Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hungarian Wine Culture

Welcome to Hungary

How many Hungarian wines can you name?  Familiar with Bull's Blood?  Perhaps the infamous Tokaji?  How bout a Cserszegi Fuszeres?

Monday evening the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Hungary, Veritas Wine, and Wiseville International held a wonderful tasting highlighting Hungary's wide range of wines.  Hungary has a ton of local varieties that no one outside of Hungary can pronounce, but as Helga Gal explained, there is a lot of experimenting with international varieties to become a bigger player in the global wine scene.

Csilla introduces
Helga Gal from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Hungary,  hosted not one, not two, but three different classes yesterday between Macau and Hong Kong.  The goal was to familiarize our market with these largely unknown wines.  And I can tell you after our hour and half class, I learned not only a lot of Hungarian wine culture, but also a lot about the broad appeal of their wines.

Adrienne and Fay meditate on the first wine
Throughout a large part of the 20th century, Hungary was under the control of the Soviets.  Finally in 1990s the vintners were free to go back to their vineyards to start producing quality wines once again.  Gone were the days of bulk tasteless wines, and with a renewed passion and dedication, Hungarian winemakers combined modern winemaker technology with tradition and history.

So what did we drink?

Our educator awarded 'prof of the day!' from HK tourism school
We started with a wonderfully aromatic Hungarian native variety Cserszegi Fuszeres from Benedek Winery in the Northern Highlands of Matra.  Floral and fresh on the nose, and floral and fresh in the mouth.  This reminded me of a mix between a Riesling and Gewurztraminer, and as Greg noticed, it was high on the booze at 13%.  According to my Hungarian tasting neighbor Adam, this wine smells just like the vineyard!

Next up was a varietal I am slightly familiar with (mostly because it's the easiest of the Hungarian varietals to say!) was a dry Furmint from Tokaj.  I loved this wine. After 9-12 months in oak, I found this smooth and buttery, with nice body and floral honey notes.  It was slightly reminiscent of a Viognier which is always a good thing.
Pouring the wines
Now we jumped over to the reds, and over to soemthing a bit more familiar.  Pinot Noir!  Etyeki Kuris (North Pannoia) 2010.  This was bright and fruity, and had flavors of green tea.  Greg took a bottle of this guy home.

Then Hungary's Bordeaux; Gere Attila Winery; Kopar 2007.  Cab Franc, Merlot, and Cab Sauv, this assemblage was deep purple, ripe with some brown spice, and to me a wee too young.  I think another 5 years in the cellar would do this guy proud.

My favorites of the reds was last, and at $880, will probably be my last for a while.  Malatinszky Kuria Organic Wine Estate.  100% Cab Franc and unfiltered.  You know I love me a gritty wine!
Late Harvest vs. Botrytis
Then we switched gears to what Hungary is most famous for; sweet wines.  First we had a late harvest, and second we had a botrytised sweet.  It was really interesting to have them next to each other and to taste the differences that a little (noble) rot makes.  Tokaji Nobilis; Tokaji (region) Sargamuskotaly (muscat lunel-grape) 2008 was sweet yet fresh, floral, crisp and clean.  The Disnoko; Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos 2005 was totally complex and multifaceted.  Smelled like fresh marigold flowers,with an almost pollen like quality, and on the palates was rich with toffee, caramel, candied apricot, and honey flavors.  I picked up a little wood in there too.  The sweet was totally balanced with the brilliant acidity, and I could have kept drinking this until breakfast.  Or for breakfast.  You should note this was a blend of botrytis infected 45% Furmint, 45% Zeta, and 10% Harslevelu.

Overall the tasting was super informative with some really unique and flavorful wines.  I look forward to seeing more of Hungary around HK!

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