House of Parliamentary Wines
The wines that have been judged fit for presenting to visiting foreign leaders and dignitaries represent a fairly complex cross-section of Hungarian vinification. Fortunately, they are also available to the rest of us.
2019 is the third consecutive year when local wine experts have blind tasted domestically produced wines over the course of two days to select the top examples in a number of categories that represent the best of Hungarian wine, including key grape varieties and wine styles.
Some 203 wines were entered for Országház Bora 2019 from 21 of Hungary’s 22 regions, up from 17 last year. The wines were divided into eight categories with a top three selected and the number one wine being the one that will be served to VIP visitors.
The Olaszrizling grape has come a long way in the last few years as winemakers have paid more attention to it, rather than treat it only as a bulk wine-producing workhorse.
Szöllősi Pincészet’s Olaszrizling 2017 from the Neszmély region was named as the best Olaszrizling at Országház Bora 2019.
It is very balanced and the oak doesn’t dominate whatsoever, letting the fruity and floral notes do the talking, while adding a bit of body. It captures the region’s aromatic appeal but isn’t lightweight. It is a bargain at HUF 1,750 from the cellar. It saw off some stiff competition, such as Figula’s impressive Száka Olaszrizling 2017, from the Balatonfüred-Csopak region, which claimed third place.
Furmint is without question Hungary’s flagship grape variety. Grand Tokaj’s zesty yet classy and generous Kővágó Furmint 2015 (HUF 5,740 from wineloverswebshop.hu), with its varietally pure quince, green apple, pear notes and grapefruit and touch of salty minerality, became the top wine in the Furmint category. It was fermented and aged in new five hectoliter barrels and kept on the fine lees until the April following the harvest – the oak use is spot on.
State-owned Grand Tokaj, by far the Tokaj region’s largest producer, has been transformed in recent years as it moved from the decaying Tokaj Kereskedőház to its modern state-of-the-art incarnation, with Károly Áts at the winemaking helm. Royal Tokaji, who Áts was previously the winemaker for, claimed third place.
The third dry white wine category was a best of the rest indigenous white wine grapes, in which Hungary is blessed. From Badacsony, Istvándy Pincészet’s distinctive and lively “Kékderű” Kéknyelű 2017 came top. For me Kéknyelű is one of those grapes that gets much better with age, with layers of complexity emerging after a tartly acidic youth. This is HUF 3,650 from istvandywebshop.hu.
Among the reds, Kadarka can be really hit and miss, and the wines tasted reflected that (I was judging), but its character is quite unique in the world of wine. Indeed, Kadarka can be very rewarding when it’s good, but just don’t expect a big, muscly red. János Németh’s Szekszárdi Kadarka 2017 (HUF 3,540 from Bortársaság) is suitably playful, fragrant and peppery with crispy red fruit and rose hip aromas. A great summer red that can be a little chilled and a very worthy winner of the category.
A few percent of the aromatic Kadarka is a key component in Bikavér blends down in Szekszárd and is increasingly making it into the Bulls Blood in Eger, too. Bikavér category winner, Sebestyen’s Iván-völgy Bikavér (HUF 6,250 from Bortársaság) is composed of Kékfankos (50%), Merlot (28%), Kadarka (a high 12%) and Cabernet Franc (10%). It underwent controlled fermentation in open vat, then was aged for 15 months in second-, third- and fourth-fill Hungarian, French and Austrian oak barrels.
It exudes both red and black fruit fused with subtle spiciness to bring real complexity, with great juice, serious body and ideal balance. The brother and sister Szekszárd team of Csaba and Csilla Sebestyén consider their Iván-völgy Bikavér to be their most important wine.
The best Kékfrankos, Hungary’s most planted grape (and also the core of Bikavér), comes from Etyeki Kúria and the 2015 vintage via its vineyards in Sopron (HUF 4,650 from Bortársaság). It has a fabulous potpourri of aromas and a juicy sour cherry palate with great structure.
Cabernet Franc is the only foreign grape to be granted its own category and, not surprisingly, the powerful but very polished Heumann Trinitás Villányi Franc 2015 (HUF 8,460 from Borbolt.hu) was number one.
Grand Tokaji also scooped top spot in the Aszú category for its 5 puttonyos 2013 with its fresh, fruit-forward and ultra-popular interpretation of the botrytized wine whose production method has largely been unchanged for centuries. That is, save for the advent of modern technology, which Grand Tokaj has utilized to the full, to put the emphasis on freshness, fruitiness and lightness of touch.
While the base wine is 100% Furmint, the aszú berries that were added to the fermenting base wine and left to soak for 24 hours before pressing were mainly Furmint and Hárslevelű but also comprised Zéta, Kabar, Kövérszőlő and Sárgamuskotály (Yellow Muscat, Muscat Blanc or Muscat Lunel). It was fermented in tanks and aged for around 18 months. It costs HUF 5,670 from borkereskedes.hu.
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