Dammit Wine

November 15, 2007

The other day I went into my local wine store to pick up some every-day table wines. The guy smiling on the picture (if you click on the above), who happens to extract millions from me every month, haha, tells me that they just got several new shipments. I guess it is that time of the year. They had many new wines I had never heard of and one of these was St. Andrea’s A Kutya Fajat 2006. A Kutya Fajat literally means the tree of the dog in Hungarian, but really this is the equivalent expression for the English “Damn it”. What a name for a wine!? I loved it and of course had to get a bottle.

First of all I have to say I am biased about the wine as I love the winery, St. Andrea. St. Andrea is one of the most edgy and progressive wineries in Hungary. They are brave, they innovate, they are really pushing the edge of the traditional Eger region. I mean how can you call a wine “Damn It”?

Damn it is a cuvee of Kekfrankos, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. I guess you could call it a Bordeaux style blend, but the taste is distinctly different and in a good way. This is a medium bodied blend, quite fruit forward, a bit of cherries, fairly simple, but not empty, it does have substance probably partially due to the fact that it spent 12 months in oak barrels. It is the perfect table wine can you drink any night, summer or winter and it is also very flexible to pair with food. It is what I would call a happy wine. It is fruity, tastes great, does not make you think, and it is inexpensive. What a great combo.

These guys, St. Andrea, also make some really fantastic Bull’s Blood (not that cheap stuff you remember from 20 years ago), Pinot Noir and a higher-end Bordeaux style blend called Merengo. Merengo is a plush wine and while I do not have one on hand, I will probably get a bottle and write it up over the next few months. Cheers.

Name: St. Andrea, A Kutya Fajat, 2006

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Body: Medium

Price: 7 euros

Got it at: Bortarsasag, Budapest, Hungary

St. Andrea, A Kutya Fajat, 2006

Takler is Right Up There

October 31, 2007

One of my favorite winemakers in the world is Ferenc Takler from the Szekszard region of Hungary. Winemaking runs in the family back a few hundred years, but as with many things during the communist years of a few decades after WWII things got a bit rusty. They were forced to join a coop and their tradition, know-how and the precious land was all meshed up with hundreds of other landowners and nationalized (read: confiscated by the state in the name of public ownership). In spite of these unfortunate decades, the Takler family started to revive their name back in the early 1980s first slowly reacquiring land and building out modern infrastructure.

What is amazing about the Taklers is that they perfectly balance tradition with modern technique and take into consideration how their customers’ taste has changed over the years both in Hungary, across Europe and now in the United States. Their wines are sort of a blend of new world and old world. You basically get the elegance of the old world with the power of new world wines. It sounds a bit commonplace, but what is unique is that these guys can really pull this off better than any winemaker I know.

I got to know the Taklers via Select Wines, a reputable mail order store in New York. They carry the widest selection of Hungarian wines in the States because of their affiliation with Monarchia, one of the largest negociants and retailers in Hungary. Today’s wine, Takler’s Regnum Cuvee, is the family’s #2 wine. Regnum is a typical Hungarian Bordeaux style wine. No, I will not leave you out there hanging not knowing what this means. In Hungary most winemakers who produce Bordeaux style blends use the typical varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, but they also add a Central European varietal called Kekfrankos (Blaufrankisch in Austria). Kekfrankos is slightly higher in acidity than the Bordeaux varietals and gives the blend a very nice backbone, structure. Regnum blends 15% Kekfrankos with 37.5% Cabernet Franc, 37.5% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and is aged in new oak for 21 months.

This being a Takler wine, exhibits extreme elegance that you would expect from top Bordeauxs, yet you also get the velvety texture you find in Napa Valley Cabarnets. It really is a unique combination, which to me is the best of both worlds. The wine is full of black fruit, berries and is sprinkled with a hint of chocolate and vanilla. Beautiful. If you live in the States, I highly recommend picking up a bottle from Select Wines. You do not need to be adventurous to try this one, and I promise it will be one of the best wines you have had. The Regnum does not come cheap, it retails for about $50.

If you want to go all the way out, try Takler’s #1, the Cabernet Franc Reserve, 2003, which is definitely among the top 3 wines I have tasted. Takler only made 119 cases of this 100% Cabernet Franc and most of it is already sold out. If you are lucky to be able to get your hands on it do so.

Name: Takler Regnum Cuvee, 2002

Rating: 9 out of 10

Body: Full

Price: 35 euros

Got it at: Interspar, Budapest, Hungary

Takler Regnum Cuvee, 2002

Lebanon

October 30, 2007

So yes I do have a diverse taste and the more esoteric a wine is the more likely I will want to try it. While I had Lebanese wine before, it was the Chateau Musar, which one can find in most serious wine shops in the US and even in Europe. Bekaa Valley is the most important wine region in Lebanon and wine making there goes back as much as 6,000 years. I guess that puts California (which is the region that made me love wine) to shame, at least in a historical sense.

So the first wine of this blog is about Chateau Nakad‘s Prestige du Nakad vintage 2003, which I picked up in a cute little wine shop in Amsterdam. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and some Cinsaut and while it is made in the Bordeaux style it tastes nothing like its cousins from France. Fruity, but not in the new world sense, complex, yet medium bodied and a completely unfamiliar “Lebanese” finish which I seem to recall from Musar’s wines. This is definitely wine that can stand on its own without food, though it is perfect with red meats as most Bordeaux style wines are. I would not serve this bottle for guests who are not adventurous as it does have a peculiar taste if even you are used to old world wines.

Name: Chateau Nakad, Prestige du Nakad, 2003

Rating: 7 out of 10

Body: Medium

Price: 12.50 euros

Got it from: Cave Rokin, Amsterdam, Holland

Chateau Nakad, Prestige du Nakad, 2003