Monday, November 1, 2010

Austro-Hungarian tasting and the wines from Somló, Hungary

At the recent Austro-Hungarian tasting held in London at the residence of the Austrian Ambassador, three wines from the Somló wine region of Hungary were featured: Somló Abbey Winery Olaszrizling 2009: Domaine Kreinbacher Kőkonyha 2008; and Hóllovar Estate Hárslevelű 2009. In this post I examine both the region and the wines presented at the tasting.

The Somló wine region is, at 900 hectares, one of the smallest wine regions in Hungary. The region has historically been structured around the land on the slopes of the extinct volcano Somló-hegy but has recently been extended to incorporate the land and vines on two nearby hills. The region’s climate is continental and diverse with hot and humid summers, dry autumns, rainy springs and cold winters. The soil is basalt, clay and sand with increasing percentages of basalt as elevation is increased.

The wines from Somló are exclusively white and are made from Hárslevelű, Furmint, Juhfark (the most recognized wine from the region), Welschrizling, Traminer, Chardonnay, and Olaszrizling. The wines of the region are acidic and exhibit an earthiness due to the minerals in the soil. These wines require long aging in wooden casks and, given their robustness, have somewhat fallen out of favor.

Somló Abbey Winery Olaszrizling 2009

Somló Abbey’s 3-hectare vineyard is home to 15,000 vines of all allowed varietals and yields an average of 5,000 bottles annually. The vineyard is located on basalt-covered soil at 230 meters above sea level. The winery pursues low yields and practices minimal intervention in both the viticultural and vinicultural aspects of winemaking. The grapes are hand-harvested and only free-run juice is used in the wines. The wine is fermented in 500 liter used Hungarian oak barrels. No artificial yeasts are used during the fermentation process.

This particular vintage is 100% Olaszrizling and is 13.5% alcohol by volume. The wine was medium pale yellow in color and had notes of apple and other tropical fruits such as banana and papaya. A definite earthiness on the palate. 5g/l of residual sugar.

Domaine Kreinbacher Kőkonyha 2008

This winery was established in 2002 and has 33 hectares of vines. Annual production from this organically farmed vineyard is 9000 cases annually. The wines are fermented and aged in Hungarian oak barrels of between 500 and 2000 liters in volume. This is the only winery in the region that makes blended wine and this particular entry is made from equal parts Furmint, Hárslevelű, and Olaszrizling. The soil in the vineyards is basalt and the Olaszrizling vines are planted on southeast-facing slopes, the Furmint vines on south-facing slopes and the Hárslevelű vines on southwest-facing slopes. All of the varietals are planted between 250 and 280 meters above sea level.

The wine registers at 14% alcohol by volume. It is pale yellow in color and has a slight florality. It is light-bodied with a lot of acidity. It has a greenish/bitter note on the palate and intense minerality. A long finish.

Hóllovar Estate Hárslevelű 2009

This estate is comprised of a single 4-hectare, south/southeast-facing plot located at the foot of the basalt strips on Somló Hill. The estate name derives from the protected birds’ nests hidden among the basalt rocks. Varietals planted on the plot include Furmint, Olaszrizling, Hárslevelű, Juhfark, and Sauvignon Blanc. The vineyard sits between 215 and 270 meters above sea level.

At 14%, the wine is high in alcohol but exhibits good balance. The wine is light bodied with notes of pine and exotic fruits.

No comments:

Post a Comment