmint, and Olaszrizling.
We started the evening with a slightly chilled red, the Eszterbauer Kadarka Nagyapám 2011 ($18). The Eszterbauer Winery is located in Szekszárd in southern Hungary near the Croatian border at latitude between the Loire and Bordeaux. Their 8 hectares of vineyards consist of chalk and loess soils which include 9 clones of Kadarka - a traditional grape that probably came to Hungary with the Serbs fleeing the Ottoman invaders. The name, Nagyapám, refers to Grandfather in honor of János Eszterbauer's father who drank Kadarka straight from the barrel. The grapes for the wine are sourced from the vineyard's oldest vines and the result is a Cabernet Franc like dark cherry wine with subtle spice and tart tannins and acids at the tail.
The second wine was the Bodrog Borműhely Furmint Lapis 2011 ($21.95), a 100% dry furmint from the Tokaj region. Known for the kingly Tokaji Aszu, Tokaj is situated in north-eastern Hungary and is the world’s first appellation system over 100 years before Bordeaux.
Bodrog Borműhely produces a combination of dry and sweet wines, and the Lapis vineyard, clay and volcanic soils, sits just high enough from the Bodrog River and its floodplains the breezes dry the grapes to prevent Botrytis. This Furmint was fermented and aged in Hungarian Oak - undergoing full malolactic fermentation and then aged 9 months sur lie. The result is a peach & creamy wine with a toasted sugary pecan nose followed by a steely minerality. The wine finishes with subtle spice and decent acidity. I think this wine was the biggest surprise among my associates as many had never tried a furmint - let along a dry furmint. Well done.
We finished the evening with the Fekete Olaszrizling 2011 ($24.95), produced from the Grandfather of Somló winemaking, Béla Fekete. Somló is Hungary’s smallest appellation and the area was once an underwater volcano. The oldest writings mentioning Somló wine date to 1093 with viticulture occurring earlier with the Romans.They know good volcanic soil when they see it. Located north of Lake Balaton in eastern Hungary, the app Somló appellation consists of only white grapes with Olaszrizling the favorite. Olaszrizling is actually the most planted wine grape in Central and Eastern Europe known as Graševina in Croatia, Welchsriesling in Austria, Riesling Italico in Italy, and Laški Rizling in Slovenia.
Béla Fekete started making wine late in life, while in his late 50's, yet because of his longevity has been producing wine for 32 years. Approaching 90, 2013 was his last vintage, so tasting his 2011 Olaszrizling was a great honor. He uses non-traditional techniques, waiting for spontaneous fermentation in old 1200 liter Hungarian oak casks. He never stirs the lees nor completely seals off oxygen. And all wines are aged for 2 years before bottling. The result is a complex wine, white fruits, with plenty of minerals and salty elements fishing with good acidity. Cheers to all the wines and thanks to Blue Danube Wine for supplying them.