Friday, November 20, 2020

Grape Spotlight: Somló Juhfark

Courtesy of Kolonics Pinceszet
At 507 hectares, Somló is Hungary's second smallest wine region with Tihany being the smallest. Somló is basically a single hill that was an active volcano millions of years ago when the Pannonian Sea covered what is now central Europe. Today the hill is populated by multi-generational small family farms that were not confiscated during communism. Collectivized and socialist agriculture never gained a foothold in Somló thanks to its small size and the hill's steep slopes. These were inaccessible to machines and large-scale agricultural methods.

Many of these small farms are vineyards planted in the rich volcanic black basalt soil that helps winemakers create minerally driven wines. The soil also helps warm the grapes during chillier days by absorbing heat and then radiating it back towards the vines. Juhfark, in particular, requires this warming because it's thin skins are prone to rot and are very sensitive to frost. It also needs plenty of sunshine to fully ripen which tends to occur on the south-facing slope. For these reasons, Jufark is the "iconic variety-of-choice" for local winemakers.  Its name translates to "sheep's tail", "juh" translating to sheep and "fark" to tail and describes the shape of the dangling grape clusters. 

The origins of Juhfark are unclear. Some believe it was conceived on this hill. Others believe Styria, in neighboring Austria, is its homeland.  Regardless, Somló Juhfark is known for being elegant, balanced, and full-bodied. One such wine is the 2018 Kolonics Winery Somló "Nimrod" Juhfark ($25) available from Taste Hungary. The grapes come from southeastern facing vines that were aged in the 1,060 liter "Nimrod" barrel made from new Hungarian oak. Winemaker Karoly Kolonics names his wine after the barrel in which they aged. This Juhfark reminds me of Fall, a little rustic; with some stone fruit and apple notes, minerals, and smoke; and lifted slightly by a fresh finish. The wine also has plenty of depth and soaking on its skins for 6-12 hours after pressing and from oak fermentation. 

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