WineWriting.com & French Mediterranean Wine
Richard Mark James' wine and travel blog

15 February 2018

Hungary: Tokay, Hárslevelű, Furmint, Pinot Noir...

Why not start with Hungary's most famous wine creation, sweet Tokay, by launching into a couple of recommended ones tried or bought last late summer while on holiday. I finally opened the Royal Tokaji 'blue label' below recently (apparently called 'red label' in the States, as you would), which was savoured on a Saturday wine workshop event I just ran in Belfast and hence was the prompt for this overdue blog post...
Royal Tokaji Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2013 (Furmint, Hárslevelű, Muscat; 11% abv, sugar 156 g/l, total acidity 7.9 g/l) - Delicious alluring classic style with lashings of honey, sultanas, marmalade, dried apricot, quince... Mesmerizing opulence and quirky spice, lush sweet and richly textured with beautiful underlying fresh acidity holding it together effortlessly. Drinking nicely now (try with blue cheese or plain ice cream and nuts say) but will definitely develop over many years in bottle. Full price was €25 at Budapest airport, although it was on offer at the time equating to about £15 for a 50cl bottle. Majestic Wine in the UK sells it for £24/£21.60 depending on quantity; and some Waitrose stores stock a handy 25cl size for £12.99.
Another very nice, slightly less sweet Tokaji Aszú to look out for is:
2012 Simkó 3 Puttonyos (so just three 'buckets' of botrytised grapes rather than five per whatever vat size) with an additional year's ageing adding oiliness and richness. 800 HUF (= £2.26/€2.57) per 100ml glass in the Pár Pendégló Panzió restaurant across the river in the pretty town of Sárospatak.



Due to history and borders shifting correspondingly, there's been a long tradition of making Tokaji wines in the far south-eastern corner of Slovakia too (the part right alongside the Hungarian region obviously in the far north-east on the border). The seven villages permitted to produce these wines in the Slovak Tokaj region are Bara, Čerhov, Černochov, Malá Tŕňa, Slovenské Nové Mesto, Viničky and Veľká Tŕňa (pic. above). We explored some pretty hillside vineyards around here on foot before buying an ice cream, as it was just too hot to taste wine! I did call in on one winery though, the Ostrožovič family who has a good name, but they were busy expecting a big coach party at any moment. There's more generic info here: www.winesofslovakia.com.
Realising that the demand for expensive super-sweet wines is limited and that they obviously have some excellent indigenous white grapes varieties (Furmint and Hárslevelű essentially), it's no surprise that Hungarian winemakers are now making some very good dry white wines too.
Here are a few names discovered in restaurants and supermarkets in Hungary:
Zempléni Tokaji Furmint Száraz (Száraz means dry)
A Ház Bora Tokaji Furmint Száraz
Tóth Zoltán Pincézete Tokaji Hárslevelű Száraz (this spicy aromatic variety can work well as a dry style). HUF 1200.
Simkó Hárslevelű Premium (this one was medium in style, good as a not too sweet dessert wine).
Gellért Hill 2016 Gruner Veltliner, Törley (12% abv) - great value zesty dry white based on Austria's signature grape. £5.60 Tesco.
Hungary is also a successful producer of sparkling wines, such as the BB label (Bárhol Bármikor) Száraz Sparkling, from the Balaton region, which is light (11.5% abv) and refreshing with nutty yeasty undertones; and is widely available in supermarkets there for about HUF 1100.
The art of making fruity dry rosés hasn't escaped Hungarian winemakers either, from the Pinot Noir grape especially or using a mix of local and other French varieties, such as...
Törley Pinot Noir Rosé Száraz 2016, Etyekand-Budai region (12.5% abv) - Tasty juicy and crisp with aromatic red fruits and creamier finish. 699 HUF = about £2 or $2.65 (taxes on wine must be low in Hungary).
Takler Pinot Noir Rozé 2016, Szekszárdi region (12.5% abv) - richer coloured and textured rosé with plenty of fruit. 360 HUF per 100ml glass in the Pár Pendégló Panzió restaurant in Sárospatak.
Takler Rosetta Cuvée Rosé, Szekszárdi (12.5% abv) - another good rosé from these guys, about 1000 HUF in supermarkets.
Siller Pinot Noir Rosé Száraz 2015 (12.5% abv) - similar style to above, very nice.
Sauska Villányi Rosé 2016 (12.5% abv) - quirky deep pink blend of Kékfrankos, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir!

No comments:

Post a Comment