Getting Bullish About Hungarian Wine!

At the start of the year, I wrote about some of the wine trends for a brave new year. One trend was exploring wine from areas that are from lesser known yet still traditional such as Croatia, Hungary and Bulgaria and Georgia.

On a trip to Budapest, our friends, Alex and Monica brought us a wonderful gift: a bottle of 2013 Tóth Ferenc Egri Bikavér Superior.

Also known as “Bull’s Blood”, Egri Bikavér is a very special blended red wine. Hand harvested, and individually aged twenty-five months before the initial blend, this wine boasts velvety tannins, plum and violet essences; sweet spice and bright cherry flavors. This 2013 Tóth Ferenc vintage took gold at Mindus Vini 2016, silver at Finger Lakes 2016, and gold at 12th Annual Bayer Wine Competition.

Hungarian folklore chronicles that in 1552, the fortress of Eger was under attack, with those defending it badly outnumbered. For courage, and to strengthen themselves, they drank copious amounts of local red wine, spilling it all over themselves as they guzzled. When they launched their counterattack, their foes saw the men running towards them with red liquid all down their chests ~ they believed the locals had been drinking bull’s blood, and in terror they turned and fled (who wouldn’t?). Hence the name Bull’s Blood has stayed with Hungarian wine ever since.

Like many wines in France, Italy and Spain, Egri Bikavér comes from a geographically protected region of origin. Common to all wine regions, this indicates that the area where grapes are grown has a defining influence on the style, quality and flavor of the wine.

Egri Bikavér is a blend of different base wines. The base wines themselves are aged separately in barrels for a minimum of six months, then blended and bottled where they age for an additional six months.

Grape varieties used:

• Kékfrankos

• Pinot Noir

• Merlot

• Cabernet Franc

• Cabernet Sauvignon

• Kadarka

Kékfrankos (Blaufränkisch) ~ is the Hungarian name for the black grape that produces wine with a spice vibe, adding to the essences of blueberry, black pepper and anise. The tannins are relatively smooth and colors are very deep.

Kardarka ~ The original and once favored varietal for Bull’s Blood, it is being replaced by Kékfrankos (Blau) which ripens early and is very resistant to grey rot. If kept in small quantities, and with careful crop management, it produces fuller, tannic wines with essences of sweet spice and black fruit.

Suggested pairings:

• Ox tongue (um….maybe not)

• Fish with mushrooms, tomato, veal stock reduction

Beef Bourguignon

• Roast lamb with garlic and rosemary

• Goat cheese, mild Brie and Camembert

It’s been said that some of the best things in life are free. And a wonderful gift of wine, especially from friends who’ve visited a distant land, makes that even more true.

Cheers! 🍷

©TheWineStudent, 2018


Fright Night ~ Top 3 wine picks for ‘17 Halloween!

What wine pairs well with… horror?! 
If you’re scared enough, pretty much anything will do. But if you’re a brave undead slayer these three picks for 2017 will give you plenty of treats while waiting for Nosferatu to rise from the catacombs. 

2016 HobNob Wicked Red Blend

Blend of: Grenache, Cab Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir

Tasting Notes:

🎃 full body ~ lo acid, med tannin

🎃 roasted coffee, mocha, toasted hazelnut, hint of orange zest provides a nice little bite on the finish. 


🎃 BBQ, red meat, dark chocolate

👻 Definitely decant! This wine is very young fully release the hounds of flavour, this wine needs time to open up and breathe.


 2016 Black O’Noir Baco Noir Sue Ann Staff Estate Winery

Tasting Notes:

🎃 medium body~ hi acid, lo tannin

🎃 stewed blueberry, tomato jam, a little smoky


🎃 Aged cheddar

🎃 Charred beef, ribs ~ well done meats rather than rare or medium well.

Higher acidity in this wine means a good pairing with rich, meaty tomato sauce over pasta

🎃 Pizza with extra tomato sauce and spicy pepperoni 

👻 Make sure you decant! Often with young wines, they need decanting for around two hours to open the full bouquet and flavours.

 2014 Ravenswood Besieged Red Blend

Blend of: Petit Syrah, Carignan, Zinfandel, Syrah, Alicante Bouschet, Barbera

Tasting Notes:

🎃 full body ~ fine, soft tannin

🎃 blackberry, rich black cherry, baking spice, fruit forward


🎃 Beef, pork,

🎃 Salmon with chipotle chocolate sauce drizzle

👻 A 2014 shouldn’t need as much decanting but to bring out the full expression of these rich varietals, using a good aerator (if you don’t have time to fully decant) is a great idea. 

Don’t forget the Menagerie pourers!

Have a safe and happy Halloween! 😈🍷


I Want Candy! 

It’s too damn hot for Malbec Monday. After breaking a sweat from the minute I started out today, I wasn’t keen on drinking something that would make me ferment any more. So I opted to try a blend that’s not only new to me but it’s chilled! Even better. 

I won this 2015 Pillitteri Gerwürztraminer | Riesling at a charity golf tournament his past weekend and today, nestled there, chilling in my fridge, it looked so sweet it made my mouth water. 

Normally, I’m not a fan of really sweet wine, and I thought the addition of Riesling might tip the scales from medium dry to cloying. But this wine surprised me with a delicate hint of candied rose on the nose, and subtle flavours of orange blossom and white stone fruit (peach) on the palate. This is a light to medium body wine with very refreshing acidity. All of the flavours were nicely balanced, and it would pair nicely with slightly spicy pork and grilled strawberries. Yum!

Gerwürztraminer is a variety that typically produces beautifully perfumed whites and can range from dry, off dry and fuller bodied, high alcohol and lower acidity. In combination with Riesling’s higher acidity, this wine might be able to be aged a little longer, developing lush honey and nut aromas. 

On a scorcher like today,  it had everything I desire; setting the summer sun on fire. 😉


Just Another Malbec Monday! 🍷

It’s the start of the week and a little motivation is needed. So I’ve added a new feature to The Wine Student: Malbec Mondays. It’s my way to help you ease back into that work week.

For this inaugural post, I chose a 2013 Elqui Wines Malbec blend. While Argentina is most noted  for its beautiful Malbec, the Elqui Valley in Chile produces  wonderful offerings that are fruit forward, earthy,  while retaining a pleasing silky mouthfeel. With 52% Syrah, and 37% Carménère and 11% Malbec this wine is a multi-faceted intro to some intriguing Chilean wine. It pairs well with sweet, spicy and barbeque dishes. Not a bad way to begin a week, eh?

So you may not be stoked by having to be back to work. That’s ok. The real fun can begin when you sign out for the day, get home and slip into something more comfortable.

And after a few sips, you’ll be glad it’s just another Malbec Monday. 😉


©TheWineStudent, 2017

Happy Australia Day!🇦🇺


G’Day M8’s!

I’m sure any one from Australia who reads that will be about as happy as a Canadian who hears, “EH???” or “oot an aboot”. But since it is #AustraliaDay, I am here to celebrate and enjoy a blend I found while out and about hunting for an Aussie wine. The 2011 Schild Estate Old Bush Vine GMS (Grenache, Mourvèdre, Shiraz) was a vintage I wasn’t familiar with, but the Aussie spirit is one of adventure so I scooped it up.

But first a little background one of the grapes and the growing region of Barossa. Most of you are pretty familiar with Shiraz and I’ve written about Grenache in a previous post, so I’ll focus today’s study hall on Mourvèdre grape, and what is an old bush vine. But please be careful if you Google ‘old bush’. In fact, I’ll save you the trouble, don’t Google it at all. Trust me.

The Mourvèdre grape is a tough little contender, and some of the oldest vines in the world are located down under in Australia. Thick-skinned and drought tolerant, it can do very well in hot growing regions and ripens late in the growing season. That makes it a perfect grape for the Barossa appellation (growing region) of South Australia. Barossa is one of six wine producing zones, with two specific regions: the Barossa Valley and the Eden Valley. The Barossa Valley has moderate elevated areas with flat valley floors that succumb to very hot summers with temperatures hitting over 95F (30C). Rainfall is modest and with sparse natural water in the soil, irrigation is critical, even though many varietals can sustain and produce amazingly complex wines in drought conditions. While its main varietal is Shiraz, Barossa is home to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Semillion and Voignier. Grenache and Mourvèdre thrive and blend well with Shiraz. If you’ve enjoyed Châteneuf De Pape, you’ve enjoyed this blend.

Barossa old vines are protected under the Barossa Old Vine Charter, instituted to register vineyards by age, ensuring that older, beautifully gnarled vines are preserved, retained and protected from being destroyed.

  • Barossa Old Vine ~ => 35 years. The root structure and trunk thickness are very well established, encouraging increased character and diversity of flavor.
  • Barossa Survivor Vine ~ => 70 yrs. These vines have weathered very tough storms and are a tribute to the growers and winemakers who prize structure and quality of old vines.
  • Barossa Centenarian Vine ~ => 100 years. These vines are resistant to phylloxera, allowing vines to mature into their stunning, gnarled sculpture. They have a lower yield but intense flavor,and are cultivated using dry farming techniques.
  • Barossa Ancestor Vine ~ => 125+ years. This is the great, great grandaddy of them all. These vines have been standing loud and proud and are a living tribute to Barossa’s earliest European settlers. The old stocks are the buttress of this wine region, and are some of the oldest producing vines in the world, are dry grown, have low yield but very high intensity in flavor.

What’s an old bush, you ask? It’s any parcel of land in Australia that’s undeveloped or close to the forest or desert.

So how did this wine taste? The nose had a lovely, bright floral vibe with notes of violet. It had a medium mouthfeel and tasted of plum, blackberry compote, rich, Luxardo maraschino cherry, with hints of leather and tobacco on the finish.

Some wines tend to need to sit a while to get their groove on, this one seemed more old world in style; the first sip tasted as good as the last.

Proof positive that things really do get better with age.


©TheWineStudent, 2017

What I Did This Summer Part 2: Redemption, a Star Turn and a Little French Kiss 💋

Jordan Winery and Vineyard

After a busy few weeks of getting my daughter moved and relatively settled in at college, I’m back to my studies. Here’s the second half of my ‘what I did this summer’ report.

The second day of our excellent wine adventure took Hubby Doug and I to three vastly different wineries. One had a home-spun vibe, one had a very cinematic feel and the last took us back in time to a beautiful french chateau.

Alexander Valley Vineyard (AVV) ~ In 1961, Harry and Maggie Wetzel purchased the homestead of Cyrus Alexander (the valley’s namesake). In 1963, they planted their first grapes, and In 1968, with perseverance and resolve, their first Cabernet was bottled and a lifetime love of winemaking was born. Winemaker Kevin Hall along with three generations of the Wetzel family are continuing the family legacy of winemaking and farming.

The winery has a cosy tasting room, and an underground cave where we learned about how wines are barrel aged. Very cool (literally). 🙂
When we arrived at AVV, it was just after they’d opened for the day. And while it seemed a bit early to sample, in the name of research we summoned the ‘five-o’clock-somewhere’ rule and tried a couple of small samples. Our two favorite were the 2013 Redemption Zinfandel and the 2012 Cyrus. Both were beautifully nuanced, yet full-bodied.

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Francis Ford Coppola ~ Driving through the archway gave us the feel of what it must have been like to drive on to a movie lot (without the guard asking if you’re ‘on the list’). Coppola winery was one of the most unique I’ve experienced. It had a img_5614picturesque pool area with cabine where you can spend the day with your family. Most water areas at wineries are reservoirs, overflow basins or decorative ponds that they always kick me out of. Bocce courts and lazy hammocks overlooking the valley give a chill vibe that invite you to grab a glass and relax.

Inside the winery is the main tasting room and movie museum with select memorabilia from several Coppola classics including Apocalypse Now, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and the giant neon martini glass from One From The Heart. Our tasting experience was the Sonoma Inclusive at the main tasting bar. Our pick of the flight was the 2012 Director’s Cut Cinema blend of Cab Sauv, Zin, Petit Syrah and Syrah, and the 2012 1Mille Cab Franc.

One of the coolest wine tasting experiences that I’d love to return for is Tasting in the Dark. Small groups are led to the Coppola tasting labs, then blindfolded and led through a variety of sensory appreciation activities designed to fine tune the senses. Hoby Wedler, a UC Davis graduate, who is himself without sight, leads each group to the discovery of flavor and essence; allowing other senses to become stronger in the absence of sight. As we know when one sense is gone, others take over, and this experience would be amazing to help one begin sharpening their palate.

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Jordan Vineyard and Winery ~ our final stop of the day took us up a winding road to another world. This by appointment only winery made me think a little of Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon – beautiful, elegant and very regal.

When Jordan was established in 1972, the choice was deliberate to focus on creating only singular varietals, but doing them very well. Their Cab Sauv is produced from the Alexander Valley, and Chardonnay exclusively from the Russian River Valley. The philosophy being that by focussing on singular wines, a better continuity of style will be achieved, and a consistent realization of balance between fruit, acidity, tannin, and alcohol. Each vintage you open will generally have the same qualities time after time.

We chose the Library Tasting, a one hour tasting. The Chardonnay tasting was paired with an Ahi Poke with Quinoa and Heirloom Tomatoes. Usually I’m not into raw tuna but this was a lovely combination that beautifully enhanced the subtle notes of the wine.

On to the private tasting room where we sampled three older vintage Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a variety of artisan cheeses and a Jordan Estate Olive Oil.

Our pick? If you guessed Cab Sauv, grab yourself a glass of wine because you are very smart! Our vintage was the 2007~ something very special indeed.

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It was an amazing day of touring and tasting and I hope one day I’ll be lucky enough to go back.


©TheWineStudent, 2016

Red, white and… not blue :D

On this particularly beautiful Independence Day weekend, HubbyDoug and I decided to try something new. It’s a chill weekend, which we purposely decided to keep relaxed; no superbig plans, just a come-what-may vibe.

To celebrate, we found a 2013 Ghost Pines Red Winemaker’s Blend. Combining Zinfandel, Cab Sauv, Syrah, Merlot, Petit Syrah, and Primitivo, this wine was so complex and flavorful, even from the first  waft of the bouquet. Hints of lush blackberry jam on the nose, with rich blueberry compote and a cinnamon finish on the palate made this wine one of the most intriguing sips I’ve experienced in a very long time.

With a bottle this nice, we didn’t need fireworks.

I hope you all have a safe and happy July 4th!