Wine of the Week 60 – a lovely and great value aromatic white wine

Recently I presented a tasting of wines made from unusual grapes and our first wine was a lovely dry and aromatic white wine. I enjoy aromatic wines, but find that many of them can be a little too rich and low in freshness and acidity – think Viognier and Gewürztraminer. Of course in the case of Gewürztraminer the wines can often be sweeter than you want as well. They were a skilled and enthusiastic bunch of tasters and they all loved this first wine.

Two things made it very exciting, firstly it is extremely good value for money, but more importantly it is really delicious and well balanced. It is from Hungary, it’s made from a very unusual grape variety and is made by someone that I admire very much. In fact it is so good and so pleasurable to drink that I have made it my Wine of the Week.

Hungary Map

Wine map of Hungary – click for a larger view – non watermarked PDF versions are available by agreement.

The view from Hilltop towards the Danube and Slovakia.

The view from Hilltop towards the Danube and Slovakia. Photo courtesy of Hilltop Neszmély.

Premium Cserszegi FuszeresHilltop Premium Cserszegi Fűszeres (there does not appear to be a vintage on this wine)
Hilltop Neszmély
Hungary

I have visited a good many of Hungary’s wine regions, including a memorable trip the the lovely Hilltop Neszmély winery. It is in the far north of the country with just the Danube River between it and Slovakia. The local climate is continental and very similar to nearby Austria and the wines have much in common with Austrian wines too, both in weight and style.

The estate was the brainchild of the charming Éva Keresztury who has run Hilltop since the early 1990s and her success has been amazing. Her wines are available in many places and are always an incredible balance of quality and value, as far as I can see she has never put a foot wrong and makes some of the best good value wines available in the UK today. They also have a lovely hotel on the estate and excellent restaurant that specialises in local game.

Cserszegi Fűszeres is certainly an unusual grape, but please don’t let that put you off. It is also very difficult, if not almost impossible to pronounce – but then I also showed Dr Frank’s Rkatsiteli from New York’s Finger Lakes at the same tasting. That is also quite superb and very hard to pronounce, but well worth trying – but don’t let that put you off. I am sure that you will enjoy it. The grape is actually a cross between the Irsai Olivér (itself an aromatic cross of 2 other grapes) and Roter Traminer ( a near relative of Gewürztraminer) and has only been in existence since 1960. The grape is named for where it’s from, Cserszegtomaj near Keszthely on the north shore of the south west end of Lake Balaton – Hungary’s inland freshwater sea. Fűszeres means spicy.

The nose is delightfully aromatic with wafts of orange blossom, fresh grapes and some sweet spice notes, but it smells fresh and not cloying at all. The palate is soft with lovely weight of fruit sweetness, but is is a dry wine – just very fruity – with some nectarine-like succulence, zingy orange, richer peach and some apricot characters too. The orange dominates the finish, which is pretty and long. The wine is kept balanced by the lovely seam of refreshing acidity that runs through it making it lively, fresh and clean – 88/100 points.

Available in the UK from Asda for £7.00 per bottle. What’s more it is only £5 a bottle during July 2015!

This wine is a perfect summer drink, light, fresh, flavoursome and very, very drinkable. It would make an excellent aperitif, garden sipper or go with pretty much any food at all. It is especially good with lightly spicy food. Do try it if you get the chance – I am sure that you will like it.

Foxy terroir – what are foxy wines?

The beautiful Finger Lakes

I was working on my notes from my trip to New York’s Finger Lakes the other day and I was reminded of something that I had wanted to share with you. My first wine visit of the trip was to Swedish Hill Winery and it was a real eye opener for a non American in many ways.

wine regions of New York state – click for a larger view

Swedish Hill is a most attractive winery and vineyard in the northern section of Cayuga Lake – named after the Iroquoian people who lived around its shore before Europeans settled here. Indeed as far as I can discover all the lakes, except Hemlock, have names of native American origin.

Continue reading

Georg Riedel entertains

The other week I was lucky enough to enjoy an amazing experience. My trip around the New York Finger Lakes wine region culminated in the Finger Lakes Wine Festival at Watkins Glen.

I had no idea what to expect and was half thinking that I would rather stay in bed, but I am so glad that I didn’t.

appreciative crowds at Watkins Glen

For a start the scale of the event was incredible, there were huge areas with wine tents, food tents, beer, ice cream, gifts – you name it – and the people there were really having a good time. This being America the music was pretty good too – I was very taken with Strat Cat Willy and his blues band. Continue reading

Sheldrake Point – the Finger Lakes explained

I really enjoyed visiting the Sheldrake Point Vineyard, it seemed to encapsulate the Finger Lakes wine region – or the modern take on it anyway. Sheldrake Point is a new winery, founded in 1997 by winemaker Bob Madill and managing partner Chuck Tauck and – like the region’s pioneers Dr Frank and Hermann Wiemer – they chose a sheltered site on the western shore of one of the Finger Lakes – Cayuga Lake in this instance. Continue reading

A Touch of Europe or Local Terroir?

The Hermann J Wiemer vineyard & winery

This was one of my favourite winery visits of my recent trip to New York. The Hermann J Wiemer winery made wines that really thrilled and spoke to me, as their literature states ‘wines in the finest European tradition from the heart of the Finger Lakes’.

I am not convinced that their wines are made entirely in the European tradition, but they do have a delicacy and a finesse that is very attractive. In my opinion though these are Finger Lake wines rather than European and I think that is how it should be. Continue reading

I’m back…

Well I am finally back from the New York Finger Lakes and the Niagara Peninsula in Canada. I had a great time, saw some amazing sights and met many wonderful people. After my last piece I visited the Finger Lakes Wine Festival at Watkins Glen where I experienced the American wine consumer up close.

It was great fun with lots of wines to try as well as interesting foods, local beers and some terrific music. Continue reading

Finger Lakes New York – part 5, Seneca Lake

Seneca Lake from Château Lafayette Reneau

Seneca Lake from Château Lafayette Reneau

What a day it was, action packed to such a degree that I have run out of time.

I visited some wineries in a tight area around Seneca Lake, which at almost 650 feet is the deepest of the Finger Lakes. As a consequence the conditions are that little bit warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, as the water below the surface stays pretty much the same temperature all year round.

This enables the growers around here to put a greater emphasise on red varietals than their neighbours around the other Finger Lakes, as long as the vines can actually see the water, these conditions are very localised. So, I was able to taste a couple of really fascinating examples of Cabernet Sauvignon blends as well as the local signature grape, Cabernet Franc and the newly emerging local star – Lemburger/Blaufrankish.

The best wines, to my mind continue to be the whites, especially the Rieslings and I tasted some terrific examples – they tend to be a little richer and softer than German, Alsace or Austrian Rieslings, which is great as they seem to have something of their own style over here and the grape really suits the conditions.

My stand out wines of the day were:

2008 Tierce Dry Riesling
Tierce is made as a joint venture by three local wineries as a joint project: Fox Run, Anthony Road & Red Newt.
Stony and limey with some richer feel bringing an apricot quality – this makes it softer and richer than I expected.
It has a nice clean cut of mandarin acidity and a slightly oily texture to the palate leading to a rich acidic citrus texture to the finish, very interesting and very good and also amongst the driest of the local Rieslings – 90/100.

2008 Lamoreaux Landing T23 (tank 23)
Unoaked Cabernet Franc

This was a lovely, unassuming red from the lovely Lamoreaux Landing estate which is the winery created by Mark Wagner, whose family also own the neighbouring Wagner Winery, which is one of the pioneers of the region.

The colour was a pale translucent light red cherry colour.
The nose offered a lovely waft of red cherry and rose hip syrup, together with a slight touch of earthy notes.
The palate was soft, juicy and very pleasurable with good balance and real delicacy.
Very nice to drink, soft tannins and a touch of acidity keeping it bright – nice texture with red fruit, it would be lovely chilled as a big rosé too- 87/100.

2007 Tierce Dry Red
Another impressive wine made as a joint venture by Fox RunAnthony RoadRed Newt
The blend was unusual: 33% Merlot, 33% Lemberger, 12% Syrah, 11% Cabernet Franc & 11% Cabernet Sauvignon
The nose was fragrant and attractive offering plums, black cherry and nice oak – cedar spice, a hint of chocolate and something savoury/smoky from the oak.
The palate had a lovely fresh texture and bright black fruit, soft, smooth ripe tannins and a hint of smoky oak. Lovely pleasurable and drinkable, perfect concentration and not trying too hard to impress, which meant that it did – 91/100.

Anyway that is all I have time for right now as another day beckons – remember, if you want to follow my journey you can refer to my piece about the region hereUncork New York and my two maps – New York’s wine regions and the Finger Lakes region. Check back for more soon