Saturday, March 6, 2021

Grape Spotlight: Nagy-Somloi Olaszrizling

The most widely planted grape variety in Hungary is Olaszrizling, also known as Welschriesling to a wider European audience.  In many cases, Olaszrizling wines are rather pedestrian, light, and neutral, where they are favored in boxes, jugs, or as the base for the Hungarian wine spritzer: fröccs.  However, in a particular microclimate with volcanic soils or in specific environments these wines find a more complex expression such as in Magyarország's second smallest wine region -  Somló. This region is only 507 hectares and 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.  

Kolonics Pinceszet is one of these multi-generation family farms and cultivates Olaszrizling on two hectares on the south-east side of the Somló hill -- specifically in the Apátság vineyard.  Károly Kolonics produces several versions of Olaszrizling wine, and each starts with six to 12 hours of skin contact before pressing and fermented using only indigenous yeast. The differences in the styles result from oak aging in various large and old barrels (1,000 or 1,500 liters). In the instance of the Kolonics Pinceszet Nagy-Somloi "St. László" Olaszrizling 2018 ($25), the wine was aged exclusively in the "St. László" barrel -- a 1,500-liter, steam-bent oak cask -- for one year. The wine is rich in tropical fruit and laden with minerals providing a smooth flow to the finish.  We couldn't stop ourselves from finishing the wine in one sitting. Egészségére. 

No comments: