May 15, 2019

Three Hungarian white wines & not just the usual Tokaji….

While the Hungarian wines Bikavér and Tokaji Aszu are better known, there is so much to learn about the rest of the country’s wine contribution. Hungary has centuries of colourful wine history. It is quite the stuff of legends and kings.

While there has been a focus on the more international varieties to enable Hungarian wine to have a wider appeal, if you are after some excellent white wines, a great place to start is a crisp dry Furmint, or its Tokaji partner Harslevelu. There are also some interesting examples of the oft overlooked Olaszrizling too. 

The Zsirai family winery in Hungarian wine heartland, Tokaji, is currently in the custodianship of sisters Petra and Kata Zsirai. They share their father’s ideals of preserving heritage as well as for making fine wine. Their father, Csaba started the winery initially as a hobby which grew into the family business and the family now has 19 hectares of vineyards across the country.

To read an interview with Kata and Petra, please click here.

Recommendations

Here are three wines made by the family including an unctuous classic Tokaji Aszu:

Zsirai Tokaji Harslevelu – Another reminder that Tokaji is in no way just about those sweet Aszu wines. This time, a crisp white reminder with a balance that allows the wine to glide as it moves.

The intense peach and light melon fruit is supported by some mineral riverstone. Some months in seasoned barrels has added some weight and flesh.  A long finishing wine that needs some food- some goats cheese souffles or grilled scallops perhaps. € 9 | £15 (2015 tasted)

Zsirai Nagy-Somlói Olaszrizling – Olaszrizling is not part of the Riesling family. It is a rather misleading moniker as it translates into ‘Italian Riesling’. Incidentally, it seems not to be Italian either. Rather, it is the same white grape as the Austrian ‘Welschriesling’. The Zsirai family transform this grape with some fine barrel fermentation and ageing.

This is immediately apparent in honeyed spicy melon and apricot with a subtle marmalade flavour.  With a small amount of residual sugar (6 g/L) left to even out the curves, this is a lush and rather delicious mouthful. € 9 | £15 (2015 tasted)

Zsirai Tokaji Aszu 2013 –  The Hungarian contribution to the world of dessert wine and, consequently, one that must surely be tried.  This particular Aszu is the level of 6 puttonyos. This means you can expect it to be very sweet and richly complex. This is the level that, with the exception of the oddity that is Essencia, has the most botrytised grapes in the wine.

It has 180 g/l of residual sugar and an intense marmalade, raisin, spiced orange citrus and rich honey appeal. As a result, that richness in flavour is also unctuous and smooth.  A very good wine for serving with a fruity, nutty dessert or some blue cheese.  € 40 |£50  

To read an interview with Kata and Petra, please click here.

Visit Zsirai website for more information.

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