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.