Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Tokaj and Beyond" - The Best Wines of Hungary

On the heels of tasting some fabulous eastern European wines at the Washington D.C. Int'l Wine Festival, we were invited to attend a special trade tasting of just Hungarian wines held at that country's embassy. There was an expanded selection from those presented at the festival which gave a fuller picture of the styles of wines produced primarily from Tokaji and Villány. Tokaji is located in the northeastern section of the country and is known for making sweet dessert fines from Furmint, the Tokaji Aszú . And there were plenty of the highest quality - 5 and 6 puttonyos - available. These wines are sweet, with generally strong apricot flavors. But they are balanced - with no gritty or syrupy finish. Two we really enjoyed were from Alana-Tokaj and Béres Vineyard and Winery. Both these wineries also had examples of dry Furmint as well as semi-dry Hárslevelü - which along with orange muscat are the only grapes authorized to be grown in the region. And Béres also provided a bonus - two versions of Hungarian palinka - these made in a grappa style. Excellent.

Villány is located in the southern region of Hungary is is known as "Little Bordeaux" for its ability to grow Cabernet and Merlot grapes. And wines from these grapes are made in the old world earthy style as opposed to the new world fruit bombs. We started with the wines imported by the Blue Danube Wine Company which culminated into the Attila - a blend of grapes that would give many premier or second crus a battle. Blue Danube also presented wines from native grapes - Kékfrankos and Kardaka which we profiled in our previous post. We then tasted several dry reds produced by the Château Teleki. They were pouring several single varietal Bordeaux style wines which were all representative of the old world miner-ally wines and tasty. But we were more pleased with their Pinot Noir, which shows that Burgundy also has a presence in Villány. This wine is velvety smooth and full bodied - very nice. The final set of reds were offered by Heumann Winery, which is owned and operated by Evelyne & Erhard Heumann. The couple found a suitable Villányi vineyard over 15 years ago and have been producing wines from native and Bordeaux grapes since. And, Mr. Heumann was present to showcase the wines personally. He offers several single varietals - including a Kékfrankos - but its his two blends, Terra Tartaro and Heumann which will remain in our memory. These are smooth classic Bordeaux cuvees, with light tannins and balanced acidity. And priced to sell - we start searching this week. As a bonus, we tasted the Heumann Chardonnay - a very impressive wine - full bodied with apricot flavors and a slight nutty finish. Perhaps the only version of Hungarian Chardonnay available.

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