Sparkling Hungary – champagne made of paprika?
Before Christmas and New Year’s Eve it’s time to recommend some great Hungarian méthode traditionelle sparkling wines. The title is obviously exaggeration and certainly sparkling wines of Hungary cannot be called champagne, but let’s begin at the beginning!
Hungary produces around 25 million bottles of sparkling wine, and more than half of this amount is consumed in the Christmas holiday season, especially on New Year’s Eve. Though the majority of sparkling is charmat méthode, bottle fermented sparkling wine is getting more and more important.
The pioneer and the first Hungarian owned winery
In the communist era, before demolishing the iron curtain, Hungarians had the taste of that of the Russian comrades regarding sparkling wine: sweetened charmat méthode were consumed in high quantity. The oldest sparkling winery of Hungary, Törley existed in those times, since it was founded in 1882 by József Törley and his French partner, Louis Francois. The company survived the times of mass production, and now the German owned Törley is the strongest player in the sparkling scenery with a lot of innovation and several brands.
Garamvári is perhaps the second brand to mention when we speak about the beginnings. The winery is owned by Vencel Garamvári, and it is the most important Hungarian owned sparkling winery, which was founded in 1990 and makes bottle fermented sparkling out of Franch and local, Tokaj grapes as well and has several brands. The winery has renewed the label design recently.
Soviet is better?
Apart from these two quality companies, some factories produce loads of bottles with simple charmat méthode wines, one of them is Royalsekt in Izsák, which was even fined in 2014 for confusing the consumers for using cyrillic letters saying Soviet sparkling wine. They paid the fine and go on using the same slogan with cyrillic letters on billboards. (You may wonder why do people would like to drink anything that reminds them of the communist era. Good question, we have no idea.)
Little Champagne in Somló
In Austria almost every winery has a sparkling wine in their portfolio, the same is true with Croatian or Slovenian wineries. In Hungary however the ruling of storing alcoholic drinks – especially sparkling wines – was a huge obstacle and thus wineries had to quit dreaming of their own sparkling brand. Then in 2013 the rules became slightly less complicated, thus more and more wineries decided to try to make sparkling. The lack of equipment discouraged some of those, who had their wine made into sparkling in another winery, because they could not controll the whole procedure. Kreinbacher Estate in Somló is the first winery, who decided to produce bottle fermented sparkling wine more than seriously. They hired Christian Forget from
Champagne, who is chef de cave at Champagne Paul Bara. He examined the Somló terroir carefully along with the grape Furmint, and after years of hard work Kreinbacher Estate introduced his méthode traditionelle family made of Furmint. Great, undoubtedly high quality, elegant sparkling wines. Kreinbacher ferments in magnum bottle as well, and since second fermentation takes longer in the double bottle, and the winery uses Furmint grape from the unique volcanic soil of Somló, a Kreinbacher Prestige Brut Magnum 2011 is an unforgettable experience! „After more than three years ageing on the lees it reveals a sophisticated complexity on the nose: flowers, lime and mango, touch of honey. Smooth and elegant, the mousse is definite, still creamy. Well structured, neat sparkling wine with refreshing acidity. Rich and lingering on the palate, some vanilla and cloves make up the fruity and flowery aromas. Limited edition available in numbered bottles and design carton.”
Bottle fermented sparkling wine for everybody!
As we wrote above, the simplified legislation encouraged the wineries to produce a sparkling wine to colour their portfolio. Hungary’s climate is ideal for sparkling, especially the northern regions like Etyek, Eger or Tokaj. Of course paprika is not used, we mentioned the typical Hungarian spice only to emphasize that several indigenous grapes are used in sparkling wine production.
The tasting coordinator of Hungary’s leading wine magazine, VinCE Magazine said „we received more than double amount of Hungarian méthode traditionelle sparkling wines than last year”.
The magazine displayed Hungarian sparkling wines separately because of the high number of them in its December issue. The wine with the highest scores came from the South of Balaton, from Ottó Légli and was made of Rhine Riesling and Pinot Blanc. The second best wine came from Törley, a rosé sparkling made of Pinot Noir: Francois President Rosé Brut is a vintage brut from 2013, from Etyek wine region. The third best wine of the magazine’s panel tasting is from Garamvári, Optimum Brut is again a vintage sparkling wine from 2013 made of French grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. Thummerer from Eger is one of the most famous winemakers, and this year he released his first bottle fermented sparkling wine, and just like in his Egri Csillag, he uses the indigenious Királyleányka grape along with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. „Subtle nose with autolysis notes and citrus aromas. Fresh, vivid, crispy acidity, ethereal wine with a lot of creamy bubbles. On the palate citrus falvours dominate with apple and mineral notes. Great balance, nice long length” – wrote the membels of the panel.
Tokaj is a whole chapter in the book of the new Hungarian sparkling wines. The region is famous for its luxury botrytised wines, and in this range méthod traditionelle fits perfectly – especially with the unique grapes typical of the region: Furmint and Hárslevelű. As Ronn Wiegand American Master of Wine, who participated in the panel tasting of the magazine said „Hungarian sparkling wines has a potential in the international export market, especially because of the unique grape varieties.” Many experts say that Hárslevelű has even more potential then Furmint. Béres Winery makes its bottle fermented sparkling wine from 100% Hárslevelű, and the resulting wine retains the characteristics of the grape in a beautiful way: „Matured nose with subtle yeast aromas, peach, green apple and lemon peel. Refreshing, youthful sparkling wine with lung lasting fruitiness.”
Cheers and happy new year to all of our readers, and we strongly suggest to try our stunning Hungarian méthode traditionelle wines!