Otto Legli is running one of the premier wine houses in the southern Balaton region of Hungary. With the exception of one rose, he makes pretty much only white wines, which is typical for this region. Legli has a whole range of of whites from light, smart, fresh ones to full bodied and oaky Chardonnays.

Today we have a quick review of the Legli 333 vintage 2006, which is more on the fresh, light end of Otto’s spectrum. He aptly calls this wine 333, because he starts selling it every year on the 333rd day. It is a cuvee of early riping varietals, Irsai Oliver, Muscat Ottonel, Zenit (which in France is called Muscadet) and Müller Thurgau. All four of these are very typical white varietals to Central Europe, with the exception of Zenit or Muscadet, which is grown most in the Loire Valley of France. The wine is of course young, refreshing, has a definite muscat undertone but still dry. It is better for a summer night, but pairs well with fish any day of the year. Most of the time the 333 does not see the summer as at this price it sells out in a few months long before summer’s arrival. After all, Legli only makes about 2,000 cases of the 333 each year.

Legli’s winery is open all year to visitors on weekdays 9am-5pm and no appointments are necessary. I have not been yet, but I bet it is a fun few hours if you are in the area.

Name: Legli 333, 2006

Rating: 7 out of 10

Body: Light

Price: 4 euros

Got it at: Bortarsasag, Budapest, Hungary

Legli 333, 2006

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

Unless you have some roots in Hungary, I think it is unlikely that you have ever heard of the varietal Irsai Oliver, a distant cousin of Muscat. This white grape is native to Central Europe and is primarily grown there. I think the grape’s name is so strange to pronounce that everyone else gave up on producing it.

The other night we opened a bottle of Nyakas Pince‘s 2006 Irsai Oliver. I have had the same wine from previous years but not yet the 2006. The wine is one of the best value whites I have found anywhere. For 4 euros a pop you get an amazingly rich, fruit forward, flowery white, sort of tasting like a cross between Sauvignon Blanc and a Muscat. It has strong minerality, which it gets from the soil of the Etyek region right outside Budapest, and a rich, long finish. The wine has only seen stainless steel, and is made in the modern reductive style. Did I ever mention I really dislike oak in white wines? White wines belong in steel tanks period.

Ernő Malya, the lead winemaker of Nyakas has been on the forefront of making high quality wines at low prices. This is not easy to do and certainly has not been done much in Hungary before Malya. Gotta love competition, though, the market is changing and more and more producers are forced to follow. I think this is yet another trend the new world is forcing on old world producers. I am supportive of it 😉 Just think what will happen when the 2 Buck Chuck hits the shores of Europe?!

Name: Budai Irsai Oliver, 2006, Nyakas Pince

Rating: 7 out of 10

Body: Medium

Price: 4 euros

Got it at: Bortarsasag, Budapest, Hungary

Budai Irsai Oliver, 2006, Nyakas Pince

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