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

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Top Three Valentine’s Themed Wines!

It’s the weekend before the official love day, and whether you’re just celebrating you or love divine with your partner, thoughts ultimately turn to… wine!

Much like at Halloween, I noticed many labels this year sporting a serious Valentine’s vibe.

Here are three that caught my eye.

 

 

2014 Queen of Hearts Pinot Noir

Young and fruity, this Pinot has flavors of:

• Red fruit such as: strawberry, cherry and raspberry

• Cola- yes! Like the soft drink, this wine has that bright, effervescent mouthfeel (sans bubbles) that you find in cola. It made this almost refreshing in a way.

• Silky tannins

It pairs well with:

• Pullled pork, seared salmon/tuna

Roasted chicken or duck

• Cherry flan

LO-VE Wines Garnacha

Originating in Spain, but imported and bottled in Napa, this is a 95% Grenach, 5%Tempranillo. What makes this wine unique:

  • Essences of lavender
  • Strawberry, raspberry
  • Liquorice with a hint of leather

It pairs nicely with:

  • Rich, lusty stews featuring pork or lamb
  • British pub classics such as shepherds pie, bangers and mash
  • Favorite winter go-to’s like mac and cheese

2016 Finca Pasion MiAmor Malbec Ihaven’t profiled this on my Malbec Monday posts so this was nice to find! As with most Malbecs, this features darker fruit characters with some spice and:

• Essences of plum, and a little strawberry

• Blackberry

• Clove and pepper for a little caliente

It’s dinner companions include:

• Beef or venison

• Chili con carne, fajitas, beef burritos

• Pasta bolognese or with meatballs

There are many great choices out there to help set the mood but remember this: If you can’t be with the wine you love, love the wine you’re with!

Have a fun and safe Valentine’s Day! ❤️🍷❤️

©TheWine Student, 2018

Malbec Monday!

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It’s been a while for Malbec Mondays! But with it being a particularly snowy Monday here in the Cleve, I thought I’d check my cellar and to my surprise discovered a pristine 2012 Peninsula Ridge McNally Vineyards Proprietor’s Reserve Malbec. Most Malbec I’ve enjoyed is cultivated within the warmer climates of Mendoza, Argentina.  So I was surprised to find that a more northern winery was including this varietal in its reprtoire.

Peninsula Ridge is located in Southern Ontario, specifically the Niagara escarpment, snuggled within what’s known as the Beamsville Bench region. The Beamsville Bench is a somewhat small but excellent appellation that provides continuous air circulation ~ cooler breezes move in off of Lake Ontario, and circulate just around the foot of the escarpment. This works to keep temperatures moderate and leads to consistent growing conditions. Its slopes are mostly north and east-facing, with smaller streams running off the escarpment that serve as a dependable water source. The soil is a complex variety of gravel, sand, shale, sandstone and limestone, which you might think would give a heavy mineral vibe, and I have noticed that in some other varietals from this region. But this wine was very fruit forward with a low mineral taste.

Malbec is typically noted for flavors of:

  • black berry
  • black plum
  • clove
  • pepper

This Malbec is a terrific example of the above flavor profile. I noticed that it had medium tannins, and a nice creaminess. It is aged in new/ one-year-old American Oak, which gives an overall stronger flavor with increased vanilla and coconut. And it tends to give a creamier texture to the wine. Over time, tannins have a tendency to dissipate which might account for moderate tannin feel in this Pen Ridge offering.

So tonight, I’m staying inside in my pj’s, a good book, a glowing fire and a nice glass of Malbec. Not a bad way to start the week.

Cheers! 🍷💋

©The Wine Student, 2018

 

 

Kiss My Glass!

 

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Filling my goblet is relatively easy to do: a big fishbowl for red, a larger tulip shape for white, flute for sparklers and maybe a smaller glass for ice wine. Simple, right? Nope, these days it’s anything but.

We can all agree that wine glasses are both functional and pleasing to the eye. But does the shape really make a difference? And how much of it is marketing? Does a crystal goblet actually make the wine taste better, or is it just our perception of it that makes it a different experience?

The Shape of Things

While the choice of glass is really up to the individual, wine glass shape and design have evolved over time to help showcase the unique qualities of each varietal group.

  • Red wine ~ best served in larger-sized glasses. And not just because I like to drink it in large amounts; a larger glass allows more air to come in contact with a large wine surface and develop the robust aromas and flavors. But not all wine glasses are created equal: Different shapes for different varietals are key. For example, the design of the Pinot Noir glass has a wider bowl and narrower tulip-shaped opening that works to provide a larger surface area to swirl while concentrating the essences towards the nose at the opening. Since Pinots tend to be more delicate in their bouquet and flavors, the design of the glass focuses the bouquet directly to the nose, and the wider bowl allows for better aeration on the swirl to fully coax out its subtle flavors. In contrast, the Cabernet/Bordeaux glass has a less wide bowl with wider opening. Since Cabs tend to have a more robust bouquet and flavor, they generally don’t need as much surface area to bring out the buzz; it’s already there. The Syrah glass is similar to the Cab in the bowl shape but the opening is narrow, concentrating those high notes up toward your nose.
  • White wine ~ medium-sized, tulip-shaped glass is better due to the fresher fruit characteristics that are gathered and then directed towards the top of the glass… and your nose. As with the reds, there are a variety of shapes to showcase white wine. The Oaked Chardonnay glass has a wide bowl and wider opening to allow for maximum swirlage (not a real word). Oaked Chard tends to be a hearty and is best experienced after some A&S (aeration and swirl). Unoaked Chard/ Voignier and Riesling, like Pinot Noir, needs more delicate aeration and the glass reflects this: The bowl is not as wide but the opening is. And the Riesling glass is a little narrower still, emphasizing the fruit aspects, not the alcohol, on the nose and palate.
  • Rosé ~ The Rosé design is s a little smaller but similar in shape to the white glass but with a little curve at the lip. This is to better direct the sweetness of the rosé towards the front of the tongue, which detects sweet.
  • Sparkling ~ best served in flute glasses. This shape enhances the effect of the bubbles (and the aroma), allowing them to travel through the larger volume of the wine before bursting at the top of the glass. The classic, saucer-shaped version doesn’t work as well since the bubbles are quickly lost with the wider opening, and there is less surface area to pass through.While this style paid homage to Marie Antoinette, it doesn’t serve the wine as well, especially when you want to savour an older, expensive sparkler. Some flutes are designed with small cuts in the bottom to enhance the pearl swirl effect as the bubbles ascend to the top of the glass, which is half the fun of sparkling wines.
  • Fortified wines ~ these are wines such as Port, Sherry and should be served in small glasses to emphasize the fruit qualities rather than the alcohol.
  • Ice wine ~ I’m gong out on a limb here, but I would choose a glass similar to the Rosé; smaller to emphasize the beautiful fruit but tulip shaped with a lip to direct the aromas and sweetness to your nose and then to the sweet spot of your tongue.

The common element of all glasses is that they should have enough room for swirling and nosing. When you put your nose into the glass, you want all the essences directed up to our nose.

Glass vs Crystal ~ Glass is typically how most of us in our early days begin serving wine, and we may not even graduate to crystal until we get a set as a gift. Nowadays, the two can look very similar but the difference is clear:

Crystal

  • Much heavier than glass, yet more fragile than glass.
  • Will capture light in a prism and create a rainbow.
  • Has a more melodic musical tone when you tap it or run a finger along the rim.
  • Is made thinner, and can eliminate the edge of the lip that glass can have. Little or no edge to the lip of the glass directs the flow of the wine to certain areas of the tongue, which is better to fully experience the nuances of the wine.
  • No longer contains lead oxide which was discovered to be a carcinogen ~ now lead-free crystal is standard, so no worries about ingesting harmful chemicals as you sip.
  • Hand washing is preferable.

Glass 

  • Used for centuries longer than crystal.
  • Resurged popularity when lead in crystal was discovered to be toxic.
  • Easier care, more durable, excellent for every day use, can be placed in dishwasher. More cost effective ~ prices range to suit every budget and style.

Schott-Zweisel makes a virtually break-resistant wine glass. Their Forte line is constructed using the Tritan technology where each glass is constructed with a hard, clear titanium material that reinforces the vulnerable zones at the rim, the joint of the bowl and stem, and the joint of the stem and the foot of the glass. This added strength gives the glasses increased durability (especially in my clumsy hands) and longer life.

Which has the bigger influence on your wine experience?

Crystal has more of a ‘stubbly’ texture than regular glass, allowing for more aromas to be released when you swirl. The thin rim of crystal also allows for wine to flow into the mouth hitting the most sensory areas of the tongue. The thick rim of the standard wine glass can distract from the taste of the wine and, according to Winecoolerdirect.com, may emphasize bitterness and flaws.

Keep It Clean ~ No, blowing the dust out of the glass, and saying, “ta dah” is not really recommended for keeping your wine glasses pristine. Unless you’re at my house. Wine’s delicate flavors can be ruined by even the slightest tinge in the glass. That goes for glasses fresh out of the dishwasher. Detergents and salts can leave residue in the glass that’ll kill the beauty of your wine, both in flavor and sparkle. The best way to prepare your glasses is to polish them with a soft, lint-free cloth (linen) before each use, and right out of the dishwasher. It also helps to get rid of the pesky lipstick marks that never really come off in the wash.You’ve seen the old movies where the bartender is polishing the glasses; it’s not just to find something to do before the trouble starts.

In the End, Do What You Like 

If you do even a quick search for wine glasses, you’ll find an abundance designed to suit every varietal, style, and price point. You can get a little lost in all the choices. But I like to think finding the right wine glass is a little like finding the right companion, the key is finding one you really love, and one that feels so good to hold.

Cheers!

©TheWineStudent, 2018.

Wines for a Brave New Year!

 

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As an icy wind howls and grips most of the Mid-West (and parts of Canada) this weekend, we need to be brave. Part of being brave is keeping an eye on the horizon, and the sunnier skies that will emerge once the storm has done its worst.

When a new year begins, we all have a tendency to want to move beyond the old habits and embrace something new. And that means occasionally moving from the safe, tried-and-true wines we know, towards those we maybe have overlooked.

According to Forbes.com, the biggest trends for 2018 include:

  • Increase in wines from “lesser known but traditional wine regions” including Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Georgia.
  • Red blends, especially from Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur.
  • Big bottles ie magnums in both wine shops and restaurants.
  • Increases in premium wine sales ~ no more three buck Chuck at the table.
  • Wine with a conscience : organic, sustainably farmed, natural, and biodynamic wines will be on the rise.
  • In keeping with purposeful wines, experts predict a surge in wine purchases to support the California winemakers rebuilding from the devastating fires in ’17, especially from Napa and Sonoma regions.
  • Revisiting Chilean wines especially Pinot Noir from Casablanca and cool mountain Syrah.
  • Expect to see more rule breaking: drinking whites, sparklers and rosé in the winter, and bold, full-bodied reds in the summer.
  • Wine in cans ~ more and more producers are selling canned wine with the advent of Can Van Mobile, a canning line that can be assembled within a small or large winery within an hour. And let’s be honest, canned wines are easier to take in your backpack on your picnic than glass bottles.

Vivino’s take on the upcoming 2018 trends is just a little bit different:

  • Sweet, or dessert wine ~ in their 2018 Wine Style Awards, Sauternes took the number one spot, which is surprising since many will eschew sweeter wines for dry.
  •  Zero-sugar movement ~ in stark contrast to sweet wines upswing, wines such as Brut Nature (zero sugar) are also gaining in popularity. More and more health conscious wine drinkers want to cut out the sugar in their choices. Look for Brut NatureZero Dosage, or Sauvage on the label, which indicates that sugar is fermented to a level of ‘zero’.
  • Prosecco, Cava and Cremant ~ consumers want to continue the New Year’s party by enjoying sparkling wines all year! Prosecco leads the way, but also opens up the field for Cava (Spanish) and Cremant (sparkling French wine from outside the Champagne region).
  • Uruguayan wine ~ especially Tannat, a concentrated, full-bodied wine that comes in many forms: robust red, spicy rosé, and even sparkling red.
  • Small Production Wines ~ smaller, not as well known wineries in regions like Oregon (Vivino saw increases of 10 percent), and Washington, especially Gramercy Cellars are gaining in popularity by keeping their production small and quality high. Sometimes these wines are difficult to find, because many in the know buy them up quickly and quietly, but they are worth looking for.

And in North East Ohio, one wine tops the forecast:

  • Rosé ~ Shaun Hardon, Certified Specialist of Wine for Heidelberg Distributing Company in Independence, Ohio said via email that he sees rosé’s star continuing to rise. “I started seeing a growing popularity for rosé about six years ago but last year was eye opening! Based on what I’ve seen and heard, it looks like the popularity will continue to grow this season. And it is no longer just the bone dry Provence style anymore. I’ve noticed restaurants looking for something a little different from countries other than France.”

It looks like 2018 is going to be very bright indeed. With so many wines, regions and styles to explore, it’s a good thing there are 353 days left!

If you have to venture out this weekend, please be safe!

Cheers! 🍷

©TheWineStudent, 2018

Holly Jolly

The holidays are the perfect time to spend with the ones you love, and that might even include some people. Ho ho ho!

I know, that was naughty but it stands to reason that especially during this time of year, we all like to add some new and special wines to our collections.

This year, we enjoyed a 2013 Goldeneye Pinot Noir. A gorgeous medium body Pinot, it had lush, full flavors of cherry, blackberry and pomegranate, while remaining grounded with an underscore of earthy mineral and leather. It had an enjoyable long finish, which for me is something I crave in a Pinot but don’t always find. It paired beautifully with our Christmas eve supper of steamed crab and traditional Tourtiere.

From their production notes:

“An extremely dry winter was followed by just enough spring rain to carry us through to a successful harvest. With very few frost days, the fruit set was excellent throughout our estate vineyards. To ensure a perfectly sized, well-balanced crop we were very active in fruit dropping. The remaining clusters were compact, with the abundant small berries that are perfect for high-quality wine. We started harvest 10 days earlier than normal, during a period of ideal temperate weather that allowed us to pick at a leisurely pace, while ensuring optimal ripeness. The resulting wines are marked by a complexity only achieved in cooler years with coursing acidity, beautiful high-toned fruit and nuanced minerality.”

Notes like this are always interesting to read; almost like peaking behind the curtain of what the harvest process involves, and why timing is everything, especially in harvesting a top quality Pinot.

I hope you are enjoying the holidays, and taking time to savor those moments with loved ones, both in and out of the bottle!

Next post: wine to ring in a brave new year. 🥂😁✨

Cheers! 🍷🎁🍷🎄