Friday, June 27, 2014
Wineaux of the Goddess - June Meeting - Hungary!
Hungarian wine has a history dating back to at least Roman times. Outside of Hungary, the best-known wines are the white dessert wine Tokaji and the red wine Bull's Blood of Eger (Egri Bikavér), but there are many more. This tasting barely scratched the surface. Tasters included First Acolyte JD, hostess Michelle McCue (who procured the wines and provided a delightful dinner!), Debra Bizek, Marya Glur, Xochitl Maiman, Barbara Barrielle, and the ubiquitous Shawn Shai Halahmy. All the wines were purchased from the Blue Danube Wine Company.
We started with a non-vintage Grande Cuveé Brut from Hungaria. The grapes were a blend of Királyleányka, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay from the Etyek-Buda appellation. This region is west of Budapest, sharing the same latitude as Champagne. Using the Methode Transvasée, primary fermentation of the different grapes is completed separately and then blended to create the cuvée. Yeast and sugar are added and crown-capped in magnums for 18 months at 14 degrees Celcius, after which the blend is transferred to pressurized tanks for equalizing. While in tank, the final dosage is added, sediment is filtered, and the wine is stabilized, bottled, and finally corked. The process is similar to the Methode Traditionelle in that the secondary fermentation happens entirely in bottle, although riddling and disgorgement are not done. Clear and straw-like in color with a slight greenish tint, the wine produced a big effervescence but flattened almost immediately. The nose was clean with stone fruit, good minerality and a tinge of kerosene. On the palate, refreshing citrus and stoniness made for a nice wine that paired well with crunchy roasted chickpeas. 11.5% alcohol. $14.95
2011 Szöke Mátyás Királyleányka, Mátra, Hungary. 100% Királyleányka. Mátra is Hungary's second largest wine region. Heavily forested mountains run East-West giving the vineyards a generally southern exposure with degraded volcanic soils. Clear pale golden color, with a slight green tinge. Apricot, peach, honeysuckle, mint (soap?), lemon, and grass on the nose gave way to rose water and weak orange on the palate. The group found it was similar in mouth feel to a Gruner Veltliner or a Pinot Grigio with good acid on the slighly petroleum finish. We wanted to pair it with Persian food, but that was not on the menu. 12.5% alcohol. $12.95
2009 Eszterbauer Tüke Bikavér (Bulls Blood), Szekszárd, Hungary. 44% Kékfrankos/ 24% Cabernet Sauvignon/ 18% Cabernet Franc/ 8% Merlot/ 6% Kadarka. Szekszárd is south of Budapest, north of Croatia and latitudinally between Bordeaux and the Loire Valley.The big-berried, thin-skinned Kadarka grape plays a large role in this wine, despite the small percentage, and the winemaker must not over-extract it, as it may become bitter and lose its perfume characteristics. Clear deep ruby in color with a pale rim, this complex wine showed manure and wet sawdust (in the best possible way!), anise and a terrific flintiness on the nose. In the mouth, earth, dark cherry, plum, herbs, and long finish with lovely minerality and acidity. We wanted to pair this with lamb and cheese. Beautiful wine. 14% alcohol. $24.95
2009 J&J Wine Company Egri Kékfrankos, Eger, Hungary. 100% Kékfrankos. Eger is a region formed of ancient dormant volcanoes, characterized by limestone, rhyolite and volcanic sediment. This wine was aged for 20 months in 500L Hungarian oak barrels. Medium ruby color, more red than blue. On the nose, rose petals and pepper, cedar and red currants. On the palate, a beautiful balance of earth and fruit with good acid on the finish. My other notes just say "oh yeah" and "wow". 13.4% alcohol. $19.95
2011 Bodrog Borhühely Lapis Furmint, Tokaj, Hungary. 100% Furmint. Those of you who know that Furmint is a white wine might be surprised that we tasted this after the reds, but we were instructed by the rep at Blue Danube that this was the suggested order. He was right! The Lapis vineyard is near the town of Bodrogkeresztür, looking down on the Bodrog River. The soil is a mix of rhyolite and strong brown clay and tufa (volcanic remains). The wines are fermented in local Szerednye oak barrels (3-4 years old); after full malolatic fermentation and 9 months sur lie, the wine is gently filtered before bottling. Clear gold color with butterscotch, lanolin and white flowers on the nose. Oily consistency on the palate with soft citrus, spices and honey. Kind of like an aged Fruilano. Wow. Marya said this was "the best white wine [she] has ever had." 13% alcohol. $21.95
We broke for dinner at this point. Michelle provided a minty cucumber salad followed by - what else? - Chicken Paprikash on a bed of egg noodles. Yum! Shawn brought dessert from Porto's - an amazing Tres Leches cake. Not exactly Hungarian, but it went really well with the surprise dessert wine.
Oh, right. The dessert wine.
2005 Samuel Tinon 5 Puttonyos Tokaji Aszü, Tokaj, Hungary. A blend of Furmint and Hárslevelü. Gorgeous pink/amber color. Aszü refers to the dried, hand-picked botrytis-infected grapes. Puttonyos (literally "baskets") refers to the ratio of Aszü berries to base wine. For a 5 Puttonyos, the residual sugar must have a minimum of 120 g/l. The berries are mashed into a super sweet thick black paste and macerated in a finished dry wine for a month. After 2 years of barrel fermentation and some oxidation, the wine is stabilized and bottled. This wine wasn't bottled until March of 2009. We all had just one note after tasting this wine: It was like nectar. There was none left at the end of the meal. 11.79% alcohol. $70 for 500 ml bottle, and worth every penny.
An educational and tasty evening was had by all! Next month: The wines of Slovenia! And perhaps, a guest speaker. Cheers!