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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Wining and Dining in Budapest

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One of the perks of judging at international wine competitions, such as VinAgora, is that the hosts put on a programme for the judges to showcase local wine, gastronomy and culture. This has several purposes.

The judges get to know each other – which in an international competition is an achievement in itself. The languages amongst the judges included: Hungarian, Romanian, Czech, Croat, Bulgarian, French, German, English, Spanish, Greek, Portuguese, Italian, Polish… Between us, most managed in French or English, with the few polyglots translating for those without a common language.

Vinagora judges

The judges and organisers of Vinagora 2015

The gastronomic and cultural programme also acts as a form of promotion for the host country. When the competition is based in a wine producing area, this involves visits to vineyards. As Christine Collins, organiser of five varietal competitions in Alsace, said, her competitions are structured to encourage judges to stay in the region either before or after the competition, with the aim of promoting local tourism. Continue reading