Last night, I had a delicious terroir-driven wine from Hungary. Hungary is mostly known for their dessert wine Tokaji Aszu, but they produce some excellent dry and off-dry wines and they are really ramping up the quality. There is a lot of buzz around the 2009 vintage in France, but 2009 will be a stellar vintage for Hungarian whites as well.
These wines are mostly made from a grape called Furmint. Furmint features flavors of honey, baking spice, nectarine, and lime. I took home the 2006 Demi-Sec from Királyudvar, which wasn’t as sweet as I thought it would be. It was perfect with the Mexican-style plate I had, full of meat, beans and rice. The texture was real silky. My first inclination was to think the body was thin, but that wasn’t true, it was just so, well, silky.
So much of the food we eat here in California is spicy. When my family barbecues steak, they add Montreal steak seasoning, which has red pepper in the blend. We also eat a lot of Mexican and Chinese. White wines with a bit of sweetness pair magically with these foods, maybe with exception of the steak, but hey, to each his own. Many people are completely against wine with any sweetness to it. I’m not sure where that comes from, but it is definitely a social thing to some degree. Some people may think they’ll be looked down upon for drinking a German Riesling, most sommeliers love the sweeter style.
I am absolutely in love with Hungarian wine as well as German Riesling. I implore our readers to try pairing one of these wines with spicy food. After all, do we drink our iced tea with no sugar? Our lemonade with no sugar? Our coca-cola with no sugar? Feel free to pop by and gab with me about these wonderful styles. I can also be emailed about my favorites at Brently@whwc.com.
It started at about 11:30 AM on Sunday morning. At the generosity of a close friend, I caught a red eye for one night and two days of drinking wine and running around sultry, sticky New York City. The air in July clings to you like a sweater.
If only every day in Manhattan were Sunday morning! Empty streets give the feeling that the city belongs to you, not the reverse. After a coffee at Cafe Select, I tapped on a friend’s door on St. Marks and 1st. Crackly buzzer, indecipherable words, perspiration dripping down the back of my knees on the 5 floor walk up. He had prepared a feast. Home made jalapeno poppers, baked eggs with Irish Cheddar, roasted potatoes, imported truffle Dijon, homemade Romesco sauce, and French press coffee from freshly ground beans. The Pièce de Resistance: Breakfast Riesling. 2007 Prager Klaus Smaragd. Austria at its fullest, richest, and fattest. Pure delight.
We hit the streets. In Thompson Square Park we looked at hipbones and forearms, New Yorkers scantily clad. At Goat Town we polished off a glass of Olga Raffault Chinon Rosé, darker, like a cerasuolo, and jalapeno-y. So cold and quenching against the heat. Then to a big competitor retailer for market research. But we ended up buying the Andrea Calek ‘Blonde’ – funky, spritzy, Chardonnay & Viognier blend from the Ardèche. Back at the flat we sacked out with AC and the cidery Blonde watching Women’s World Cup final till another friend came through to sweep me back out along the streets.
Down to another retailer in the South Street Seaport where a friend was giving out free shots of Aquavit. After 2 anisy blasts to the gullet, I bought the Reverdy Sancerre Rosé 2010 and the Domaine de Bagnol Cassis Rosé 2010 as gifts (which would eventually get opened by me, in intoxication). In summer in New York, it’s too hot to drink anything but rosé and clean white. Well…maybe not. We drifted to The Randolph to see a friend bartending. He hugged me, dipped me, and poured an icy cucumber mint gimlet down my throat. Then a White Port & soda. Other friends arrived. It came together out of nowhere. It’s easy to make a call, reluctantly ditch your AC, and head out into the streets. We sat at café tables on the sidewalk on smelly Broome Street and smoked.
Back at the loft on Wooster Street we tried to recover ourselves for a long dinner at L’Artusi. But the rosés got opened anyhow. Once we arrived at the spot on W. 10th street, a friend who works there poured us glasses of the Lini 910 Lambrusco Bianco , which we had with scallop crudo and a salad of anchovy and vinegary chicories. With the La Crotta di Vegneron Pinot Noir Bianco Vallee d’Aoste came delicate Hamachi tartare, then spaghetti with parmesan and green chilis and crispy sweetbreads with sunchokes. We stumbled sated back out onto the sweaty streets.
Sleep? Not much. The second day was a lot of walking. 60 blocks to be exact, after half a hangover cheeseburger at Burger and Barrel on Houston St. And… I missed my flight back to LA. Sacked out on the couch back at the loft dripping in perspiration, I woke every hour or so, until finally my friends got home from the bar around 4:30 AM. My (new) flight was at 7 AM so the timing was perfect. As I was presented with a glass of breakfast rosé, a Vin de Pays de Mediterranée called ‘Vrac’, it dawned on me that though it was early morning for me, it was still last night for them. I sipped the icy pink juice, and made myself a ham sandwich.
Recently, I had the opportunity to go to Austria Uncorked, an Austrian wine tasting at the SLS Beverly Hills Hotel. This event was very well put together, with literally hundreds of wines available for tasting. The experience was eye-opening for me; there were so many different styles of Gruner Veltliner. Also, the Rieslings from Austria are quite different from their German counterparts. After sampling most of the whites we carry in the store, I was able to branch out and taste some delicious reds and dessert wines that pretty much rocked my world.
There were many standouts among the Gruners and Rieslings. Some of my favorites were definitely from Nikolaihof. These wines are full of complexity and many see extended aging on the lees, which gives them a full mouthfeel. Nikolaihof has been a wine estate for over 2000 years and has been biodynamic since 2004. We carry their 2007 Riesling from the Wachau region. This wine is fermented almost to dryness and has rich flavors of lime and nectarine, with stone and subtle yeasty aromas. I also became a big fan of Schloss Gobelsburg and their fabulous line of Gruner Veltliner. They have created a delicious reserve Gruner from the Kamptal region. This wine has great intensity of fruit and crisp minerality; it’s a very balanced package, dying to be paired with anything that contains salty bacon. Gruner is also one of the few wines that handles asparagus and artichokes and does a good job of it.
Some Austrian grapes that are even less spoken of than Gruner are the three main red grapes of Austria: Blaufrankisch, St Laurent, and Zweigelt (A cross between the former two grapes). These grapes produce some delicious wines that are extremely food friendly. We carry one such red: Umathum Zweigelt from Burgenland. This wine is delicious: full of spice and everything nice. In the glass, the wine is dark red with aromas of cherries, plum, spice and crushed rock. Filled with terrific acidity, fruit, and minerality, these wines pair extremely well with chicken, pork, tender beef, and other hearty dishes.
If you are still hungry to explore Austrian whites, I have a suggestion for you. One white grape stood out to me because it was fairly different than the lean Gruners and Rieslings I was tasting. Roter Veltliner, a pink skinned grape that is thought to be the grandparent of Gruner Veltliner, has great body and fruit. On the nose, Roter smells sweet. This is referred to as having an aroma of sucrosity, yet yields none of these foretellings in the wine itself. This makes the wine sly and delicious, similar to Torrontes from Argentina. We carry one Roter Veltliner: Mantlerhof 2007 Roter Veltliner from Reisenthal.
I hope my enthusiasm for Austria and and this marvelous tasting excites you as well. Feel free to come in and talk to me more about these great wines. You can also email me if you have any questions: email@example.com