Showing posts with label Hungarian wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hungarian wine. Show all posts

Monday, December 3, 2018

Thirsty? No, Hungary For Wine

Hungary may not spring to mind first when the topic of great wine regions is broached, but that's going to have to change.  The area of northeast Hungary has been home to winemaking for at least a thousand years, probably longer.  The Furmint grape is used there to produce Tokaji aszú, the dessert wine that has been called the king of wines and the wine of kings.  However, there is a movement on to dry things out in Tokaj.  Decades of communist rule decimated the region's reputation for wine, but it has been on the upswing since 1990.

Dry wines made from Furmint are now experiencing trendy hotness, and FurmintUSA came to Beverly Hills to show off a smattering of examples.  We gathered at The Bazaar by José Andres for a dinner of delicious treats paired with the amazing dry Furmint wines of Hungary.  Furmint lends itself to a wide range of styles, from light and dry to lively and sparkling to sweet and botrytized.

Balázs Humayer, the co-founder of FurmintUSA, was there to extol the virtues of these great wines which are creating an international buzz.  He feels that Hungary is about to become a major player in the U.S. wine market.  All that really needs to happen is for American wine drinkers to go exploring as they peruse the wine list or scan the shelves.  The dry wines I tasted at the dinner are delicious, food-friendly and deserve to be considered right alongside that Chenin Blanc or Vermentino.  In California, seven Hungarian producers are imported by J.J. Knox of San Diego.

Hungary's shift from sweet to dry wines came about 50 years ago when they realized how good they were.  The clay and loess soils of the region sit on a volcanic base which imparts a distinctive minerality to the wines.  The wines poured at the dinner fall mostly in the $20 or so range.  The dessert wine is more expensive.

The Wines:

Beres Dry Furmint 2016 - This unoaked, beautiful aperitif shows great minerals and acidity and is a fabulous food wine.  It paired very well with the olives and the goat cheese and star anise dip.

St. Donat Marga Dry Furmint 2013 - The only wine of the night not from Tokaj, this one hails from Csopak, a village on Lake Balaton.  A little oak was used in making this one, as well as concrete amphorae.  Smoke, earth and citrus attract on the nose while the palate shows stone fruit and a slight anise note.  It's quite complex and was lovely with the King crab in raspberry vinaigrette.

Erzsebet Estate Furmint 2015 -  Erzsébet (Elizabeth) Prácser was one of the first female winemakers in Tokaj, setting up shop in the early '90s after Soviet troops ended their three-decade stay in Hungary's streets.  There's more salinity in this one and a great acidity.  It paired extremely well with with the tomato and liquid mozzarella caprese.

Grof Degenfeld Off-Dry Furmint 2013 - It's a bit like a Riesling, grown in tightly-packed soil.
The pairing was excellent with grilled octopus and chicken béchemel fritters.

Majoros Deák Vineyards Dry Furmint 2015 - I'm told László Majoros is one of the more experimental winemakers in Tokaj.  Oak figures into this wine, but it's typically restrained.  Notes of smokey and spicy ginger and caramel had me thinking of serving this one for the holidays.  It's a great food wine and paired well with the sautéed shrimp.

Barta Oreg Kiraly Dry Furmint 2015 - This wine is made from the grapes of a "grand cru" vineyard.  There's a smokey nose, with citrus and anise on the palate.

Demetervin Tribal Tattoo Dry Furmint 2015 - This cuvée from two "grand cru" vineyards does a lot with very little interference from the oak.  Smoke, salinity and citrus dominate the nose, while the palate focuses on fruit.  It's great with coffee rubbed American Wagyu beef strips.

Demetervin Szamorodni 2013 - Szamorodni is a style, which is sweet like a Sauternes.  Aszú is different in that the grapes are harvested singly rather than in whole bunches.  This wine shows candy apricots and is a great complement to dessert or can stand as dessert on its own.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Thirsty For Wine From Hungary

In the U.S., it’s probably a safe bet that the name Tokaji doesn’t register a very high recognition factor - even with wine aficionados.  The Tokaji region of Hungary is best known for the sweet dessert wines produced using grapes which have been blessed with botrytis - the noble rot which causes the grapes to be ultra ripe and super sweet.  So beloved is this type of wine, it is name-checked in Hungary’s national anthem.  I do not speak the language, but I am told the name is pronounced "TOE-coy."

The area does produce dry wines, too.  I recently had the opportunity to order one by-the-glass at Manhattan Beach restaurant Post.  The South Bay hotspot is in a repurposed post office building a couple of blocks from the beach.  I don’t often ooh and aah over restaurant food, but I did join my table mates in a round of high praise for each small sharing plate that was brought to us.  It’s very popular, but I was told they hold 40% of their tables for walk-in traffic.  We were able to sit right away at about 6:00 on a Saturday evening.

From the wine list I was attracted by a Hungarian wine made from Furmint grapes, the premier grape of the Tokaji region.  Furmint grapes have very thick skins initially, but as the growing season progresses, the skins become thinner.  This allows the sun to evaporate the moisture in the grape, making for more concentrated sugars.  A second skin then grows to protect the grape from botrytis, although the noble rot will eventually make its mark on the grape.  For dessert wines, the grapes may be harvested as late as December or January.

The dry 2011 Furmint I had was produced by Royal Tokaji, and is a 100% varietal wine made from estate grapes.  The winery’s first vintage for this type was in 2003, so it's still a newborn by European wine standards.  The wine costs $10.50 by the glass at Post.

The wine is a pale straw color with a bit of a greenish tint, very fresh looking.  On the nose, fresh pears and herbal scents are backed up by a strong sense of minerality.  The palate shows a beautifully refreshing acidity and a very fresh collection of fruit flavors, notably pear, apricot and citrus.  The wine finishes with a lemon-grapefruit zing and leaves a slightly nutty sensation, much like a Roussanne does.  I paired the wine with diver scallops, Hoisin sauce green beans, grilled Brussels sprouts and an amazing bacon and cheese biscuit  with no problem at all.  It was perfect for each dish.

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