What do world-class wines, beautiful people and luxurious settings have in common? At VinCE Budapest, last week, all three converged creating a feast for the senses. Set in the five-star Corinthia Hotel, this annual wine show showcased some of Hungary’s best vintners along with a few foreign contingents to boot. From vivid, mineral rich whites to soulful reds, I experienced a diverse spread of Magyar made wine. Over 160 exhibitors participated and some of the industries big names were on hand for masterclasses and lectures over three days.
Hungarian Wine & Me
Moving to Hungary about two years ago has opened up a world of possibilities to me. This monumental life change has brought new friends, a job in a new industry and has fed my hunger for history, culture and of course travel. One thing that I hadn’t expected at all, however, is my new found love for wine. Hungarian wine in particular.
Now I’ve always liked wine. I’ve been to Napa Valley and Santa Barbara Wine Country, and drank Californian and French wines often with my wife. Since moving to Hungary, though, I’ve become fascinated with this country’s unique varietals and underappreciated terroirs; there’s so much to unravel that isn’t on the internet or printed in English. I’ve also gained a much greater appreciation for white wines, especially Furmint. The VinCE wine show gave me the chance to not only experience a wide variety of these wines, but also to meet the impassioned people behind the bottles.
Master Class: Top Furmint wines and the new Furmint Glass
I enjoyed everything about VinCE but the Furmint masterclass was undoubtedly the highlight for me. Furmint is one of Hungary’s indigenous varietals and has been getting a lot of attention lately. It’s lively, bursting with flinty, citrusy, herbaceous notes and presents layer upon layer of complexities. Perhaps no other varietal has steered my purple stained palate towards white wine.
Click images to enlarge.
The masterclass was presented by Dr. José Vouillamoz (world renowned grape geneticist) and Kornél Dura from Riedl glassware. Dr. Vouillamoz broke down how grape genetics work and the story of Furmint’s origins. There have been many assumptions and false connections over the years, but scientific evidence points to Tokaj. As part of the presentation we were treated to 10 premium Furmint wines. While doing so we were instructed to smell and taste from various different glasses. I can’t tell you what a difference a glass makes! The new Furmint glass was unveiled… a tall, elegant glass that certainly captures the mineral rich glory of this exciting varietal. If you haven’t tried Furmint yet, go and get some.
Some key facts:
- 34 grape varieties grown in Hungary
- 13 indigenous varietals
- first mention of Furmint grape in 1611
- first mention of Aszú in 1571 (Hétszőlő Vineyards)
Here are the wines (stars next to my picks):
Szent Tamás Mád Furmint 2013
Verus Vineyards Furmint 2016
Szent Tamás Szent Tamás Furmint 2013*
Sauska Birsalmás, Tokaj 2015*
Béres Lőcse Furmint 2013*
Patricius Furmint Selection 2015
Gilvesy Próbaüzem Furmint 2015*
Kreinbacher Furmint 2015*
Heidi Schröck Furmint 2010
Szent Tamás Sweet Szamorodni*
Let’s make one thing clear: I am not a wine expert, I’m a wine enthusiast at best. There’s so much to learn that it’s actually quite intimidating. Yet, one must remember that it’s only fermented grape juice. Sure, winemaking is incredibly complex and yes wine culture can be a bit snobbish. The point is to taste wines and figure out what you like and what you don’t. It’s important to note that I experienced zero snobbery at VinCE. None whatsoever. I did taste a ton of wines. Here are my notes (casual, quick and with varying details).
Szekszárd Wine Region (wineries were grouped together)
Tüske Pince Szekszárdi Bikavér 2013- Rosiness and cloves on the nose with tannin rich cherry flavors and more clove. Decent.
*Vida Hidaspetre Kékfrankos 2014- Peter and his family’s wines are a real discovery. I spoke to Peter for quite a while and can say that he was one of the friendliest people I met in that whole hotel. I will definitely be trying more of his wines! This Kékfrankos was an incredibly balanced, smooth and elegant wine. Very expressive on the nose with ripe fruits and oak. More subdued flavors of blackberries with just the right acidity and smooth tannins. Will only get better. One of my top picks.
Bodri Faluhely Kékfrankos 2013- Another Bodri wine that somehow didn’t pull me in. I’ve enjoyed Bodri wines very much at home in the past, so I’m really not sure what I’m missing here. Maybe too harsh after Vida’s smoother style. Dark berries on the nose. Ripe fruits and maybe some black pepper in the mouth. Big tannins, high alcohol. Another that I’ll give a second chance at home.
Schieber Trilógia Kékfrankos 2013- Lighter color than the others. Floral nose and a jammy, drinkable style.
Sarosdi Szekszárdi Kékfrankos 2012- Easy nose-not overpowering. Very nice balance between fruit, acid and tannin.
Fritz Szekszárdi Kékfrankos 2012- I don’t have too many notes on this one. A nice smokiness. Balanced fruit, acid and tannin. More power in this one.
*Lajvér Szekszárdi Kékfrankos 2012- Bigger nose with some plum. Cherry and oaky in the mouth. Smooth and quite balanced. Another good pick.
Balaton Wine Regions (unfortunately I didn’t taste much from the Balaton region, two wines to be exact)
Badacsony (basalt, volcanic)
*Laposa KőKövön Furmint 2015- Nice change after all those reds. Lovely freshness with vivid minerality on the nose and in flavors. Acacia, apricot and lemon peel. Still rounded and smooth with a long, satisfying finish. Excellent. Laposa was just featured in an article by Vogue magazine.
Laposa Apukám Világa Olaszrizling 2015- Another fresh, crisp wine with stone fruit aromas and flavors. Nice acidity with peach and maybe apricot, and of course some almond-y nuttiness. Beautiful label!.
Somló Wine Region (again only tasted from one winery)
*Kancellár Olaszrizling 2015- Quite a rich, robust wine compared to Laposa’s. Something altogether different even though Somló is also Basalt and only 60 km from Badacsony. More intense flavors of apricot and almond.
Kancellár Nagy Somlói Juhfark 2015- My first taste of Juhfark. This is a fascinating varietal. Low acid, balanced and with a very peculiar creaminess. I suppose you could say it’s buttery.
Eger Wine Region
*St. Andrea Csakegyszóval Pinot Noir 2014- Very complex Pinot Noir that’s rich, fruity and with nice acidity.
St. Andrea Hangács Bikavér- From the Hangács vineyard, this really is a wonderful Bikavér. Spicy aromas with a remarkable full-bodied balance of rich, ripe berries combined with acidity and tannin. 14.7% alcohol.
Note: St. Andrea is one of my favorite wineries anywhere. I’m a big fan of Eger wine and these guys are leading the way by taking a modern approach while sticking to what grows best here. First place I had a truly remarkable Bikavér when I visited in 2015. György Lőrincz Jr. and his team are doing good things. Go and visit them.
*Tóth Ferenc Várvédő 2011 (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Kadarka blend)-
One of my favorite wines from VinCE. Várvédő translates to ” defender of the castle” and is an ode to Captain István Dobó who successfully fought off the invading Turks in 1552 in Eger. This wine is definitely an expression of the Eger terroir: Fruity and spicy on the nose. Rich and full bodied with a pronounced smoky finish. Barrel aged for 24 months. Very nice.
Tóth Ferenc Kadarka 2015- Quite dark in color for the varietal. Ripe red fruits and trademark Kadarka spices. Light bodied of course, yet also rich.
Bolyki Királyleányká 2016- Great floral nose with refreshing citrus in the mouth. A nice easy, summer wine.
Bolyki Egri Csillag 2016- Smooth, easy drinking wine. Floral and citrusy on the nose and in the mouth. I prefer this over the Királyleányká.
Bolyki Egri Bikavér 2015- Love the label. Quite powerful with herby, spicy and blackberry aromas. Firm structure with more dark berries and a bit meaty. Unfiltered and quite high in acidity. Young and perhaps needs more time.
Bolyki Egri Bikavér Superior- I believe this was a 2015. Not certain. Strong aromas of plum, forest fruits and clove. Rich, with high tannin and alcohol. More plum, ripe berries, cassis and spice on the palate. This is a serious Bikavér.
Note: Another producer whose wines I have enjoyed over the past two years. Bolyki brings a playful approach to the oftentimes serious and austere wine world. Their labels might be youthful but the wines inside are epic. I hope to visit them soon.
Petrény Big Band Bikavér 2011- Dark berries, plum and spices. Tannin rich. Needs 1-2 more years to reach its potential. Not many notes as I was in a rush.
Petrény Padok 2011- Big wine. Spicy, flinty on the nose. Viscous with rich plum flavors. I only wish I’d had time to truly enjoy this one.
*Gróf Buttler Kadarka 2013- Spicy and plummy nose with some far east spices. Black cherry jam flavors with some minerality. Quite a serious Kadarka.
*Gróf Buttler Bikavér 2013- A lovely wine. Herby, fruity and earthy nose. Rich in ripe berries, smooth tannins. Balanced and drinkable for the style.
Villány Wine Region
The Gere Attila Winery was my main target at this event so I saved them for last. Ever since having a glass of their Kopar at a party last year, I’ve been meaning to taste more from this powerhouse.
Gere Frici (Chardonnay and Olaszrizling sparkling wine)- Fresh, vivid and playful. A nice way to cleanse the palate after all those Bikavers.
Gere Cabernet Sauvignon 2013- Peppery and oaky nose. Spicy and full yet very drinkable and fruity. Sour cherries. Nice dry finish. Definite aging potential as well.
Gere Tinta (Tempranillo) 2009- Black tea on the nose. Blackberry and chocolate flavors. Lively acidity.
*Gere Villányi Franc 2013- Dark in color. Plummy and peppery nose. Rich chocolate, earth and dry leaves in the mouth (sounds terrible but it’s really nice). Nice, long finish.
*Gere Solus Merlot 2011- Plum and oak, almost sandalwood like notes on the nose. Smooth, a hit of tannins and then an explosion of flavor in the mouth: plum, sour cherry and some chocolate. A GREAT wine that’s luxuriously rich and pure pleasure.