This year, both Somló-related events, the Somló Tasting in the Hotel Gellért in the spring and the Somló Open Cellars Day in June, offered great opportunities to taste excellent drinks from the smallest wine region of Hungary. Let us present the wines we deem to be the best.
Nagy-Somló is the smallest historic wine region in Hungary located at the western feet of the Bakony hills. Locally and meteorologically it is significant that hail storms hardly ever hit Somló (except for this year…). Besides the relatively warm climate, grape ripening is also served by the heat-absorbing capacity of black basalt. During the night basalt evenly re-emits the quantity of heat it absorbed during the day. The excellent quality soil originated from the weathering of basalt, rich in minerals, and the constantly warm temperature contribute equally to the uniqueness and quality of Somló wines.
The root system of fully-grown grapevines may grow as deep as 10-15 meters breaking through several aquicludes. The mineral composition and nutrient content of the different layers may greatly vary. For this reason the age of plantations is crucial since the root system of younger grapevines is also smaller and it feeds on a different soil layer. Opinions are mixed as to whether certain fragrance and flavour notes are linked to the composition of topsoil. Many attribute the mineral, sometimes almost salty flavour of Somló wines to the volcanic soil.
Grape is produced in the regions at 200-300 meters above sea level. The angle of incidence of sun rays is shallower on the lower areas and wider on the upper areas. Accordingly, early ripening varieties (such as Gewürztraminer and Sárfehér) are typical at the feet of the hill and late ripening ones (Furmint, Hárslevelű) mostly grow on plantations closer to the basalt organs.
Kreinbacher – Prestige Brut Pezsgő
József Kreinbacher established the wine estate in 2002 and the replanting of plantations, as well as the improvement of the vineyard and the estate have been continuous ever since. Today the winery manages nearly 40 hectares of land and reaps the harvest on another 20 hectares every year not only for making still wine. Their sparkling wine cellars, using the méthod traditionelle, i.e. the classic Champagne method is followed through the production of their sparkling wines highly recognised even on the international market, were opened in 2011.
Among the sparkling wine varieties offered by Kreinbacher, items with different degrees of sweetness can be found from non-dosage to extra dry. Of these we would like to draw your attention to the fresh Prestige Brut. In this sparkling wine, dosage is set to 9 grams/litre which is complemented with apple and citrus aromas, a nice acidity and a long finish. This is undoubtedly the best sparkling wine in current day Hungary.
Csetvei Cellar – Kő-Papír-Olló 2015
One of our favourite winemakers, Kriszti Csetvei rose to prominence mainly with her wines from the Mór region, though her Somló wines are just as exciting. Wines grown on volcanic soil are always a special treat for consumers: such wines trigger rich mineral fragrance and flavour associations, though the Somló terroir further boosts it with unique aroma characteristics typical of its kind.
Our current recommendation from Kriszti’s Kő-Papír-Olló (Rock-Paper-Scissors) series is “Papír” which is the lightest element of the trio. Its raw material was fermented in a stainless steel tank and did not undergo cask aging and that makes the wine very fresh and light. In the sip one can taste white fruits, salty-stony notes and vivid acidity. It is a summer masterpiece.
Tornai Winery – Prémium Furmint 2015
Tornai Winery, turning 70 this year, is one of the most reliable producers of the region. In these days the size of the estate is over 50 hectares and the third generation is doing its share from vineyard and cellar operations. Their wines are classified into three product families: Top Selection, Premium and Friss. Our choice this time was their Prémium Furmint that we had the honour to taste at the Somló Tasting in the Hotel Gellért.
The wine has ripe pear, apple and sweet spicy aromas and its character is strongly defined by the solid acidity of Furmints and a creamy texture owing to cask aging. Its aftertaste is long-lasting and rich in mineral sensations. It can make and excellent gastro wine after some further aging in the bottle. Anyway, it is not yet on the market but will be soon available.
Fekete Winery Somló – Hárslevelű 2011
However Béla Fekete, “the Grand Old Man of Somló” has officially retired from winemaking – now that he is over 80 years of age – he still offers pieces of advice to his successors in the winery bearing his family name. Béla bácsi – as other winemakers prefer to call him – purchased his small estate in the 1970s and gradually enlarged it to its current size of 3.5 hectares. The traditional technology used from the beginning and the long aging period taking 3-4 years set the stage for the Fekete wines to unfold their character considered to be unique even among the Somló wines.
Hárslevelű is the variety that is produced in the largest quantity on the estate: it adds up to about 38% of the plantations. This item from 2011 had been aging for 18 months in a cask then for another 24 months in a tank before it was put on the market. It has an aroma of quince and stone fruits with honey notes and minerality. It is a serious wine with high nutritional values and even higher consumption value.
Tóth Cellar – Kőfejtő Cuvée 2012
This is the latest vintage of the highly successful Kőfejtű Cuvée from the 2011 vintage selected to be the ”Official Wine of Budapest”. It was named after the only quarry, shut down by today, of Somló and the grapes used for this wine are produced next to this old quarry.
The wine is a traditional Somló blending of the Welschriesling, Juhfark and Hárslevelű varieties. It has ripe pear, peach and intensive spicy aromas and the sip has an oily texture. Acidity is ripe and fine and the wine is full in body. It is a concentrated stout wine and its taste remains in the mouth for a long time after swallowed. It was the best at the Somló tasting in Hotel Gellért.
Bogdán Estate – Olaszrizling 2013
It is already the fifth generation in the family, all native of Somlószőlős right from the beginning, dealing with viticulture. Ifj. József Bogdán, the current Managing Director of the estate, was presented a land of 300 square fathoms for his secondary school graduation. They have refurbished the cellar on the area, planted grapevines and began to buy adjacent plots thus expanding the area to 700 square fathoms. Following the winding up of the Badacsony State Farm at the end of the ‘80s, they purchased further areas because by that time it had become clear that Levente and Lehel, members of the fifth generation, would also engage in viticulture. With its 17 hectares, Bogdán Estate is one of the largest producers on the hill. The Bogdáns’ Welschfurmint from the 2013 vintage echoes the fragrance of Somló which shows a remarkable similarity to the typical smell of thermal water. Then, after some aeration, apple and citrus aromas and a fresh tone can be detected. It has vibrant acidity, is slightly over medium body, no complaints about its nutritional values, so, all in all, it is a flavoursome and enjoyable wine and a must for Somló fans, however it is not yet available.
Márton Cellar – Furmint 2013
The traditions of the Márton family are currently kept alive by the fourth generation that reunited the family’s vineyards fragmented in the past decades. They are working, out of respect and love for Somló, on the southern slopes of the hill and making high-quality Somló wines also satisfying the demands of our era. Márton Cellar is guaranteed to be a pleasant surprise for those researching the new Somló wineries.
The raw material of their Furmint from the 2013 vintage comes from tardy harvest and consequently, in its fragrance ripe, almost like preserved fruits prevail. Its taste is clear with quince and pear aromas and its mineral notes remind us of basalt. It is a rich, well-structured wine.
Zsirai Winery – Somlai Cuvée 2011
The Zsirai girls, Kata and Petra own lands in Villány, Tokaj and Somló. Regarding this latter, they have acquired a part of the former vineyard of the Zirc Abbey with its cellar of a remarkable size on the Somlóvásárhely side of the hill. The sisters may thank their lucky stars for they have managed to purchase such a renowned vineyard and cellar that are unique in a sense that not many of such vineyards and cellars could outlive the past political regime.
This wine is made of Welschriesling, Hárslevelű and Juhfark. At first, its fragrance may seem moderate but the presence of dried fruit, in particular raisin, aromas is detectable. All these are more intense in taste and are associated with some tannin and a firm acidity. It is massive in structure, slightly over medium body and, in the whole, it is a very pleasant wine. Served alone or with roasted pork, it is an excellent choice.
Barnabás Winery – Furmint 2013
Barnabás Tóth, the owner of Barnabás Pince has been engaged in viniculture and wine making in Somló since 2000. The vineyard is located on the top of the south-facing Aranyhegy. The primary objective of manual cultivation and wine making is to produce such top quality wines where grape and wine are produced the most natural way and with the least chemicals possible.
The winery’s Furmint from the 2013 vintage is still a bit young – well, aging in bottles for a couple of years usually fits well wines aged in large Somló casks. This is supported by the intensive cask taste and fragrance which has not yet mingled in the aroma profile. Nevertheless this a very good wine that shows a perfect structural balance.
Kolonics Winery – Furmint 2013
The several generations-old family enterprise is located at Apátság-dűlő laying on the south-eastern slopes of the Somló hills. The winery currently has 2 hectares of Welschriesling, 0.5 hectares of Juhfark and the same size of land for Hárslevelű. Strict yield limitation is applied besides classic, traditional wine making: with cask fermentation and aging. The winery has a cask capacity of 30,000 litres. Wines are left in the cellar for 1-2-3 years to age and only then are they bottled.
The Furmint of Károly Kolonics from the 2013 vintage is currently the best in its genre. The fruitiness of the wine is rather moderated; the basalt and salt notes typical of the region dominate the fragrance and taste. This is an oily pouring and concentrated world with depth that leaves ineffaceable traces in our memories for good.