Wine Flowing in Budapest and Beyond

Drinks

By the time you get your hands on this paper, the 27th Budapest Wine Festival (which runs from September 6-9) will be in full swing. While there are many tastings on in Budapest these days, the Budapest Wine Festival is still a major spectacle held in the stunning setting of the Buda Castle, and can keep wine lovers occupied for days with some 150 producers to sip from.

The Budapest Wine Festival benefits from a great backdrop in the the Buda Castle.

Furthermore, vintners from across the land are unleashing many brand-new releases. One such wine comes from a cooperation from two Villány wineries: Heumann and Jackfall, and is a REDY 2017 – a blend of 51% Portugieser (provided by Jackfall), 35% Kékfrankos and 14% Kadarka (both grown by Heumann), vinified only in the tank.  

The idea to team up came from a local marketing mastermind after Erhard Heumann said that his winery didn’t have the necessary Portugieser required to make REDY. The REDY concept, incidentally, is a new initiative to make light and fruity wines that appeal to Generation Y, instead of the robust, full-bodied, tannic wines that Villány is traditional noted for.

Lucky Gen Y: There are plenty from Generation X, Baby Boomers and even beyond have been crying out for wines that slip down with ease, or as they say in the trade these days, wines with good drinkability (many robust Villány reds can be heavy going after one glass).

Tasting Heumann and Jackfall’s REDY Kollab 2017 (to give the wine its full name), on a hot August day at the Jackfall winery, just after it was bottled – it really hit the mark with its zesty palate with light tannins and vibrant acidity. It oozes red fruit (raspberry, strawberry and sour cherry) with a touch of anise, violet and mixed spices. This is coming out a bit later that some other members of the REDY family and is expected to cost a good deal below HUF 3,000 a bottle, although the final pricing is yet to be set.

“All our wines need time,” says German Erhard Heumann, who owns the winery with his wife Evelyn, a Swiss-Hungarian. Erhard notes that he just held a tasting with people from the older generation in Switzerland, and they were very into it.

Under the Radar

Heumann and Jackfall are two excellent wineries that sometimes fly under the radar in Hungary. Jackfall is a delight to visit, with tastings conducted in a charmingly restored old Swabian house, in its long adjoining rooms, or out on the terrace, in Kisjakabfalva (220 km south of Budapest). Jackfall’s limited-edition oak aged rosé from the 2017 vintage also impressed with more mouthfeel than the regular rosé, but with little lost in the way of fruit. Heumann’s wines are actually made out in an industrial facility in Siklós (just 30 km south of Pécs), but the winery now has a cute tasting cellar on the high street in Villány.

Erhard Heumann is upbeat on the prospects of the 2018 vintage, which he describes as quite balanced. Although it was quite hot, it was not very hot with the maximum temperature of 32ºC (89.6ºF) until mid-August, when it then peaked at around 34ºC (93.2ºF). However, the wines started to suffer from an almost total lack of rain for four weeks starting towards the end of July (fortunately there had been sufficient rainfall up until the end of June). However, rain came when it was desperately needed and with cooler nights now with us, the aromas of the grapes have become much better. He expects the harvest to be finished by the end of September, instead of the usual mid-October.

Tokaj’s Füleky is introducing a range of single vineyard wines to the public for the first time at the festival, including a terrific Sárgamuskotály Dobai from 2017. Füleky winemaker György Brezovcsik says that he likes this grape as dry as can be. The result is quite dramatic and perhaps a bit intense compared to what you’d expect from a Sárgamuskotály, but this somehow manages to be floral and fruity, yet quite full-bodied at the same time, with an exciting peppery finish. Not yet in the shops, this is HUF 2,690 direct from the producer.

Kabar (a crossing carried out in Tokaj of Hárslevelű and Bouvier) 2017 from the Vinnai vineyard with its loess top soil over volcanic dacite bedrock, is priced by the producer at HUF 3,900 and shows why it was a good idea to make this one of the official grapes of Tokaj, with its tropical ripeness and smooth (almost dry) palate.

The number of attendees at the Budapest Wine Festival in the last three years has ranged between 35,000 and 40,000, according to Rita Oláh, head of PR and Communication at Magyar Szőlő- és Borkultúra Nonprofit Kft., the organizer. When I spoke to her in late August, two weeks before the festival, she was hopeful of more attendees in 2018, with some 27% more people having indicated they would be going than in recent years. However, she noted that it all depends on the weather. Some of my favorite memories of the festival involve braving the downpours and getting the winemakers more or less to myself.

If you are not done with the tasting, a great way to follow up the Budapest Wine Festival is to take off down to the southern wine region of Szekszárd. Szekszárd’s Harvest Days (Szekszárdi szüreti napok) festival, from September 13-16 is always a joy to attend with the winemakers themselves out in force in the town’s pretty central square.

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