Monday, May 27, 2013

2011 Bodrog Bormuhely Harslevelu Dereszla

On the day of this American holiday, my mind is on Hungarian wine and American freedom.  As a first generation American with two Hungarian parents, I'm particularly grateful for those who have fought to keep the United States a truly free country that welcomed my parents from a place that was not at all free at the time.  Fortunately a lot has changed since then, and things are much better in Hungary today than they were 57 years ago when my father left.  The iron curtain is gone.  Democracy is doing its thing, although not without controversy and intense fighting amongst rival political parties, which sounds pretty familiar for us Americans these days. 

I could go on about the change in Hungary, but I'm selfishly most interested in the change in the wine scene in Hungary and the availability of good Hungarian wine in the US today.  The fall of communism in Hungary marked the beginning of a resurgence in high quality Hungarian wine, and today the world is reaping the benefits.  The relatively small geographic area of Hungary has a large diversity of microclimates and many unique wine regions.  You can find a wide variety of reds and whites from throughout the country, some of which are made from traditional, international varieties like the Bordeaux style blends coming out of Villany in the south.  There are also many native Hungarian grapes and lesser known varietals from other parts of Europe that are making some really interesting wines.  These are varietals like Kekfrankos, Kadarka, Furmint, and today's subject, Harslevelu, which can be quite a mouthful to say and is pronounced HARSH-leh-veh-loo.  Harslevelu is often found as a blending component in the botrytized wines of Tokaj, but it can also be found in dry blends or on its own.  It is known for fantastic aromatics and very nice acid, and there are some really nice examples that are finally making their way to the United States.

One of these is the 2011 Bodrog Bormuhely Harslevelu Dereszla.  Pale gold in color, the wine brings aromas of mixed citrus peels - lemon, lime, and tangerine - as well as some notes of peach and honey.  In your mouth, the lime dominates, and although its bone dry, it reminds me a whole lot of key lime pie.  The acidity is fantastic and refreshing and leads to a really nice finish with a bit of salinity. 

Overall, this is a really interesting wine that would pair very well with shellfish or just a warm summer day.  At a price tag in the low $20s, its not an everyday wine, but its a great choice when you want something unique, different, and delicious. 


Saturday, May 18, 2013

2007 J & J Eged Hegy Dulo Kekfrankos

Earlier this month I wrote about Hungarian wine with an offering from Tokaj, which is Hungary's most famous wine region.  Right behind Tokaj is the relatively well known region of Eger.  Unfortunately for many people in the United States, Eger was only well known for making communist era Bull's Blood, which was truly pretty awful stuff at the time.  Without getting too deep into the politics of all, the communist regime in Hungary treated wine just like any other agricultural product and was only interested in maximizing production.  The quality of what they produced didn't matter all that much.  They just wanted a lot of it. 

It was only after the communist regime fell, that grape growers and wine makers in Eger realized that they had some great terroir that in past centuries made great wine.  They realized that with some care and attention to quality that they could make some really nice wines.  Today in Eger, there are some really fantastic wines that almost have me forgetting all the times that my parents served me the awful communist era stuff. 

Today's subject is a really nice Kekfrankos from Eger.  Kekfrankos, also known as Blaufrankisch, is one of the main varietals used in Bull's Blood and is often bottled on its own as well as in red blends.  The 2007 J & J Eged Hegy Dulo Kekfrankos is a deep garnet red in color.  The nose brings aromas of sweet red and sour cherries with a very pleasant and subtle hint of barnyard.  With a sip, you get some of the same cherry flavor as well as some cranberry and strawberry fruit.  The fantastic acidity really has the sour cherry and cranberry shine on the finish. 

The acidity combined with the medium weight and mild tannins, makes this a very food friendly offering.  Having grown up on Hungarian food, I find myself wanting Chicken Paprikas or a nice, traditional Hungarian pork stew to go with this, but it would also pair well with any braised meats like osso bucco or lamb shanks.  For a price in the mid $20s, this wine really delivers a lot.  Look for it in your favorite wine shop or check it out at