Luckily my trip to Budapest was just few days later and I was able to sample a whole selection of delights from Hungary and the Balkans.
Hungarian wine doesn't feature prominently on the shelves of UK licensed premises. I have featured Hilltop Estate's organic Gewurztraminer in one of my first blog posts and I know that a few of my readers drink and enjoy it. Sadly, the rumours in Budapest are that Hilltop has lost it's contract to supply some of the UK multiples, and this is very bad news as they haven't marketed internally to Hungary. I sincerely hope we'll continue to see this on our shelves, but in case not, I'll be stocking up!
Aside from this, our knowledge of Hungary seems limited to dessert wines, with the Tokaji Aszu being around the only certainty from Hungary at most retailers. The Wine Society and Waitrose wine online have a few dry Hungarians on their shelves but really only at the lower price points, while in other retailers, there is virtually nothing aside from the odd Furmint that turns up here and there. I failed to find a mainstream stockist of Bull's Blood - reputedly Hungary's most famous red. The Tokaji is a good place to build a reputation for fine wine and I'll review one later this year, but with so many unique grape varieties, make sure you explore Hungarian wines if you get a chance.
Ezerjó is an indigenous Hungarian grape variety which produces light and refreshing wines, as well as being suitable for producing sweet wines.
We moved swiftly onto a white, sparkling based on Zala Gyöngye from the Mátra region which is about 80km north of Budafest and the second biggest wine region in the country. I think its the first time I ever had a sparkling wine from a screw cap bottle, so this clearly is not wine intended for keeping. It was lightly sparkling, less than many mineral waters, and probably had been carbonated after production rather than using any traditional sparkling method. Still, it was refreshing and drinkable with a hint of muscat aromatics. I'd had a glass of Irsai Oliver in a wine bar earlier with a really strong flavour of Elderflower. I'm sure that could be a popular choice on a (rare) British summer's day, and I'll be interested in the feedback of my hosts on the Chapel Down Bacchus I took them to represent England's wine output. I will look out for Irsai Oliver in future as it's something very distinctive.
Moving onto the Hungarian wines sampled, first up was Dobosi Kéknyelű (an indigenous and rather rare grape) from Balaton-felvidek or Lake Balaton, the largest lake in Hungary. This was a simple, crisp and organic white which retails for under $8 a bottle and is a little hard to describe. Rather more unusual was the Pastor Siller 2012 from Szeksard. I've never come across the concept of Siller before, but it's kind of somewhere between rosé and red. Kadarka, Kékfrankos, Zweigelt grapes are crushed and skins left in contact for around 48 hours, giving a deeper colour than a for a rosé, and a nice deep flavour, but without any of the tannin. I'd imagine this would be pleasant on a summer's evening, or for people who're not convinced they'll like red wines. At around 6€ a bottle, it's certainly easy drinking.
Wow! This wine was from Serbia. Who knew they even made wine in Serbia? I certainly had no idea, nor could I have known that this wine would be such a winner. The 5 other people at my table were unanimous. We wanted more of this rich, deep, plum, oaked beauty. Full bodied and full flavoured, we were sadly left wanting more as the wine bar actually ran out, such was the demand! It was probably just as well, as my dance festival started that evening and shiraz and spinning are not best friends. I did feel a longing that I ought to have bought a bottle or two, and even more so now that I've found this wine is not available in the UK. The winery was founded in 2008 and features a range of international varietal wines from Riesling and Chardonnay to Cabernet Franc and Merlot. They also make an Icewine and a range of fruit based spirits which have won awards. I hope we'll be hearing more from them soon. And if you're ever in Serbia, they are open for tourism with a tast
Only in Hungary would a wine tasting finish with a shot of vodka! Still that wasn't quite as surreal as what happened next...
Nothing could have prepared me for being serenaded to the strains of Robert Burns' Auld Lang Syne in a Hungarian wine bar, while drinking Serbian Shiraz.
Life can be strange and wonderful...
Hungary for a change? Probably the best selection of Hungarian wines in the UK including a Siller, comes from the Hungarian Wine House.