Hungarian Beaujolais Nouveau

November 20, 2007

New wine has started to become a fad in Hungary over the past years. I am not going to spend a lot of time on this as I am not a huge fan of this category. Beaujolais Nouveau is the predominant vin de primeur, new wine, in France. It is made from the Gamay grape and they use a unique fermentation process called carbonic maceration. This means they do not crush the grapes, but ferment them the way they are harvested. This wine is drinkable, that is if you like this kind of stuff, just a few weeks after harvest.

The past few years you are seeing more and more “Uj Bor”, new wine, on the market in Hungary. Some of these are made in the Beaujolais Nouveau style, yet some use more traditional malolactic fermentation (much more typical in Europe.) One of the better new wines is St Andrea‘s Uj Bor. Instead of Gamay, they use local varietals such as Kekfrankos, but they do make the wine using the carbonic maceration process and it does resemble Beaujolais Nouveau. St Andrea’s Uj Bor 2007 does taste new. It is not bad, but don’t expect much complexity or finish. It is very fruity, super simple, with small to medium weight (which to me is important as super light with no structure is a really bad combination) and a lot of freshness. Despite being a red wine, you drink it chilled. I am not sure if it is to suppress the taste with the cold temperature or to enhance its freshness 😉

Anyways, I do not think I will be buying a lot of these, but it is definitely worth a try one time.

Name: St Andrea, Uj Bor, 2007

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Body: Light to Medium

Price: 12 euros (retail price 5 euros)

Got it at: Gerloczy Kavehaz, Budapest, Hungary

St Andrea, Uj Bor, 2007

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

Hungarian Viognier

November 14, 2007

Viognier for most people brings the association of France’s Rhone Valley or alternatively new world appellations, such as the Central Coast of California or Sonoma County. It is rarely grown in the old world outside of the Rhone. Some Hungarian wine makers have recently started to experiment with varietals that are not typical for the region, though most of these experiments have revolved around better known varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir. Rarely does the Viognier grape show up on the shortlist of grapes to invest in.

This is not the case with late wine maker Tibor Gal. Mr. Gal was one of the premier wine makers in this small country. He had decades of international experience in several well-known wineries spanning through South Africa to Italy. In the early 1990s he was the lead wine maker at Ornellaia, one of Italy’s most famous wineries, now owned by Robert Mondavi.

Mr. Gal’s passion was to revive Hungarian wine making traditions and put Hungary back on the International wine map as a leading producer, if not measured in quantity but quality. Indeed his work as a mentor and leader was a huge part of the recent International success of Hungarian wines. Unfortunately he passed away in an auto accident in South Africa in 2005 at the age of 46. He is survived by his son who is also a wine maker at the family winery. Luckily the tradition lives on and the winery and their product is stronger than ever.

One such top performing product is the 2005 Gal Tibor Viognier, for which the vines were originally planted by Mr Gal. This wine is a good example of taking a grape that is typical in one old-world appellation, plant it in another part of Europe and actually achieve fantastic results (not unlike some of the innovations Italian wine makers have done with French varietals.) The wine is plush (almost in a Vouvray style), has quite a bit of complexity, exotic fruit with a fair amount of wood used resembling new world style whites. To me it is between a Vouvray and a California Chardonnay if that makes any sense. I like it, though, my wife thinks the oak is overbearing. It certainly counterbalances, perhaps too much, any acidity you would get from the fruit. Nevertheless, I like the wine a lot and I have been a repeat purchaser over the past year.

By the way, if you happen to be in Hungary, the Gal Tibor winery in Eger is worth a detour for a day or so. They have a wonderful cave tour with tasting and snacks lead by English speaking guides.

Name: Gal Tibor Viognier, 2005

Rating: 8 out of 10

Body: Medium to Full

Price: 20 euros

Got it at: Decanter, Budapest, Hungary

Gal Tibor Viognier, 2005