Where do I begin?
Now I know that Hungary is one of the oldest wine producing nations in the world, there is in fact evidence that points to them having mastered wine before the Romans! Crazy stuff! But, when I think of Hungarian wine, all I can think of is the delicious, sticky, unctuous dessert wines beloved of Queen Victoria, and, well since time immemorial! Hungary doesn't conjure images of thirst quenching summertime whites and full bodied fireside reds, until now that is!!!
I was a little unsure of what to expect when Csaba said he could blow the Hungarian wine world right open, but I willingly agreed, and wow, I'm glad I did! I love white wines in particular, so it was white wine that arrived as my mystery bottle.
This particular wine is made and bottled by István Balassa, a man who focuses on the quality of his grapes and the individuality of terroir. In the bottle a pure Hárslevelü (pronounced HARSH-lev-UH-loo), it's colour, pure golden sunset!
My hand written notes on this bottle stretch to a full page but I'll try to break it down for you. On the nose delicate smoke, pineapple rind, roasted hazelnuts, lime zest and daffodils at sunset, it's inviting, complex and oh so intriguing. As you take a sip, there is that gentle smoke again, caramel and nuts with a hint of vanilla. Balassa uses only second barrel oak for his wines ensuring a richness but with a teasingly delicate touch. Then the fruit, crisp tart apples, lime juice and zest, it could almost be a Sauvignon.... But for the florals that follow, apple blossom and elderflower, reminiscent of an English Bacchus wine. Then a salty tang on the lips and gentle white pepper spice, surely not a Gruner Veltliner? The searing acidity throughout is perfectly balanced in the glass, and it's dry! Not a drop of sticky sweetness I, and lots of people, associate with wines from Tokaj!
This is a wine that would test even the most seasoned sommelier, and even if it still stumped them, they would love it! The finish is everlastingly lovely.
So what the hell to pair it with? I first thought Asian crab soup, and yes it'd be ok but not amazing. So I went with sautéed garlic portobello mushrooms, new season asparagus and courgettes on toast, with just a drizzle of homemade pesto. It was a dream pair, the wine stood hand in hand with the Umami of the mushroom, welcomed the asparagus, thyme and chive like an old friend and didn't bat an eyelid at the early season Yorkshire tomato garnish.
If this is my first real foray into the wines of Hungary I can't wait to see what comes next. This wine is a stunning example of what happens when a passionate winemaker embraces the land and its glorious history!
Blog posted by Tori - Follow her on Instagram