jamie goode's wine blog

Monday, May 19, 2008

Two Furmints: Slovenia and Hungary

Furmint is a grape variety that's relatively new to me. It's the classic variety of Hungary's Tokaji region, where it makes the fabulous sweet Tokaji wines. But it also makes dry wines here, too. By coincidence, I had two Furmints in my sample rack, one from Hungary and one from Slovenia. So I thought I'd try them together. They both show a family resemblence, but also some differences. I was really thrilled by the Slovenian wine, which reminded me of a very good drier style of Gruner Veltliner. The Hungarian Furmint is possibly a little more complex, and also has a hint of Austria about it, but it's perhaps more of an acquired taste.

Aside: I reckon the vineyards of central Europe have staggering potential for making serious, interesting wines, with a combination of good sites and unusual grape varieties.

Verus Vineyards Furmint 2007 Slovenia
(Alternative name: Verus Stajerska Slovenia Kakovostino Vino ZGP Šipon 2007, where Šipon is a synonym for Furmint.) Beautifully packaged, this is a really stylish wine that reminds me a bit of Austrian Gruner Veltliner. It has a lively, fruity, almost peppery nose with some grapey depth to it. The palate is really lively and fresh, with an exuberant fruity, spicy character and a hint of spritz on the bright, acidic finish. This is a very pure, clean, minerally white that's full flavoured but zippy, and would be a versatile food wine. I like this a lot. 12% alcohol. (See www.verusvino.com for more details). 90/100 (£7.99 http://www.therealwineco.co.uk/)

Disznók? Tokaji Dry Furmint 2006 Hungary
The ancient variety of the Tokaji region makes dry whites like this, as well as the legendary sweet Tokaji. This has a broad, rich, deep nose with a smoky, spicy edge to the melon and herb fruit. The palate is quite complex with a fresh minerally character underpinning broad, grapey, slightly spicy fruit. There’s lots of interest here: a really food friendly style with a lot of personality. Beguiling stuff. 91/100 (£9.19 rrp, contact fionacampbell@btopenworld.com for more information)

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Slovenian Sauvignon

Must say a little more about the Simcic Sauvignon Reserve 2004 from Slovenia. It's Sauvignon, but not as you know it. The grapes are harvested relatively late and then, rather than press the juice off straight away or after just a short skin contact, as is normal for whites, the skins are given an extended maceration of about a week. This results in a deep coloured wine with some of the characteristics of a red wine: a bit of tannin and bold, herb-tinged flavours. There's sweet, grapey, melony fruit here, together with a bit of grassy herbal character. It's distinctive, warm and intense. I wouldn't say it's profound - after all, this is Sauvignon, and it lacks true complexity or minerality. Also, I could understand some people writing this off as clumsy. But I like it because it is interesting and it makes me think about what I'm tasting. It's available in the UK from H&H Bancroft, who have just taken Simcic on, but isn't yet on their website.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A new book project and cheese

Tripped off to Islington today to visit MQ Publications. I'm going to be doing a book with them, on wine, but not as you know it. The team there have come up with a brilliant idea for a wine book that isn't like other wine books, and is of general appeal. Yvonne Deutsch, who will edit the project, has some wonderful ideas and will be a hands on editor - it will be fun working with someone who wants to have some creative input in the project. Will share more details when it's the right time. One of the MQP people who has been advocating this project strongly is Simon Majumdar, who is a bit of a wine nut. He has an excellent foodie blog, which can be found at http://www.majbros.blogspot.com/.

This evening I supped on Comte cheese and a fantastic bread (ancienne) from Villandry, which at £2 is an expensive loaf. But consider that crap plastic bread costs £0.70 a pop, then this - one of the best breads I've had - is a total bargain.
Washed down with several wines, including three of the remarkable Simcic whites (from Slovenia), which see extended skin contact - this makes them a little tannic. They're weird by modern standards, but I like them a lot. I'd love to make a wine that's a blend of red and white grapes, treated like a red wine with maceration on skins, and with balance achieved not by blending but in the fermenter.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

when the points don't work...more Chardonnay

Scoring wines with points shouldn't be taken too seriously. It's quite a useful shorthand for saying how much you like a wine - and in this sense, people who choose not to use points neatly avoid putting their necks on the line, because you can read a written description any number of ways.

But despite their utility, points fail in some circumstances. They convey no information about style and character - or about the sort of context where a particular wine might perform very well or badly.

Two Chardonnays that have recently passed my lips are good examples of wines where points aren't up to much. One is a big, fat Californian; the other, a remarkably intense Slovenian. Both could be enjoyed or hated, depending on the occasion and personal preference - information not contained in a score.

Simcic Chardonnay Réserve 2003 Goriška, Brda, Slovenia
3133 bottles produced in March 2006; this spends 7–8 days in contact with the skins. A deep yellow/gold colour it has a really interesting nose. It’s quite tight with some herbal fruit married with bakery smells and vanilla oak, but there’s also a savoury, slightly oily complexity here. The palate is dense, a little tannic even, with a heavy toasty oak imprint and sweet, bready, herby fruit. It’s a full-on Chardonnay of great intensity and concentration – no doubt a bit too full on for some. I like it, though. Very good/excellent 90/100 (H&H Bancroft) 01/07

Hess Select Chardonnay 2004 California
A fat, buttery Californian Chardonnay that’s rich and broad with thick tropical and figgy fruit. There’s also some sweet vanillin butteriness. It’s a seductive, immediate sort of wine whose obvious charms tire a little quickly, but if you like fat Chardonnays you’ll love this. Very good+ 85/100 (£8.49 Wine Society. Oxford Wine, D Byrne, Handford)

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