High-end Hungarian wines
Imported by UK merchant Cozzi and Boffa
wines aren’t well known in the UK, with one famous exception. That
exception is Tokaji Aszu, the sweet wine from the Tokaji region,
which is celebrated as one of the world’s great sweet wine styles.
was really pleased to get a chance to try a selection of high-end
Hungarian wines that have been imported into the UK by merchant
Jason Cozzi (www.cozziandboffa.com).
Jason also sent these wines to fellow wine writer Chris Kissack, who
has also reviewed them (his in-depth report is here,
and contains some more background on the regions and producers).
It’s immediately apparent that Chris
liked these wines a lot more than I did. I found them a mixed bunch.
Some – notably Zoltán Demeter’s dry Tokajis and the unusual but
delicious Legli late-harvested Riesling – were superb.
But many of the reds lacked freshness and
definition, and were made in too oxidative a style. It’s
instructive to look at the alcohol levels here. Most were 15% or
even above, which is just too much. The wines tasted as if the
grapes had been picked just a bit too late.
My feeling is that perhaps the focus on
Bordeaux red varieties, the tendency to go for extreme levels of
ripeness, and the slightly oxidative winemaking regimes are not
Clearly, though, these wines are very
popular in Hungary. I tried them without looking up the prices or
background, and when it came to writing them up – at which stage I
checked these details – I was quite shocked to see how expensive
they were. Clearly, they are regarded as great in Hungary.
came away rather disappointed; I’d really wanted to like these
wines, and it would have been far easier to pen a report saying
great things about Hungary’s top wines than the views I’m
writing here. I don’t want to dwell on negatives, and I’m not
suggesting that these are bad wines. It’s just that the potential
for making much better wines from what must be fine terroirs is
evident to me on the basis of this tasting.
Legli Gesteneyés Riesling 2007 Válogalatás, Balatonbolgári
16.5% alcohol. Wonderfully aromatic nose of pear, peach and
apricot fruit, a bit like a Sauternes in character with some
botrytis influence. The palate is pithy, citrussy and apricotty with
some spicy notes, as well as some warmth from the alcohol. It’s
dry and quite fresh with an almost salty character. 92/100 (£21.99)
Demeter Szerelmi Hárslevelű 2008 Tokaji
13.5% alcohol. A dry Tokaji made just from the Hárslevelű
grape; it’s part of a series of six single-vineyard releases from
Zoltán Demeter. Complex nose of lemon, tangerine and apricot, with
some spice. The palate is textured and broad with smooth pear and
apricot fruit, showing fine mineral qualities. Broad and
mouthfilling; a rich wine of great appeal. 91/100 (£34.50)
Demeter Lapis Furmint 2008 Tokaji
14.5% alcohol. Distinctive, waxy, melony nose with some subtle
cabbage notes. The palate has lovely, powerful crystalline fruit
notes, as well as melon and pear. Bold and rich textured, but dry
with a nice mineral edge. Superb stuff, with real personality and
concentration. 93/100 (£29.95)
Takler Reserve Syrah 2007 Szekszárd
16% alcohol. From a south facing vineyard, this spends 18 months
in new Hungarian oak barrels of 500 litres each. Very rich, warm,
sweet spicy nose. The palate is lush, ripe and creamy with sweet red
berry fruits. A little jammy, without as much definition as you’d
expect. Far too along the ripeness spectrum for me: I reckon these
grapes should have been picked earlier. 86/100 (£45)
Takler Bikavér Reserve 2006 Szeksárd
14% alcohol. Nice open sweet cherry fruit nose. Nicely aromatic.
The palate is supple and elegant with open, light cherry fruit and
some spicy depth. Finishes quite warm. It’s very ripe but
there’s still some elegance here. 88/100 (£19.99)
Heimann Franciscus 2007 Szekszárd
15% alcohol. Nicely packaged. A blend of two-thirds Sagrantino
with a third Cabernet Franc. A deep colour, with a sweet ripe nose
of spicy-edged berry fruits. Modern and rich. The palate shows lush,
sweet fruit with some bright structure and fresh, grippy tannins.
Modern-styled with very forward, pure fruit, finishing fresh and
savoury. Flirts with over-ripeness but the fresh tannins save it.
Heimann Barbár 2006 Szekszárd
14% alcohol. Sweet ripe berry and plum fruit with a liqueur-like
edge. Lush and a bit salty with a subtle earthiness and some roast
coffee notes. Slightly stewed. 86/100
& Gere Cabernet Franc 2007 Villány
15% alcohol. A joint project with Austrian producer Weninger,
made from 45 year old Cabernet Franc vines. Slightly faded colour.
Spicy, medicinal nose. The palate is ripe and warm with a
distinctive spicy, savoury character. Lacking definition and purity,
and made in an oxidative style. 84/100 (£32)
Gere Solus Merlot 2007 Kopár, Villány
15% alcohol. 16 months ageing in Hungarian oak. Sweet, savoury,
spicy and mineral with some medicinal hints. Ripe and full with a
distinctively savoury, spicy edge. Earthy, too. Odd but nice. 86/100
Gere Kopár Cuvée 2007 Villány
15% alcohol. A blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet
Sauvignon aged for 16 months in new Hungarian and French oak. Very
ripe and modern styled, but quite serious. Lovely raspberry, plum
and blackberry fruit here, backed up by a savoury spiciness and the
tiniest medicinal hint. Quite sophisticated with nice balance
between the fruit sweetness and the savoury, tarry, mineral notes.
The tannic structure and fresh acidity suggest that this might age.
Bordeaux meets Tuscany. 91/100 (£36)
Tiffán Cuvée Carissmae 2007 Villány
15% alcohol. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
Fresh, quite pure plum and blackberry fruit with a strongly savoury,
tannic edge and good acidity. Ripe, with clean almost lush fruit,
nicely countered by savoury freshness. Grippy tannins on the finish.
Tiffán Grande Selection 2006 Villány
15% alcohol. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and
Merlot. Stewed and slightly baked, made in an oxidative style with
some spice and earth notes, as well as grippy tannins and some
vanilla. Not pleasurable. 83/100 (£55)
Tokaji: amazing sweet wines from Hungary
in Hungary, a visit in 2004
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