The New Face of Hungary
with Pannon Bormíves Céh
at Simply Heathcotes, Manchester
Monday 19th March 2007
presented by Martin Ward and Krisztina Andrassy together with winemakers Tibor Gál (Gál Tibor Pincészet Winery), Zoltán Heimann (Heimann Winery), Zsolt Liptai (Pannonhalmi Borház) and Zoltán Kovács (Disznókő Winery)

The twentieth century was not kind to Hungarian winemaking: on the back of phylloxera came two world wars and forty years of communism.  Hungary has made good progress since the fall of communism

Hungary has over 85,000 hectares under vines in 22 wine regions, with 93 different varieties with more than 10 hectares of plantings: 75% of Hungary’s plantings are white grapes.  Post-communism, the industry is very fragmented with very many, very small producers.


Tutored Tasting & Seminar
with Dr Caroline Gilby MW

1999 Bock Cuvée Barrique, Villany, 13%
From southern Hungary, this is a blend of 65% cabernet sauvignon, 30% cabernet franc and 5% merlot.  It is a very deep garnet colour.  Rather straightforward Bordeaux blend on the nose with some vanilla and plenty of toasty oak and tobacco notes.  Very nice palate: very open, quite mature with a notably mature feel on the finish.  A very pleasant, pleasing wine.  Very Good Indeed.  89/100

2006 Bock Harslevelű
This comes from the hottest part of Hungary on the Croatian border.  A mid golden colour.  The nose is quite gentle with apples, apple pie and some citrus, together with a hint of caramel.  Rather simple on the palate, this is quite full and again with a bit of an apple pie flavour, especially on the finish.  86/100

2006 Tramini Pannonhalmi
The grape here is proper French gewurztraminer grown on soils and in a climate similar to Alsace.  A mid lemon gold.  Heavy, syrupy nose with lots of rose petals and some serious minerality.  This is a fresh, light, notably dry gewurztraminer in the mouth with very good acidity.  Simple but pleasing.  85/100

2005 Ostoros Zweigelt, Eger
This comes from a cooperative winery and spends about a year in oak.  It is a young, dark mulberry colour and there are subtle black fruits on the nose.  A good, simple palate.  This is clean and easy, with soft tannins and a nice fruity after.  Good.  84/100

2004 Gál Pinot Noir
This spends 12-14 months in new Hungarian oak.  It has a light, fairly mature-looking colour.  The nose is a bit strange initially, though further exploration reveals big sous bois notes and a bit of cherry fruit.  Fairly full on the palate, with lots of oaky flavours.  You know it’s pinot noir, but it could do with a bit more varietal character.  Maybe it needs food?  Good.  82/100

2003 Thummerer Bikavér Reserve, Eger
Hungarian winemakers were not allowed to make Bikavér (the old Bull’s Blood) under communism: by law it is a blend of three varieties, though there are four varieties in this, including merlot and kekfrankos.  It has a very deep black plumskins colour.  Deep blackberry, plums and chocolate on the nose: very attractive.  A good open palate, that’s very attractive and with a nice spiciness.  Very good balance and a nice character.  Very Good Indeed.  89/100

2004 Disznókő Late Harvest Furmint
This has 89 g/l of residual sugar and 8g/l of acidity.  It is a bright lemon gold and has a fragrant, honeyed, slightly marmaladey and apricots nose.  Notably sweet on the palate, but with good acidity.  It has some nice, very interesting fruit characters, with apples and sweet oranges.  Some drying acidity on the finish.  Very Good Indeed.  89/100

1999 Disznókő Tokaji 6 puttonyos
1999 was an excellent vintage, possibly the best of the 1990s.  This has 165 g/l of residual sugar and 12.8 g/l of acidity.  It has a very gentle nose – less obvious than the late harvest furmint – with gentle apricot fruit.  It has sweet, fresh golden fruit flavours, but with some very serious acidity.  Very elegant, almost refreshing, were if not for a somewhat lip smacking quality.  Very Good+.  88/100

Lunch Wines

Simply Heathcotes prepared a light, simple lunch, starting with a plate of starters containing a goats’ cheese terrine with candied walnuts, smoked salmon on a wholemeal blini with cucumber crème fraiche, and Woodall’s ham with homemade piccalilli.  Unfortunately the blinis were burnt: the burnt side was down on the plate, presumably in the hope we wouldn’t notice.  Main course was a fillet of turbot with braised oxtail, creamed potatoes and a vermouth and red wine sauce.  Unfortunately the oxtail had been cooked too quickly and left to harden, and equally unfortunately there was a huge quarter of very undercooked fennel also on the plate.  Considering the simplicity of the dishes, the errors were unforgiveable, and such lapses were all the more surprising given that Paul Heathcote was eating with us.  The dessert plate was better handled and comprises some Blacksticks Blue cheese with fruitcake; a dark chocolate terrine with a very nice white chocolate and lime ice cream; and a strawberry and rosewater jelly.

The following wines were served, the first two as aperitifs:

2006 Garamvári Cabernet/Merlot Rosé
A medium pink colour.  Attractive strawberries/raspberries and cream nose.  It has a decent, inoffensive palate, with some sweetness, though it’s a touch hard on the finish.  Pleasant and inoffensive.  84/100

2000 Chateau Vincent Extra Brut
A sparkling wine made from chardonnay and which spent two years on its lees.  It has a crisp, citrussy nose with a bit of lees character.  Clean and crisp on the palate, this has a very pleasant austerity.  Very Good.  88/100

2006 Rajnai Riesling, Pannonhalmi Apatsagi, 12%
Apparently this comes from vines that are still very young.  It has an incredibly minerally nose with some zesty lime notes.  It’s full on the palate with a nice riesling character.  It is bone dry, with very good acidity and a real chalky minerality on the palate.  Great character.  Very Good Indeed.  90/100

2005 Gál Pinot Blanc, 13%
There are crisp apples and melons on the nose.  Very clean palate: nice and crisp with some very interesting flavours.  Super length.  Very Good Indeed.  92/100

2004 Weninger Spern Steiner
This is made from 40 year old kekfrankos vines grown very close to the Austrian border.  The vineyard will be biodynamic from 2006 onwards.  It has a very deep, somewhat youthful character.  Lovely nose with black fruit and mushrooms.  Very nice character on the palate with a lovely balance.  Easy and attractive, with a nice character; and soft-grained tannins are evident on the finish.  Very Good Indeed.  90/100

2004 Heimann Cervaes Cuvée, Szeksard Region, 12.5%
This is a blend of kekfrankos, kadarka, cabernet franc and merlot.  It has a fantastic nose with a real fragrant note, alongside black fruit and an earthy note.  Very good palate – initially very interesting, followed up with a lovely fruit character.  Very elegant, yet with some quite sweet fruit.  Very Good Indeed.  92/100

2004 Weninger & Gere Cabernet Franc, Villany, 14%
This had a stinky nose that took ages to blow off, and the stink never fully went.  This almost has a nebbiolo note to it with some greenness.  Decent palate, though it has a rather weedy feel.  Overall, it lacks character and interest.  Though it works surprisingly well with the fennel, though not with anything else.  81/100

2001 Hétfürtös Tokaji Cuvée, Edes Elet, Arvay, 11.2%
Edes Elet is apparently Hungarian for la dolce vita.  It has an intense, concentrated nose with a perfumed apricot character.  Superbly impressive attack.  An immense balance is immediately evident.  There’s great purity and freshness and a lovely character.  Very Good Indeed/Excellent.  94/100

2000 Hétfürtös Tokaji 6 puttonyos
A remarkably minerally nose with some very creamy caramel notes.  Very direct attack.  It’s not immediately sweet at first, when there’s a great elegance and an orange caramel flavour.  The sweetness comes along later, especially on the finish.  It’s not the most balanced of Tokajis in that respect.  Very Good+.  87/100

Other wines tasted

Native Whites

2006 Szőke Irsai Oliver, Matra, 12%
A very pale straw.  Floral, fragrant nose with a lemony minerality.  Pure and direct palate.  Rather interesting, but it has a hardness to it.  86/100

2006 Ostoros Leányka
An über minerally nose.  Very interesting palate with good depth and nice layers of flavour.  Very minerally after.  Very Good/Very Good Indeed.  88-89/100

2004 Disznókő Late Harvest Furmint
A lovely fragrant nose.  Sweet palate without the acidity of others on show here today.  Quite a caramelly feel on the palate.  84/100

2005 Tornai Somloi Harslevelű, 13%
A very curious nose, redolent of wine and cigars.  A bit odd on the palate too.  Quite austere.  Odd.  82/100

2006 Garamvári Irsai Olivér
A pleasant nose.  Very interesting on the palate.  More off dry than sweet.  A rather interesting wine.  85/100

2000 Disznókő Tokaji 5 puttonyos
A curiously stinky nose.  Nicely balanced palate.  This is a good full Tokaji, but not extra special.  88/100

Red Blends

1999 Bock Cuvée Barrique, Villany, 13%
65% cabernet sauvignon, 30% cabernet franc, 5% merlot.  This has a very perfumed black fruits nose with some violet cream chocolates.  Decent palate.  But overall there’s a bit of a green, under-ripe feel with some very obvious tannins.  83/100

2002 Thummerer, Egri Bikavér, Eger, 13%
A very pleasant nose with elegant black fruits and a touch of coffee.  Rich, velvety palate.  This has a very nice character.  Soft and inviting, though possibly a bit of an international feel.  87/100

2004 Cuvée Phoenix, Weninger & Gere, 13%
A good nose with decent black fruit, but also a rubbery note.  Good open palate: this represents interesting and nice easy drinking.  83/100

2003 Thummerer Bikavér Reserve, Eger, 13.5%
A very attractive nose with complex black fruits, cedar and some licorice.  Lovely palate: it has a nice directness, which definitely does not equate to simplicity in this case: there are layers of flavours ending with a nice chocolatey feel.  Very Good Indeed.  90/100

2005 Ostoros Istar Egri Cuvée, Szaraz, alcohol content not shown
There are rich, ripe black and red fruits on the nose, with a blackberry-crème de mûre note dominant.  The blackberry fruit continues on the palate.  This feels quite direct and just a bit on the simple side, with rather young tannins on the finish.  87/100


2006 Ostoros Egri Kekfrankos Rosé, Egri
A very pale raspberry pink.  Very slight nose with a notable manure-y note.  Nice palate with lots of really good, giving fruit character.  Nice finish.  87/100

2006 Le Sommelier, Kekfrankos Rosé, Villany, Malatinszky Kúria, 12.5%
A very pale salmon pink.  There’s gentle strawberry fruit on the nose with some good minerality.  It has a decent, direct palate with some noticeable acidity.  But there’s also a hardness, which makes it less than entirely appealing.  The acidity is especially noticeable on the finish, when it becomes quite lip-tingling.  81/100

2004 Prestige Kekfrankos, Weninger & Gere, Villany, 13.5%
This has a very meaty nose; slightly stinky/shitty.  Very nice palate: open and expressive, but there’s also a really weedy, nettle-y feel on the palate with some green tannins, which end up giving an impression of a marked raw greenness.  85/100

2005 Weninger Sopron Kekfrankos, 12.5%
From the Spern Steiner vineyard, which apparently has slate soils.  Again, this has a very meaty, shitty, mourvèdre-like nose with blackberry fruit behind.  Simpler than the Gere with less terroir “structure.”  Good, solid, fruity palate with a nice richness and a nice spicing, together with good structure.  This has a sort of Chateauneuf du Pape nose and an Hermitage palate.  Very Good Indeed.  89/100


Tibor Gál and Pannonhalmi are imported by Malux Food & Wine, Hertfordshire.

Chateau Vincent, Garamvári and Gere are imported by Wines of Westhorpe, Yorkshire.

Disznókő is imported by Champagne & Chateaux, London.

Bock, Thummerer, Arvay, Gere, Weninger and Malatinszky are imported by Pannon Wine, Uxbridge.

Szőke is imported by Ten Green Bottles, Dorset.

 (More Hungarian wines tasted here and here)

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Last updated: 8 November 2007