Are you sure?

Wine: Ten sillers, four worth buying

A tasting of the latest pinkish-red wine shows the limited possibilities of the 2014 vintage.

Ten Sillers from the well below par 2014 vintage in Szekszárd have made it past the local tasting panel to earn the right to carry the name of Fuxli, but when tasted blind only four would have me parting with my hard-earned cash.

Siller, which is made with one to two (occasionally three) days of skin contact during which some color and tannin is extracted from the grapes, serves to bridge the gap between rosé and red wine. It looks and tastes somewhere between rosé and red wine, some possessing a touch of the kind of bitterness that red wines possess while others are effectively ramped up rosés. Fuxli can be a blend or made from a single varietal with Kékfrankos and Kadarka often in the mix, but all the important red grapes can come into play.

Fuxli is an old local Swabian word (Szekszárd is brimming with winemakers of Swabian descent) that means a small fox, which is derived from the German word for fox (Fuchs) and is a reference to the wine’s color, although these days it usually comes out deep pink or raspberry colored. In 2011, six wines were picked for the newly-established Fuxli category by the local panel, rising to nine in 2012 and 13 in 2013. The Fuxli category is intended to denote premium quality Siller.

The pick of the 2014 Fuxli bunch for me was from Merfelsz with its soft, sweetish and juicy sour cherry and pomegranate notes.

This was made from 60% Kékfrankos and 40% Merlot and was as clean as a whistle, which couldn’t be said for all of the ten that made it through the gate. Indeed, a couple could be described as a bit on the foxy side. However, some of them may be suffering from bottle shock, having been recently bottled, and may perk up a bit over the next weeks as they hit the shelves. Nevertheless, the vineyards were rife with fungal disease in 2014 with the flavors also diluted by the incessant rain at key junctures of the vintage, such as around and during harvest.

Another stellar 2014 effort came from the Eszterbauer cellar, which went with Kékfrankos this vintage to contrast with just Kadarka in 2013.

The 2014 had inviting strawberry jam aromas and a bitter twist on the finish to pleasantly remind you that you’re not drinking a deeper colored rosé.

Jáni Márkvárt, an exciting young vintner who strives to put Szekszárd’s succulent fruit first in his wines, made his 2014 Fuxli from Kékfrankos and Zweigelt. It has sweet, ripe and seductive wild strawberry and rose hip aromas, again with that bitter turn towards the finish. Posta also posted a good effort, using mainly Kékfrankos to do so.

Sándor Merfelsz, who is a noted cook down in Szekszárd where he makes wine in conjunction with his winemaker Attila Godor, has found sushi the ideal accompaniment to his and other Fuxlis. In particular, he finds the spicy ginger that we bite into when eating sushi really hits the spot. Merfelsz describes Fuxli as a highly versatile wine that can be enjoyed by itself, or as a cool aperitif and, as it warms up a few degrees, it can also go with starters and main courses.

Not all winemakers even try to make it in a substandard vintage and one of the best producers of Siller in Szekszárd, the marvelously maverick József Vesztergombi, refuses to be part of the Fuxli movement despite claiming to be the first to get serious about Siller post 1989. The 2014 Fuxlis are set to be unveiled to the press and wine lovers on Friday March 27 at the VinoPiano Borbár. The prices are not available yet but a bottle of Fuxli usually sets you back somewhere around Ft 1,700 a bottle.

A very nice Siller if you can still find it is Adrián Bősz’s 2013, which oozes cranberry and cherry, and shows a good bit of chunky tannin on the palate that takes you in a light red wine direction. Incidentally, we don’t see much white wine from the often sweltering southern climes of Szekszárd but this dynamic winemaker has made some complex Riesling, even from grapes that have attracted botrytis or “noble rot” from the Danube, as is the case of the 2009 Csóka-hegy Dűlő. Bősz can do fresh and fruity too. His basic white Classic Fehér 2013, a blend of Riesling, Cserszegi Fűszeres and Chardonnay, is both zesty and aromatic with lime peel, lemon and lychee on the nose, followed by a very lively palate that’s very refreshing thanks to the crispy acidity, but not at all tart. Bősz’s entry level red Classic Vörös 2012, a blend of Kékfrankos, Menoir, Merlot, and Kadarka, is the ideal house red to have sitting around. It’s light in body and a touch rustic but very spicy and peppery with good fruit and firm acidity. A top choice for HUF 1,890.