The diary of our big trip
1st Hungarianwines WebWineWriting study tour
photos by: Tamas Dobos, Bence Karvaly, Matthew Horkey
On 5th August the voting period of our first online wine writer contest ended, the name of the winners were revealed. Altogether 10 113 votes were given to the 18 finalists in 6 categories. The winners are:
- Hajnalka Szabó, Hungary (Tokaj category in Hungarian)
- Perica S. Radović, Serbia (Tokaj category in English)
- Ferenc Török, Hungary (Red wine category in Hungarian)
- Matthew Horkey, US (Red wine category in English)
- Zoltán Szabó, Hungary (Colourful Hungary category in Hungarian)
- Đorđe Pešić, Serbia (Colourful Hungary category in English)
1 Day: Budapest–Villány
After hearing the good news, the winners started to pack, because one of their prizes was to participate in a 4 day trip to 4 Hungarian wine regions. The meeting place was at Heroes’ Square in Budapest, all the guys were punctual. Brief introduction and we set off immediately – well, not far, just to a near restaurant, Nyereg. After the ample lunch we packed our suitcases and ourselves into two brand new, comfortable cars provided by Opel Hungary. A Vivaro– deluxe version with adjustable seats – and a Grandland X, an elegant SUV.
Our first stop was at Csányi Winery, Villány, where László Romsics, the executive manager himself took the group through the longest underground labyrinth of Villány. We took a glance of the museal wines sleeping in the quiet of the cellar, measured the huge wooden barrels, and then sat down for a tutored tasting.
The very first wine was a memorable one (we all knew that we are in a perfect place): RedY, the new community brand of Villány. Fruity, easy to drink, lovely wine at good price. We also tasted Kékfrankos, the most widely planned black grape of Hungary, which gives wine full of red berry fruits, and and an important variety for the winery. It was also exciting to see Cabernet Sauvignon in three levels of the winery (Teleki Selection, Chateau Teleki, and Kővilla). The end of this unforgettable tasting was the prestige cuvée of the winery called Elegance. Complexity, length, structure, balance.
Before dinner we enjoyed a short Villányi Franc tasting in the impressive “cathedral” of Bock Cellar. Villányi Franc is 100% Cabernet Franc produced in Villány and approved by a board of quality control. We could taste a Kővilla Villányi Franc 2012 by Csányi Winery presented by László Romsics, a Gere Tamás & Zsolt Villányi Franc 2012 presented by Zsolt Gere, a Gere Attila Villányi Franc 2015 and a Bock Villányi Franc 2014 presented by the sommelier of Bock Cellar. 4 wines, 4 styles, of course each of us had its favourite one, but we agreed in one thing: Michael Broadbent was right, Cabernet Franc really found its home in Villány.
After the tasting we enjoyed the cuisine based on local traditions and ingredients of BockÓbor Restaurant– and of course we ended the day with a Pálinka (marc of Shiraz).
We had a wonderful morning: Mónika Debreczeni, the owner of Vylyan Vineyard and Winery gave us a warm welcome with an ice cold Kszí, the bubbly rosé of the winery. With our glass in hand we took a look at the sample vineyards with Kékfrankos, Kadarka, the rare Csóka and other varieties. Mónika and her team received the vines of Csóka from a gene bank, and due to the popularity of this rare variety, they planned more of Csóka.
We soon got back in our cars and left for Budafok, where we had a chance to visit the largest family owned sparkling winery, Garamvári. As we wrote here, after walking trough the underground, endless corridors, we had an exciting tasting conducted by the commercial manager Miklós Gáspár. Besides the method traditionnelle sparkling wines we tasted some still wines of the winery from their South Balaton vineyards, for example Cserszegi Fűszeres, an aromatic, indigenous grape of the winery, lovely, full of the flavours of a ripened grape berry.
After a huge lunch – we showed our guest what a traditional Hungarian home made lunch is – we set off again. We drove about 600 kilometres on this day, so we were really grateful to Opel for the comfort of the cars. It was a wonderful sunset when we arrived in Sárospatak, Tokaj, at an ancient stone villa of Pajzos Tokaj winery, where Laurent Comas, the French born estate manager of the winery was waiting for us.
Laurent gave a brief introduction to the history of Pajzos (for example we learned that the name came from the old version of shield, ‘pajzs’ in Hungarian). Soon we descended in the depth of the cellar for an amazing tasting: we systematically went through all the pleasures of Tokaj. We tasted single varietal Furmint and Hárslevelű to learn the characteristics of the grape, we tasted the less known, ancient style called Fordítás, the evergreen favourite, the “almost aszú” Szamorodni wines in dry and sweet format, and of course the crown, TokajiAszú in different vintages.
When all the participants were left breathless, Laurent put a small bottle on the table: it was the rare and unique Esszencia (Essence) of Tokaj. This wines is always very expensive, because the hand picked botrytised grape berries are left to rest, and the juice drops fall naturally, by gravity. The collected drops are filled in small bottles, the resulting wine is extremely rich in sugar (around 500 grams / litre) and low in alcohol (around 5%). The taste is fabulous: complex, endless, unforgettable. Neal Martin from the Wine Advocate (Robert Parker) gave 98 points out of 100 to Pajzos Esszencia!
And it was not the end of the day. We wanted to show a new face of Tokaj. The most famous wine region of ours has small villages with rather old population, for young people it is hard to find places to pass time. Henye Wine Bar is a relatively new venture, a modern, state of art building built in the middle of the vineyard. The basement of the building is Henye Winery (belonging to Dereszla Winery), while the top is a wine bar, the venue of several cultural events, evenings with music. Krisztina Kolár, the manager of the wine bar is an always smiling, enthusiastic person, she is the engine behind all these happenings. We had a delicious dinner of bread spreads made by Krisztina and her colleague, local cheeses, salamis and of course some lovely wines by Dereszla. Kabar was the favourite, again an indigenous grape which great potential: the only barrier to its wider success is the quantity – there is only a small amount of it, and due to its popularity, it is sold out quickly.
We stayed in a rustic stone house in the tiny village of Erdőbénye, and – what a coincidence! – the owner of the house makes his own wine, we tasted a clean, lovely aerated blend of Hárslevelű and Furmint. The winery is called ProVinum, it is worth looking for it at local festivals! Our morning brief visit was at Béres Vineyard and Winery, still in the topic of “the new face of Tokaj”. Béres produces a bottle fermented sparkling wine of Hárslevelű grape – what a beautiful beginning of the day! Perfect perlage, typical, linden honey character, toasty notes, balance. And since two of our winners are “szamorodni” fanatics, a stunning Béres Dry Szamorodni was opened as well.
The next stop was Etyeki Kúria, the state of art winery with wonderful, stunning wines! Sándor Mérész winemaker uses his experiences gained abroad, and makes top quality wines of local and indigenous varieties. Their Pinot Noir is one of the best in Hungary for sure. Their entry level white and red wines are perfect for every day, fruity, juicy, lovely wines, they have a super elegant Chardonnay and a Sauvignon Blanc, refreshing rosé, and recently they produce single varietal Kékfrankos from their vineyards in Sopron wine region.
After another pleasant lunch at EtyekM, a so called “home restaurant” just opposite Etyeki Kúria, the winners arrived at the 1stHungarian Gettogether, the award party at Haraszthy Winery, on top of Öreghegy (Old Hill). Haraszthy is another state of art winery, also equally good at indigenous and international varieties. Sir Irsai, a still wine of Irsai Olivér is their top selling brand, even Arnold Schwarzenegger, the star of Terminator movies is a great fan of it – the winery has a sister winery in California, and another one in Argentina. Haraszthy has just built an amphiteatre (Amfiteatrum), which was the venue of our first event.
Our Gettogether was a reaxed wine tasting in beautiful surroundings with 14 wine exhibitors: Babarczi from Pannonhalma, Csányi from Villány, Csetvei from Mór, Folly from Badacsony, Koch from Hajós–Baja, Pajzos from Tokaj, Sabar from Badacsony, Taschner from Sopron, Tornai from Somló, Tóth Ferenc from Eger, Etyeki Kúria and Haraszthy from Etyek, Vylyan from Villány. Guests could participate by invitation, the guest list was published on the website of the event.
As for the gastronomic pleasures, Miele, the company selling top quality domestic equipment, provided super delicious dishes made by Sándor Kis chef and his team. The cooking show was conducted on the stage, and the lucky ones could have a sample of the meals – for example the amazingly tender lamb neck.
The glasses were provided by Dajar Horeca, and for our more pleasure, the company brought two different types of tasting glass: a Villeroy & Boch andaChef & Sommelier glass. The first was was a gracious, beautifully designed glass suitable for tasting several different wines, while the latter one was a unique shaped glass resembling a tulip, suitable for rosé and acidic white wines.
Finally, the finalists were called on the stage, and each of them received their prizes. The 5 red wine finalists got a 3 litre (!) Teleki Villányi Merlot from László Romsics, Csányi Winery, while Tokaj category finalists all received a Pajzos wine selection from Laurent Comas, Pajzos Tokaj, the winners a Tokaji Aszú selection. Colourful Hungary finalists received Miele cooking school vouchers or coffee sets, while the winners received a Mielevacuum cleaner from Mónika Móger representing Miele.
Vino Castillo was the only exhibitor pouring foreign wines: Vino Castillo is a wine wholesale and retail offering the widest selection of Spanish wines. The winners received a magnum Gramona cava and a bottle of Recaredo cava, while the two absolute winners received a 3 litre Juvé & Camps cava. The absolute Hungarian winner, Ferenc Török will travel to the “capital of cava”, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia in October.
Towards the end of the party there was a tasting of Agárdi Distillery pálinkas, all of them were wine related spirits, because they were made of the marc of iconic Hungarian wineries, in some cases of iconic wines. The 15 year old distillery has numerous acknowledgements from national and international spirit contests, for example Destillata, Austria.
4th Day: Etyek–Balaton
The last day was a chill out after the crowded 3 days: the only program was to get on board of Konnektor, an elecric WIA yacht with captain József Szegi at Balatonkenese. We certainly tasted some wines on board, the topic was of course Balaton with its different regions. Super refreshing Sabar rosé, Olaszrizling single varietal wines by different wineries, Kéknyelű rare indigenous grape by DobosiWinery were chosen for this relaxed tasting, which was a joyful and of our 4 day study tour.
2nd Hungarian WebWineWriting
Would you like to participate in a study tour like the above described next year? Well, watch for our contest in May 2019, enter your article, and maybe you will be one of our next year winners!