luni, 20 septembrie 2010

Enira 2006, Bessa Valley

Couple of months ago I had the chance to taste a Bulgarian wine for the first time: Enira Reserva 2006. I received it as a gift from Andreea Duminicioiu after a visit at Origine whine shop in Cluj. Several weeks after this first visit I'm back in Cluj and this time I bought another wine from Origine: Enira 2006 from Bessa Valley.

A rainy Saturday night and a fresh-out-of-the-oven lasagna tray were argument enough for opening Enira 2006. Created by French winemaker Marc Dworkin, Enira 2006 is a classic bordolese blend: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Petit Verdot. After half an hour of aeration, the wine glasses arrived. Ruby colour, tears flowing slowly on the side of the glass betray a generous concentration of alcohol (14.5%). Primary flavours make their appearance: bitter cherries, black forest fruits (blueberries) and then fruit jam flavours take the floor: plums and strawberries are more predominant. It's taste and texture bears the print of the grape varieties that it is obtained of: robust structure, strong tannins and spicy touches, but slightly unbalanced by the alcohol. This imbalance, probably caused by the increasing temperature during aeration, determined me to return to this wine the next day. Served at the proper temperature I noticed new flavours: green pepper and chocolate icing. Also I found it softer an it's tannins less aggressive. The after taste is long and spicy. 

It costs around 12 Euros and it can be found in wine shops like Origine and Crama Noastra in Cluj-Napoca, Enoteca de Savoya in Timisoara, but also in Real hypermarkets.

vineri, 3 septembrie 2010

Wiener Gemischter Satz Classic 2009, Rotes Haus

The wine of August's last Sunday came from the Austrian capital, Vienna. It was a Wiener Gemischter Satz produced by Rotes Haus. This wine is produced from grapes coming from the best vineyards of Vienna: Nussberg.

Since Wiener Gemischter Satz wines are by definition the wine's expression of terroir, I think it's necessary to write a few words about the area they come from. The soil in Nussberg vineyard is characterized by layers of flysch, over which came layers of clay and gravel, all with a high content of lime. In terms of climate, Nussberg enjoys a privileged position influenced by the Danube, the Vienna
Woods and Pannonian climate. Danube and the Viennese woods maintain low temperature during the night and the Pannonian climate provides warmth and low humidity over the summer, and most importantly in autumn, before the harvesting.

Wiener Gemischter Satz Classic 2009

Rotes Haus cellars are led by Hans Schmid, who is part of a new generation of wine producers in Vienna. The first Rotes Haus wine was bottled in 2003. From the very beginning Grüner Veltliner was promoted as well as the traditional Viennese style of wine making, where Wiener Gemischter Satz is the main example. Wines produced by Rotes Haus are only obtained from grapes picked from vines planted in Nussberg. Owner's desire being to concentrate and deliver as much of Nussberg's terroir as possible.

Wiener Gemischter Satz 2009 Classic is made from four white grapes: Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Neuburger and Traminer. In the glass the wine is clear, has hay colour, with greenish reflections and a slight fizz. The nose is complex - flavours ranging from newly mown hay to fruit flavours: lemon, green apple and melon. I remembered for a few moments Cramposie Selectionata from Agricola Stirbey or
Aligote from Gramma / Casa Olteanu. Once tasted, it reveals the true face of the terroir: minerality. This feature of Nussberg is doubled by a pleasant acidity, very well integrated, and a salty taste that reminds me of the sea breeze. The after taste is medium and that nice mineral taste persists in your mouth for a while. I didn't pair it with some kind of food, but if I did I would have chosen fish baked in salt.

For those who visit Vienna in the summer or autumn, when the hot wind that blows from the Pannonian plains creates that "Indian summer", Wiener Gemischter Satz Classic 2009 from Rotes Haus is a very good choice. The price is around 8-9 Euros.

marți, 31 august 2010

Vienna in a glass of wine: Wiener Gemischter Satz

I became interested in the Austrian, but especially Viennese, wines a few weeks ago, when my wife arrived in the capital city of Austria and she asked me what kind of wine she should buy me. As I didn't know many Austrian wines, I only heard of Gruner Veltiner, I started documenting about the traditional varieties and the Austrian classification system. So I discovered Wiener Gemischter Satz.

What is Wiener Gemischter Satz? A Viennese wine lover would respond that it is Vienna's most honest, direct and traditional expression of terroir. And he or she could not be more right.

Above all, Gemischter Satz is a traditional Viennese style of wine making, the name itself refers to how the wine is produced. Gemischter Satz, word by word, means Mixed Style. It refers to a field blend, where several varieties of grapes are planted, harvested and pressed together. This traditional style of wine is typical for small vineyards from the country side. There isn't a grape variety that predominates, but several, planted and gathered together all at once, usually on the same day. This is why Wiener Gemischter Satz has in componence grapes that where in different stages of development. That's why a Wiener Gemischter Satz prevails terroir's expression and not so much the characteristics of a particular grape variety.

How many varieties are part of a Wiener Gemischter Satz? Three to twenty! Most wine makers do not specify on the label the varieties of grapes from which they obtained the wine. And if they do, the proportions of that Gemischter Satz are not disclosed. Probably not even the winemakers themselves know exactly. This is why Wiener Gemischter Satz is not an appellation of controlled origin wine. The only particularity that I noticed is that only white wines are being used: Neuburger, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Traminer etc.

Traditionally, Wiener Gemischter Satz wines are served in Heuriger, the traditional Viennese wine-tavern. In 1960, after the introduction of the classification system with appellation of controlled origin, Vienna wine makers began to abandon this traditional way of producing wine. Wiener Gemischter Satz wines returned in the early 2000 when several producers started to release wines under the name Wiener Gemischter Satz. To sustain this tradition, four wine producers in Vienna (Fritz Wieninger, Richard Zahel, Michael Edlmoser and Rainer Christ) joined together and formed the group Wien Wein. In an attempt to establish a quality standard for such traditional wines, the Wien Wein group proposed several rules that must met in order to talk about a genuine Wiener Gemischter Satz.

marți, 24 august 2010

Graševina 2007, Iločki Podrumi

This Sunday's wine was given to me by a friend on his return from Croatia, where he spent his vacation. Not being a connoisseur of Croatian language, or Slavic languages for that matter, the only thing that I understood from the label is that the wine comes from a cellar called Iločki Podrumi. And that's only because in my grandparents' village, at the foot of Crodu Moma Mountains, cellars are called podrom.

Just a brief introduction. Cellar Iločki Podrumi, is located in Ilok, a town from Srijem wine region, located in Eastern Croatia near the Serbian border. Winemaking tradition in this region dates from the time of the Illyrians, but those who started to exploit the vineyards to its real potential were the Romans. Producers from Iločki Podrumi are very proud to be the followers of such an old tradition. Emperor Probus is also mentioned on the label of the wine bottle, as the first promoter of wine-making in this area. After the migrations and invasion of Ottoman Empire in the Middle Ages, Ilok ended up in the property of an Italian origin family, Odeschalchi. They continued the tradition of wine-making by planting foreign varieties of vines and starting to bottle the wine. In the late nineteenth century they made it to the British Royal Family’s table. Currently, the producing company, Iločki Podrumi, is one of the largest wine producers in Croatia, bottling annually over four million litters of wine. Their list includes mainly white wines: Traminer, Graševina, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Rhine Riesling.

Graševina is the Croatian name of the grapes also found in Romanian viticulture under the name of Italian Riesling. The Croatian name derives from "grasak" meaning "green peas", a reference to the grape berries in early stages of development.

The bottle of wine that I received as a present is a premium class wine produced by Iločki Podrumi, so I expected it to be a little more expressive then what I met in Graševina's Romanian brother, Italian Riesling. The colour is golden yellow with greenish hues and a very fine sparkling, sign that the wine has some acidity. The first nose reveals fresh, herbal aromas. The smell of the wine goes from lime tree blossoms to elder, but the glass also reveals green apples, lemons, pears, followed by melon and a very smooth woody flavour at the end. It’s lively, you can feel a bit of acidity and the aftertaste is slightly bitter.

Graševina 2007, Iločki Podrumi

This wine is not some kind of a revelation, but you cannot have very big expectations from an Italian Riesling. I recommend this wine more as companion for food, mainly because of the acidity. I paired it up with a portion of grilled chicken legs, potatoes baked in fire and covered with slices of Penteleu cheese.

vineri, 20 august 2010

Bor, Mámor... Bénye - Erdőbénye 2010

Saturday morning, when we started off, we did not think we'll get to the heart of the most famous Hungarian wine region - Tokaj. We initially wanted to go to Debrecen, where a Wine Carneval was going on (Debreceni Borkarnevál 2010). But things didn't go according to our plans, because we arrived too early.

We arrived in the area of Nagy Erdo park in Debrecen around noon and most of the 25 wine producers listed on the event program were not present yet. The musical program was about to begin only at 15.00, the "slambuc" cooking contest registrations just started and some of the registered participants were still struggling with making an open fire. What do we do? "Let's go to Erdőbénye. It's somewhere around” says one of the friends that we where with. „It's a village with many wine cellars. Let's go there and then come back in the afternoon to Debrecen." says our friend who was also the one to drive. Erdőbénye is actually 104 km away from Debrecen, but we were to discover that as we passed Nyireghyhaza and the GPS indicated that we still had some kilometres ahead of us.

Finally we get to Erdőbénye. When entering the village Hungarian police stops all cars to pass out the schedule with the activities of the day at the "Bor Mamor Benye" festival. Also they gave us directions on how to get to the parking spaces. The village is located 22.5 km away from Tokaj, has about 1,600 inhabitants and 10 wineries, representing a same number of wine producers. They say here, in Erdőbénye, is the place where aszú fortifying method was first discovered and implemented. This method allows the grapes to be attacked by the noble botrytis mould. At the first crossroad of the village two youngsters give out festival leaflets and sell the official tasting glasses. A glass costs 800 forints (about 3 Euros), but tastings at wineries have to be paid separately. On the 7 of August the program included several activities: from jazz concerts, children's programs, exhibitions and visits to a sheep farm in the area. The first producer that we visited was Homonna. The yard is big stir, all kinds of goodies on the grill, people standing in line for coffee or lemonade. In the bar, improvised in on of the houses rooms, you could not enter because of the crowd. All this nice atmosphere was completed by the jazz music mixed live by a DJ. Atilla Homonna is a small producer who owns less than 5 hectares of vineyards and they make a maximum of 5000 bottles every year. A bottle of 2007 Furmint produced by Homonna gets somewhere around 4,000 forints (about 14 Euros).

Homonna 1

Homonna 2

Homonna 3

Two streets away we find Bardon. Here things are somewhat arranged: chairs, tables and a small gazebo under which several instruments are housed. Food on site was provided by Madi Kuria of Mad, a town in the near vicinity. In one room of the house they are serving 100 ml of an extra limited edition wine produced by H. Bardon Cellars. We tasted a Furmint "700" from 2007, dry, made from grapes of vines that are over 100 years old. Complex nose: pear, melon and citrus, robust body with well integrated acidity and a long after taste. It is bottled in half a litre recipients and it cost 3,500 forints (13 Euros). I enjoyed it together with the Dixie concert of the Hot Jazz Band.

Bardon 1

Bardon 2

Bardon 3

Bardon 4

Bardon 5

Across the road, we arrive at Vivamus - the largest producer of the village. As you enter their cellar you immediately realise that they produce more then just a few thousand bottles. Their cellar is 3.5 km long and it goes on three levels. This cellar is part of a larger network connected together and spread under the entire village and has a total length of 6 km. Vivamus also gives the opportunity to other producers to use the cellars for ageing their wines.

Our next stop after Vivamus is Karádi-Berger / Romkocsma. The courtyard was very crowded with children and their parents listening to stories played on guitar by a Hungarian folk singer. Inside you can buy old vinyls with classical music, admire the paintings exhibition signed László feLugossy and order various kinds of food.

On the streets a lot of people with wine glasses in their hand, telling stories, asking questions or making pictures. Bacchanalian festival atmosphere you could say, yet nobody gets drunk. Abraham is the next producer where we arrived. At that moment Gyüdi Gall and Anna Eszter were passionately singing some Hungarian folk songs. We don't have the patience to wait for El Tactico Grande to set their instruments and we go next door to see what's going on there. Illés cellar has two floors. Some of the corridors where once communicating with Vivamus' cellars. We taste the Illés 2007 Furmint and we agree that Bardon is a hit. The prices of the two wines also state the difference.

Gáll Anna, Gyüdi Eszter

After a long walk on the surrounding hills to the sheep farm, we returned to the village where we had a lovely dinner in the courtyard of Bardon: roasted mangalica pork chops and potatoes baked on fire. We also caught the second concert: Whiteful Jazz Quartet and we started wondering whether we could organize a Sunday afternoon jam-session in our grandparents' courtyard in the country side. It was already past 10 PM and we thought it would be wise to leave, specially since we were 180 kilometres away from home.

We say farewell to Erdőbénye and promise that come back next year to enjoy the Euphoria of Wine at Benye (this would be the translation for "Bor Mamor Benye").

Photos by Geta Bocse.