Moving on from Bull’s Blood

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At the end of February I was invited to talk at the XIX Vine and Wine Conference at the Károly Esterházy University in Eger, on marketing Hungarian wine in a global context. Some of my research highlighted the fact that after Tokaj, Bull’s Blood was the most well known Hungarian wine in many countries. It also indicated that Bull’s Blood had a reputation for wine in the cheaper bulk wine category, with many wines generically labelled ‘Bull’s Blood’.

Ceiling of the conference hall at the Károly Esterházy University

The successful marketing campaign for Bull’s Blood refers to the legend of when the Ottoman Turks believed the Hungarians were drinking blood to fortify themselves before battle when they saw the red wine stains on their beards. Today, it is largely the entry level wines which are called Bull’s Blood: blended reds which are bottled in Eger. Mostly, serious Eger producers choose to call their wines by the Hungarian name bikavér, with maybe a passing nod to a bull on the label, such as those of Ferenc Tóth and János Bolyki. Continue reading

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The Polish Pink Wine Revolution

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During my last trip to Poland in November 2017, I attended the Kraków wine fair, Enoexpo, to talk about the winning rosés from the first International Rosé Championship, which had been held in May, also in Kraków.  During the fair, Michał Bardel, the editor of Czas Wina magazine, organised a tasting of Polish rosés for me and introduced me to Monika Bielka-Vescovi. To place my tasting notes for the rosés in context, I asked Monika if she would be happy to contribute. As such, this post has two sections:

  1. A review of Polish rosé wines by Monika Bielka-Vescovi.
  2. Tasting notes I wrote from the tasting of Polish rosés.

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Pink Méthode Ancestrale – Bugey-Cerdon vs Clairette de Die

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This is a story of old and new. Of traditions and innovation, and marketing opportunities. Of old wine making techniques, of the marketing success of sparkling pink Muscat and the trendiness of funky pet-nat wines. Of appellation rules and protecting wine traditions.

In early January 2016, Wink Lorch (who I mentioned in my last post had personally transported rosé from Oregon for me) telephoned me. As part of her research for her next book on the wines of the French Alps she was going to visit the vineyards of Bugey-Cerdon. Did I fancy going with her to taste their rosés and their méthode ancestrale rosés. It sounded a great idea and I duly booked my ticket to Geneva where Wink would collect me before a short week visiting vineyards. The plan started to fall apart as we struggled to find hotels and restaurants which would be open in January, and the trip collapsed when a freak, cold front plummeted temperatures to below -10C. Dear readers, even in my quest to seek out all and every interesting rosé, standing in freezing cellars for four days was not high on my list of vinous ambitions. The plan was shelved, and I continued my research in warmer conditions.

Cerdon vineyards in Bugey. photo by Mick Rock for Wink Lorch

Méthode ancestrale wines are also known as pétillant naturel, French for ‘naturally sparkling’ They can be made with any varieties and range in colour from red, through pink to white and, due to the method of vinification can be cloudy or murky. Unlike Champagne and traditional-method sparkling wines, they do not undergo disgorgement when the spent yeast and sediment are removed. Amongst the most well-known white wines is Blanquette de Limoux from the Pyrenees. Continue reading

Musings on Wine and Brexit

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Ben Bernheim, grew up in France and is a recent graduate from Edinburgh University, Scotland, with an MA in Economics and Economic History.  He was a member of the winning tasting team for the Edinburgh Wine Society. He is currently spending the summer working in a few Israeli vineyards.

A year ago, I was asked to write something on the economic impact on the wine trade of Brexit. I didn’t. Partially because I’m lazy, but mostly because I didn’t have the foggiest what would actually happen. At the time, I don’t think anyone did. Twelve months and a general election later, that’s still the case. Continue reading

Wine fair war in Montpellier

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Montpellier has the good fortune to be home to two international wine trade fairs: Vinisud and Millésime Bio. Such fairs are big business, with many producers and buyers coming, often from far away to meet under one roof. With many producers present, buyers can taste many wines quickly and negotiate with producers directly.

January saw the play-out of a major dispute between the two fairs, which was a major topic of conversation at this year’s fairs.

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Kadarka, Cadarca, Gamza

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Based on a post first written and posted for Blue Danube Wines and a masterclass at RoVinHud in Romania, November 2016. Updated 16 March 2017 following a Kadarka tasting in Szekszárd.

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Line up of Kadarka wines from Romania, Serbia and Hungary at my masterclass RoVinHud in Romania

Hungary is increasingly looking to its vinous history and indigenous varieties. There is a growing number of winemakers, who, with the help of research institutes like the one at Pécs, are replanting varieties which were almost lost during the phylloxera epidemic. Kadarka is one of those varieties now seeing a revival. It also happens to be my current favourite variety. Continue reading

Defining Szekszárdi Bikavér

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How often have we read a simple description defining a wine style, only to find that few wines match this? Indeed, with permutations including vintage, winemaker, terroir, how can one description sum up a region?

Szekszárdi Bikavér – Bikavér (“Bull’s Blood”) from Szekszárd in southern Hungary – is often described alongside Bikavér from Eger, 300km to the north, making descriptions even more confusing. Though they share the name Bikavér, and are both based on Kékfrankos, they are inevitably influenced by their different terroirs. Egri Bikavér is often identified as being bigger and more structural, but this difference is often less obvious when taking into account winemaking styles. Indeed, a major challenge facing both areas, is to define the unique qualities of each and the differences between them in the eyes of the international consumer. Kristian Kielmayer has neatly summed up the differences between the Bikavérs in his 2015 review of the annual tasting of the wines from the two regions.

Logo for the annual Eger vs Szekszárd Bikavér tasting

Logo for the annual Eger vs Szekszárd Bikavér tasting

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Hungarian Cabernet Franc

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4th December is Cabernet Franc Day. Happy #cabfrancday!

Cabernet Franc featured high on my recent trip to Romania and Hungary. I had been asked to talk about marketing Hungarian Cabernet Franc wines, specifically from the region of Villány, at the 2nd  Franc & Franc Conference in Villány on 18th November 2016. Caroline Gilby MW presented a tasting of Cabernet Franc wines from elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe. Zoltán Győrffy presented a range of Cabernet Franc from Friuli in northern Italy.

Elizabeth Gabay MW at the Villány Franc & Franc Conference 2016

Elizabeth Gabay MW at the Villány Franc & Franc Conference 2016

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The Rosés of Serbia

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Tomislav Ivanov

Tomislav Ivanovic

With the world’s top men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic in the news in June announcing that he was buying a vineyard in his native Serbia, it seemed an appropriate time to consider Serbian rosés. I asked Serbian wine expert Tomislav Ivanovic, of Vinopedia, to describe the rosés made in Serbia and include some of the best examples.

Tomislav is: Author and editor-in-chief of website www.vinopedia.rs. Winner of Millesima Blog Award 2016. Wine writer and contributor to several wine magazines. Juror in national and international wine events (including Concours Mondial de Bruxelles). Focused on wines from Serbia and the Balkans. 

Rosé wines from Serbia

Serbian folk poetry shows that the ancestors of today’s Serbs were avid wine lovers. The turbulent history of Serbia nestled at the periphery of great empires where the West meets the East, resulting in an extensive collection of Serbian epic poetry. No wonder that medieval Serbian knights and warriors quenched their thirst with red wine rather than rosé. From their perspective, drinking elegant rosé with delicate aromas from a chalice did not match the image of a brave warrior, hero, defender against Turkish conquerors.

Travel writers who recorded their journeys across the Balkans in the Middle Ages, and local ampelographers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, revealed that the Serbian population also consumed darker coloured rosé wine called Ružica (pronounced: roo-zhi-tza), resembling clairet wine. Continue reading