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Young, Fresh Reds From Villány 2017 REDy to Rock

Drinks

The second vintage of Villány’s REDy range of light and fruity reds, from 2017, is soon to hit the shelves and they are precisely the kind of reds that can be enjoyed in the warmer temperatures of the spring and summer.

Some of this yearʼs REDy wine makers at the launch of the 2017 vintage wines.

The words light and Villány do not often go well together, but these zesty fruit-bombs, which are built on a backbone of the Portugieser grape, offer a nice alternative to the typically robust, full-bodied, tannic wines that Villány is famous for, or even infamous, depending on taste.

Eleven very steady REDy wines were premiered on April 4 at Doblo wine & bar, from: Bíbor, Bock, Csányi, Fontányi, Tamás and Zsolt Gere, Hárságyi, Tamás Lelovits, Róbert Maczkó, Mokos, Polgár, Tiffán’s, Vinatus, Vineas Tenkes and Vylyan.  

In all, a total of 20 are expected to be launched on the market in the coming days and weeks. The predominantly tank-made REDy wines are made to appeal to Generation Y, though I’m sure there are many from Generation X and older who will also appreciate these wines that slip down with ease.

Having said that, I still find that many of the American guests who I guide around Villány absolutely lap up the robust Bordeaux-style blends that wine writers like myself tend to bash.

The REDy wines are blends based on a backbone of the Portugieser grape, which is Villány’s early-ripening, high-yielding cash-cow of a grape that allows winemakers to get wines on the market shortly following the vintage. It is typically light in tannins, and quite the opposite to the Bordeaux varieties that make Villány’s full-bodied, mouth-coating reds.  

According to Austrianwine.com, the Portugieser grape comes from Portugal and is the very same as the Português Azul, and was brought to Central Europe, to Austria’s Thermenregion, in 1770 by the Baron of Fries. Others say it originates somewhere along the Danube Valley, perhaps from Germany.  

Grape Proportions

Wherever it originates, a REDy must be comprised of between 51-66% of the Portugieser grape, while local varieties (Blauburger, Kadarka, Kékfrankos and Zweigelt) have to contribute between 20-49%.

Blauburger and Zweigelt can indeed be considered pretty much local, as both were parented by the Austro-Hungarian Blaufränkish (Kékfrankos) grape and crossed in Austria in the early 1920s by Professor Fritz Zweigelt at the Teaching and Research Center for Viticulture and Horticulture (LFZ) in Klosterneuburg, close to Vienna.  

Blaufränkish was crossed with Portugieser to create Blauburger and with St. Laurent to bring Zweigelt into existence – the latter grape being infinitely more successful – supplanting Blaufränkish to become Austria’s most planted red wine grape by today.  

International grapes like Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot can provide up to 14% of a REDy, and bring a welcome bit of body to the final blend to make it a bit rounder and more mouth-filling.  

To earn the right to use the REDy label, wines have to make it past the same local tasting panel that also adjudges whether a Cabernet Franc wine can be labelled Villányi Franc. For REDy, the panel gives the wines clearance if they exude a youthful, spicy, zesty character with red and black berry fruit aromas, with at most minimal influence of oak. The very warm yet consistent 2017 vintage is considered to be an excellent year for Portugieser, which ripened very nicely and fully.

The bijou Hárságyi winery is making its REDy debut with its 2017 bottling, which is 55% Portugieser, 35% Kékfrankos and 10% Merlot. Winemaker Balazs Hárságyi mentioned that his REDy, with its high acidity “is built to handle the fridge” and as such is a very refreshing spring-summer tipple.  

Hárságyi REDy 2018 has a vibrant pale ruby meets light purple color and is very much translucent. The nose and palate are lively and it oozes creamy red fruit with raspberry, sour cherry and strawberry jelly, as well as rosehip tea and eucalyptus. This wine is set to cost around a very reasonable HUF 2,000 (the rest of the REDy wines will be priced similarly) a bottle and a visit to the pint-sized Hárságyi winery in Palkonya is a treat.

Taken Seriously

While many consider Portugieser (formerly known here as Kékoportó) an inferior grape, with some going as far to suggest that Portugiuser should be grubbed up and replaced by more noble grapes in Villány’s prime vineyards, there are those who take it seriously.

In fact, Berlin lawyer turned Villány winemaker Horst Hummel, shows that when given some tender loving care, it can make serious wines that can even be aged, though most is drunk up in the year following the vintage.  

His 2018 Portugieser, which was premiered at the Terroir Club’s spring tasting held at the ultracool Borganika gastro workshop, was spontaneously fermented in tanks. It was fined but left unfiltered and it was bottled with minimal sulphur. It has vibrant and pure sour cherry aromas, with a light but well-defined structure and lots of juicy red fruit on the palate. It is reat value at HUF 2,499 from the Mitiszol webshop (mitiszol.hu).

At the same tasting, it was great to get another chance to try Frigyes Bott’s Kékfrankos 2017, from the Muszla wine region just across the border in Slovakia, which shone through at the Pannon Wine Guild’s Christmas tasting, and costs HUF 5,599 from mitiszol.hu, or HUF 5,650 from Bortársaság.

It was made biodynamically by Bott’s self-titled “Hamburger” method. Of 50 bins of collected grapes taken to the winery and fermented in a vat, the contents of the first ten containers were trampled by foot, the next 25 bins were placed in full bunches with the carbonic fermentation starting within the grapes, then the final 15 were destemmed and added to the top.

This maverick method clearly works and the wine is supremely elegant, varietally pure (with vibrant red and black berry fruit, spices, black pepper and taut acidity), long and complex. This same method is used for all the winery’s reds.

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