Monday, September 10, 2007

House of Hungarian Wine

We've been out of wine country for a little while. While there were wines in Turkey, we didn't explore them in the ways that we had in other parts of the world. So we came ready to experience the wines of Hungary, but with little prior knowledge to go on.

But the Hungarians were ready to help us out. For about $40, Tyler and I visited the House of Hungarian Wines, an establishment with the mission to represent wines from all 22 wine regions in the country and create greater awareness of Hungary's long wine history. For the entry fee, you get a map of how to progress through the cellar, a small souvenir wine glass, a packet of crackers, and a chance to try any of the open wines available.

One of the aisles in the House of Wine

Each region had a poster with a brief description of the region and varietals grown there and a sampling of wine, sometimes just one but up to four or five bottles. Needless to say, we tried a lot of wine, and my notes get less helpful as our tastings went on (though I did start with good intent, tasting only a small amount and moving on). We had a range of whites, reds, a few roses, and some dessert wines, though unfortunatley no sparkling was out for tasting. Mostly I tried to have tastes of varietals I'd never heard of before--and there were plenty of those. Here are a few highlights and observations:

We had a few tastes of a white varietal called Furmint. At first I thought I was being influenced by the name, but a few other tastes made me keep my first opinion--furmint tasted a bit minty/menthol. With an initial earthy nose and minerally taste, it was unusual but good. I'm not sure what I'd pair it with, but I'd be curious to try more.

Probably my new favorite Hungarian varietal, Kekfrankos is a red grape maybe a little like some pinot noirs, a lighter red with cherry flavors, velvetty, a little earthy or minerally, generally easy to drink. Another varietal I'll keep an eye out for was Kadarka. We only had one, but it was good enough that I put one of my little asterisks by it to remember I liked it, with some scrambled notes about earthy nose, a little spice, well-balanced and velvety.

The Hungarian wineries also made some really delicious Cabernet Francs, a grape that can be a little much on its own in the states and is usually used in red blends. But we tried two slightly expensive ones (that might be part of it) that had the usual mineral/stone flavor but in a drinkable way.

Enjoying Hungarian wines

Hungary is especially famed for wines from the Tokaji region, and we sampled a few of those as well. Early on, we had a Tokaji Harslevelu 2004 that was almost like a sparkling, with some light effervescence tasting a little like strawberry but with some buttery notes as well. Towards the end, when we were in the final groupings, we had a 2004 Furmint Tokaj. Not minty like the other Furmints we had tried, it did have some mineral tastes, a little herbiness/straw flavors, but not too thick or sweet. We followed that with a dry Tokaji, which was more like a dry sherry. It had a sweet and smoky nose but a very savory taste. Finally, we got to try a 2000 Aszu, the most famous of the Tokajis. Aszus are a sweet dessert wine made from wines that have rotted with a noble rot (botrytis) before being harvested. It had a good honey type flavor, not too thick or cloying, having some good acidity from making it be too much.

Overall, we had a few good finds and a good time finding them. Hopefully we'll be able to find some Hungarian wines when we return home as we just can't squeeze one more thing into our bags at this point!

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