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Is Wine Aged Under the Ocean the Next Big Thing?

Is Wine Aged Under the Ocean the Next Big Thing?

The bottles of wine are aged under the sea using a sealed cage like this one.

Under the sea….down where (the wine is) better? Mira Winery in Charleston, South Carolina is attempting to revolutionize the winemaking process by making wine under the ocean. Since last year, Mira Winery has been aging bottles of wine for 6 months at a time 60 feet below the ocean’s surface in specially-designed cages. They call it Aqaoir, or the interaction between a submerged bottle of wine and the watery environment (light, pressure, air, etc.) around it.

“We do not want to limit the discussion of Aquaoir to just our experiment, rather the possibilities that exist from aging wine in the water anywhere, and what the connection might be between those unique characteristics as the wine ages and its final taste,” said Jim Dyke Jr., president of Mira winery, in a statement.

Right now, Mira Winery is submerging their wines locally in Charleston Harbor. The experiment, as the winery is calling it, will understand underwater aging’s impact on the taste of the wine, and sommeliers are on-hand to directly compare the before and after results. The first ocean-aged wines are on sale for Mira club members, and will be released to the public soon.

Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi


Crete is gradually starting to put itself on the modern wine map thanks to the efforts of a new generation of producers

A decade or two ago, the notion of good quality Cretan wine would have sounded like a joke. Of course, Greece’s largest island is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world – the discovery of a 4th millennium BC grape press during an archaeological dig south of Iraklio confirmed that. However, during the modern era, the quality of the island’s wines seemed firmly rooted in mediocrity until recently, when a new generation of producers started turning things around.

Crete is gradually starting to put itself on the modern wine map thanks to the efforts of a number of young vintners who left the island to study their craft and later returned to take over family businesses, producing wines that are contemporary, focused and packed with flavor.

In the demanding world of wine, however, this improvement is not enough to mend a reputation so badly marred by the sacrifice, over decades, of quality for quantity in bulk production. For this, winemakers need to start building brands that are considered “unique” or “interesting,” two qualities that Crete can offer in abundance, thanks largely to the diversity of its terrain and a wealth of excellent native grape varieties.

The grapes are of paramount importance. Cretan wine producers need to look back to their island’s storied past, to traditions that stem all the way back to that Bronze Age Minoan civilization and to put serious effort into repopulating Crete’s vineyards with age-old varieties. The good news is that they have been doing just that, throwing themselves into the challenge with passion.

Cup bearers: Detail from the Minoan Procession Cup bearers: Detail from the Minoan Procession

The Boutari family, which opened its state-of-the-art Cretan winery in 2004 after planting its first vines on the island in 1990, is responsible for salvaging long-lost varieties like Moschato Spinas. This grape, a rare clone of the Muscat variety, trades the easy rose-tones of Muscat for more body and produces both an accommodating table wine as well as complex wines, including Skalani.

The diva among Crete’s grapes is without doubt the white Vidiano, for decades found only in small quantities, hidden between other varieties in the vineyards of Rethymno. Full of apricot and peach aromas, round and rich in the mouth, it is a Cretan gem that is fascinating in all its manifestations. Today, Vidiano is making magic in Iraklio and Hania, giving us wines that remind us of the famed Viognier variety.

“Vidiano can handle poor soil and plenty of sun, but it needs a strong hand to contain production,” says Nikos Douloufakis, a winemaker in Iraklio who has associated his name with this variety by producing excellent tank- and barrel-aged versions.

Difficult grapes, such as Vidiano, were understandably less welcome in the industry. For decades, most of Crete’s winemakers chose volume over quality, forming large cooperatives to cater to the bulk market and ignoring more demanding varieties in favor of ones with higher yields. However, this was not the case at Lyrarakis Winery, in Alagni, Iraklio.

“Full of apricot and peach aromas, round and rich in the mouth, Vidiano is a Cretan gem that is fascinating in all its manifestations.”

Nikos Douloufakis, a third-generation winemaker, checks on his beloved grapevines in Dafnes, outside Iraklio. Nikos Douloufakis, a third-generation winemaker, checks on his beloved grapevines in Dafnes, outside Iraklio. Oenologist Maria Tamiolakis has led the family winery into a new era. Oenologist Maria Tamiolakis has led the family winery into a new era. Viticulturist and oenologist Andreas Dourakis, creator of the eponymous winery in the mountainous of Alikambos, with his family. Viticulturist and oenologist Andreas Dourakis, creator of the eponymous winery in the mountainous of Alikambos, with his family.

“The Plyto variety has very firm grapes and takes a lot of hard work to grow on the vine, while Dafni takes a long time to ripen and is therefore vulnerable to autumn rains,” says Manolis Lyrarakis, describing the two white varieties that his family salvaged and elevated to some prominence. “My father cultivated them secretly for years.” Today, the young winemaker uses Plyto grapes to produce light, nervy wines, and Dafni to make well-balanced vintages with pronounced bay-leaf aromas.

Over on the lower slopes of the snow-capped White Mountains, or Lefka Ori, the untamed terrain and chilly temperatures are not the only obstacles for Kostis Galanis of the Manousakis Winery, the winery responsible for starting the Cretan wine revolution of foreign varieties, mainly from Southern France. “The hares seem to enjoy our grapes just as much as oenophiles,” laments Galanis, commenting on man’s constant battle to tame nature.

The vagaries of nature is certainly one of the defining characteristics of Lasithi, where the farmers of Sitia struggle to cultivate the wild terrain of the eastern coast, while along the coast to the west five-star resorts with white-sand beaches and crystalline bathing waters spring up at Elounda Bay. The people of Sitia have a reputation for being outside-the-box thinkers. Giannis Economou is no exception, surprising the wine world not only with both dry and sweet reds made from the ancient Liatiko grape, but also with his unusual production schedules for those wines.

“I want consumers to enjoy my wines at their most harmonious. That’s why I launched the 2006 first, then the 2000 and now the 2009.” With an oenology degree from Alba and with cellar experience in Germany and at Bordeaux’s Chateau Margaux, Economou relies on ungrafted vines and extremely low yields to create wines that resemble Burgundies, gaining fans around the world with every new release.

Windmills at vineyards in Crete

Full of apricot and peach aromas, round and rich in the mouth, Vidiano is a Cretan gem that is fascinating in all its manifestations. Full of apricot and peach aromas, round and rich in the mouth, Vidiano is a Cretan gem that is fascinating in all its manifestations. The harvest at Mediterra in Iraklio, widely considered among the most dynamic wineries in Greece today. The harvest at Mediterra in Iraklio, widely considered among the most dynamic wineries in Greece today.

Crete’s special gifts, however, do not end with just these grapes. There’s also Thrapsathiri, for example it may be named after a Greek term for productivity, but under the right conditions it can do more than offer high yields it produces exciting wines, exotic and full-bodied. Then there’s Kotsifali, a peppery and fruity grape variety that gives juicy rosés but is also capable of softening even the harshest wines. This is why it is often blended with tough varieties like Mandilari, another local grape and probably the orneriest of the lot though its vitality is rewarding.

It’s not all about the natives, though. When it comes to foreign varieties, those that appear to be adapting best to the hot climate of Crete are famous reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, but the unrivaled star of the immigrants is Syrah, which feels right at home here and is yielding excellent, full-bodied wines, either alone or in blends with indigenous reds.

Crete’s significant wine accomplishments are really putting it on the map: with an increasing number of wineries opening their doors to the public, the island is developing some interesting wine routes. Add to this the distinction of four distinct quality-wine appellations (PDOs) and the expanding vision of its winemakers, and it is hardly surprising that Crete is one of the most exciting wine-producing regions in Greece today.

“Under the right conditions Thrapsathiri can do more than offer high yields it produces exciting wines, exotic and full-bodied.”


Why Swabia Is Europe’s Next Great Wine Region

After several promising cameo appearances, a modest one-liter bottle of ruby-colored trollinger, made by a young winemaker named Andi Knauss, had its débutante moment this summer. Tangy with red fruit and flourishing an iris-like floral side, it made a strong case amid the rosé tide to be New York’s new summer wine.

The Knauss could have been just another one of those quirky bottles that enjoys its moment and fades into the rear view. But this one had staying power: Beyond the wine’s obvious likeability, there was something totemic about it. What did it say about our current drinking habits that a liter of light red wine, one shade past rosé, hailing from southern Germany, could find such favor?

Interestingly, the wine’s origin was a fact generally left out of conversations, or else simply shorthanded: “Germany.” But I noticed that Knauss’ importer, a small firm called Selection Massale, preferred a more particular term: “Swabian,” which encompasses not only wines from Knauss’ home region of Württemberg, in southern Germany, but also the wines of neighboring Baden, Germany’s premier red winemaking region.

This linguistic twist turns out to have been rather savvy. There’s a bit of complicated geography surrounding the concept of Swabia. Today, that word refers administratively to a tiny slice of Bavaria. But over the centuries, its boundaries have encompassed varying chunks of Europe. During the middle ages, the Duchy of Swabia covered not only those portions of Germany but also parts of Alsace, Switzerland and even alpine Italy. (For that reason, Selection Massale calls its Trentino producer, Marco Zani, Swabian, which is a bit of a stretch but not totally inaccurate.)

Thus, historically, this part of southern Germany has been identified as Swabia, as much a land unto itself as one sewn into the fabric of the modern German republic. As southerners have elsewhere in the world, there is a well-cultivated sense of local pride. “Swabians feel Swabian more than they feel German,” says Michael Ramscar, a partner in Selection Massale who lives in Tübingen, a scenic university town on the Neckar River, in the heart of what he defines as Swabia.

It’s for precisely that reason, that we should adopt Swabia as a term of art. Because history is on its side, yes, but more importantly because it helps to advance a belated claim to identity, not terribly different from the Catalan pride felt in southern France.

These names and geographic details may be foreign to most now, but I’ll wager this: The rest of us will be talking about Swabia soon enough. True, German wine has struggled to maintain its fan base overseas. But the region’s wines are simply too good to overlook.

In addition to Knauss, I’ve been charmed by pinot noir from Burg Ravensburg, in the Kraichgau area south of Heidelberg, poured by the glass much of this year at Gjelina in Venice, one of LA’s most visible restaurants. Pinots from the quixotic duo of Enderle & Moll, who organically farm old parcels in Baden’s Ortenau, have acquired a particular currency among tragically hip Burghounds. Jochen Beurer, a former European BMX champion who farms plots of sandstone, gypsum and marl in Württemberg, has received high-profile attention for his rieslings, which offer the concentration of flavors found in the Pfalz but with an aspect that’s more fresh and alpine than rich and spicy—a very different side of the grape than elsewhere in Germany. (Beurer also makes a sauvignon blanc reminiscent of frothy, old-school Sancerre.)

All this is particularly surprising because Baden and Württemberg have long been Germany’s great afterthoughts, almost entirely omitted from the country’s lobbying to thirsty Americans.

In fact, the wines are everything we have come to think Germany is not. For one thing, white wine frequently takes a backbeat, and despite stars like Beurer, riesling is only a bit player. Baden’s top grape is spätburgunder (pinot noir) while in Württemberg it’s red trollinger, better known as schiava in the Italian region of Alto Adige (aka Südtirol), from which it almost certainly migrated north.

As Hiram Simon of Winewise in Oakland, California, who imports seven Baden producers, puts it: “I think of Baden almost as a different country.”

For sure, it might feel like a different country if you think of Germany in terms of the Mosel’s steep, slate-filled slopes, or the languid banks of the Rheingau. On Baden’s western edge, the Kaiserstuhl hills almost literally mirror the broad slopes of Alsace just west, across the Rhein river. To the east, Baden is bounded by the great Schwarzwald, or Black Forest. This is Germany’s mild south, its banana belt, hence the appeal of those spa trips to Baden-Baden.

Württemberg, by contrast, is far colder, particularly up in the mountains—although climate change has pulled a full-throated ripeness out of what had been considered meager, acidic wines. Sandstone and limestone hills rise dramatically along the Neckar, hosting some of Germany’s highest-elevation vineyards. The marl soils often mirror those in France’s Jura — which could be considered Württemberg’s geological sibling, to the point that the mountain range east of the Black Forest is called the “Swabian Jura.”

As for the wines, they are less distinctly German than a lovely hybrid of various central European wine cultures. You will find exceptional pinot gris and pinot blanc, especially on the Kaiserstuhl. You will find splendid versions of gutedel, also known as chasselas and an important grape in Switzerland, in the Markgräflerland, precisely where Germany, France and Switzerland all collide near Basel. There is finessed, racy silvaner, a variety that manifests itself in a plumper style north in Franken. And yes, there is riesling, too, grown on limestone and sandstone and loess, rather than Mosel slate or the Nahe’s dense volcanic rock. All of these wines are fully dry, incidentally, which again diverges from that typical (and inaccurate) view of Germany.

And if it sounds like I’ve just ticked off an entire country’s worth of wine, that’s actually the point. Neither Baden nor Württemberg are minor regions, nor are they small. In sheer geographic reach, they far outstretch Germany’s other wine regions Baden, for one, has twice as much vineyard land as the Mosel.

So why haven’t we been drinking these wines all along? It’s not that they haven’t been around some of the best Baden and Württemberg producers have been available for years, but even the most famous have never found success on these shores. And it’s not because Baden-Württemberg (the two are fused together as one state) is a backwater. It’s Germany’s third most-populous state the capital, Stuttgart, is Europe’s automotive capital.

Perhaps, then, the problem has been one of context. The wines tend to make more sense when you stop trying to place a German identity on them and consider them an indigenous pleasure unto themselves. Even Simon, who has sold German wine for decades, only really got to know the region’s wines because his wife, Astrid, also lives in Tübingen. (Downstairs from Ramscar, in fact. If the Swabian revolution catalyzes, we can trace it back to a single building in one university town.)

For that matter, Baden and Württemberg both have endured an inferiority complex with their wines, one that kept them in soft focus while the Mosel and Rheingau captured the attention. (Case in point: In Frank Schoonmaker’s authoritative book The Wines of Germany, he shunted both into a brief chapter on “lesser districts.”)

But Swabia is at last ready to benefit from the evolution of taste. Its wines fall suitably into today’s fashion. When in 1966, Schoonmaker compared Württemberg reds to those of Italy’s Tyrol, it was a throwaway line today it’s a serious compliment.

It’s for precisely that reason, that we should adopt Swabia as a term of art. Because history is on its side, yes, but more importantly because it helps to advance a belated claim to identity, not terribly different from the Catalan pride felt in southern France. In fact, you can already see that pride among Württemberg’s emerging talents. It is not coincidental that Helmut Dolde also marks one of his spätburgunders as aged in Swäbische eiche (“Swabian oak”), or that Beurer cofounded a group called Junges Schwaben (“Young Swabians”).

At the same time, it’s probably a good thing that Swabian wine remains something of a work in progress. Germany’s famous regions struggle with the weight of tradition in the Rheingau, for example, you might be stuck under the yoke of riesling (although no less a producer than Gunter Künstler is experimenting with sauvignon blanc). But why shouldn’t Beurer grow sauvignon blanc on limestone? Why shouldn’t Claus Schneider, a neighbor of Ziereisen, make exceptional pinot noir in addition to gutedel? Why not pinot gris from the Kaiserstuhl that runs laps around most Alsatian renditions?

After all, a sense of being different lies very much at the heart of Swabia’s identity over the centuries. And any of these wines, like Andi Knauss’ champion trollinger, stands to help to rewrite our notions of what German wine can be.

Seven Swabian Wines to Try

The sheer diversity of Baden and Württemberg—i.e. Swabia—can make it difficult to get a quick sense of what the regions can produce. But this selection is a good start. Also keep an eye out for Jochen Beurer’s excellent riesling, and for producers like Claus Schneider, Burg Ravensburg, Schnaitmann, Salwey and the dramatically named Winzergenossenschaft Königschaffhausen. And while Andi Knauss’ trollinger has gotten plenty of attention, look for his rieslings, both the G (“gutswein,” or a basic estate wine) and R (reserve).

2013 Ziereisen Viviser Baden Gutedel | $15
The Ziereisens, minimalists in their cellar work, have great historical cred: their wine cellar not far from Basel, Switzerland, dates to the 8th century. This is chasselas—although it comes across like grüner veltliner channeled through Alsace—balancing plush pear-like fruit and a spicy, lentil-like quality. Importer: Savio Soares Selections [Buy]

2013 Enderle & Moll Liaison Baden Pinot Noir | $36
There’s a kinship here with that modish, über-light style of naturalist Burgundy. In fact, you might think of the Liaison as channeling Jurassic poulsard, with its conifer and spice-cookie aromas, and sharply tangy fruit flavors. Importer: Vom Boden [Buy]

2014 Heitlinger Gentle Hills Auxerrois | $20
Claus Burmeister’s winery in Östringen-Tiefenbach has become one of Baden’s best known, and its skill with this obscure grape (usually found in Alsace) is an indication of the quality here. Its sister winery, Burg Ravensburg, turns out pinot noir that dramatically outperforms, like the 2013 Baden Pinot Noir ($19). This is another aspect to the Swabian ascent: It’s the rare place you can still locate affordable, honestly made pinot. Importer: Winewise [Buy]

2013 Dr. Heger Ihringer Winklerberg Weissburgunder Erste Lage | $35
The talk with Dr. Heger is always about pinot noir, but this pinot blanc from one of the old volcanic sites on the Kaiserstuhl slopes—big and expressive, full of that rich almond-like aspect the grape can offer, and yet with a cutting acidity—is worthy of attention as well. Also look out for the more affordable 2014 Weinhaus Heger Pinot Blanc ($20). Importer: Schatzi Wines [Buy]

2014 Holger Koch Kaiserstuhl Baden Spätburgunder | $22
Koch’s work began recently, in 1999, but he has been nearly fanatical about planting with the best mass-selection vines. From an old parcel of German vine selections, this is as compelling a pinot noir as you’d find at the village level in Burgundy—precisely flavored, pure and plummy, and bringing in a quietly fierce spice on the finish. It’s only outsized by Koch’s Bickensohler Herrenstück ($26), which shows a grace and fleshiness reminiscent of the style of—wait for it—Henri Jayer. Importer: Selection Massale

2013 Bercher Burkheimer Baden Weissburgunder | $17
The 10th generation of Berchers is still making wine in Burkheim, in the Kaiserstuhl, and this pinot blanc balances plump fruit with a dramatic white pepper spiciness. Importer: Winewise [Buy]

2014 Dolde Weisser Jura Württemberg Silvaner | $23
Helmut Dolde is proof that the old reputation of the Swabian mountains—thin, acidic wine—is no more. From one of the highest vineyards in Germany, this has the green side silvaner always should (think pine and fava beans) but a wonderful ripeness, almost a stickiness, to the fruit. Importer: Selection Massale [coming soon]


Sorry, Sake: This Plum Wine Could Be Japan's Next Big Drink Export

In recent years, Japanese whisky has enjoyed growing popularity worldwide, as well as a surge in prices. The Hibiki 17-Year-Old, the famous Japanese whisky by Suntory that was featured in the movie Lost In Translation, has even been discontinued due to lack of supplies. Japanese sake is also growing in popularity but the latest star in Japan’s lexicon of well-made booze is umeshu (梅酒), a liqueur made from the Japanese plum. According to Japan’s National Tax Agency (NTA), liqueur exports, which are primarily umeshu, more than doubled from 1.84 billion yen ($18 million) to 4.21 billion ($38 million) between 2011 and 2016.

The Japanese plum ume (梅) and the liquor made from it have a long history in Japan. Umeshu is a traditional Japanese liqueur made from the ume fruit. A nice flavor balance is created by aging the whole fruit, with the stone still inside, by soaking it in various types of alcohol. The citric acid in the fruit gives it a pleasant tang and a taste that is sweet and tart with notes of almonds. Some brands mix in sugar, cane spirit or brandy to create a more refined taste premium brands are aged several years. There are over 300 versions of umeshu on the market in Japan, often tweaked with whatever is the regional delicacy, such as the yuzu, a Japanese yellow citrus fruit.

A large billboard advertising Choya, a leading brand of umeshu, along the Inokashira line.

It’s not only the plum wine that is loved in Japan plums are a staple of Japanese culture. While almost everyone is familiar with the cherry blossom, it used to be the white blossoms of the plum tree were even more highly esteemed. They are mentioned in Japan’s oldest collection of waka poems, Man'yoshu, in 118 poems, compared to only 42 mentioned for cherry blossoms. The plum itself was considered to be medicine and a disinfectant. According to Choya, Japan’s largest manufacturer of the beverage, the first mention of umeshu in Japanese documents is circa 1697. Many families still make their own umeshu at home, but it's a far cry from the refined products that are shipping out of Japan now.

According to the NTA, umeshu, is very popular in Taiwan, Hong Kong and increasingly popular in the West. In Hong Kong, the drink is very popular with young women many popular cocktails in Hong Kong reportedly have umeshu as a base. Sankei Newspaper, notes that the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) has set zero tariffs on Japanese liqueur, which could spur sales of the drink in Europe.

The drink is slowly gathering international attention as well. Choya’s signature brand, Choya Excellent, won the Monde Selection Grand Gold Quality Award in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013 and the International High Quality Trophy in 2015. In 2017, at Britain’s International Spirits Challenge, Choya was named liqueur producer of the year.

However, for pop culture junkies, what may signify that umeshu is finally ready to for the big time is that Nestle Japan this April produced an umeshu Kit-Kat. Nestle collaborated with one of Japan's best traditional producers, Heiwa Shuzo, to create the Kit Kat Mini Ume Sake Tsuru-ume Umeshu Plum Wine—which blends the sweetness of white chocolate with the sharp taste of ripe Japanese plums.

Nestle used genuine Nanko plums from Wakayama Prefecture to heighten the flavor.


Flavor Bomb - The New Chef's Secret Ingredient You Can Use Too

Ready to take the flavor of your cooking to the next level?

It’s long been a common ingredient in Vietnamese and Thai food. But you might be surprised to find chefs adding it to your spaghetti Bolognese.

“It” is fish sauce, but not just any fish sauce. Red Boat fish sauce is different from most other versions you can buy, and like many such products, it was chefs that first realized the value and versatility, but home cooks and foodies are catching on as the distribution gets wider, including gourmet stores like New York’s Zabar’s, national chains like Whole Foods, and even Aamzon.com. You might just want to get a bottle.

More important than what makes it different is what makes it so good and useful, so I will tackle that first.

In short, a little bit of Red Boat fish sauce makes a lot of other things taste better. Much better. It is a secret flavor weapon that adds instant oomph to all kinds of dishes. It can be described as a shortcut to umami, the so-called fifth flavor (in addition to sweet, sour, bitter and salt), which in turn is often described as savory or meaty. Or you might call it lightning in a bottle.

“I describe it as adding age or adding history to a dish, in the way that things like bourbon and cheese get better with age,” said Ed Lee, the chef owner of 610 Magnolia in Louisville, a James Beard Best Chef finalist, winner on Iron Chef, and former competitor on TV’s Top Chef. “It adds really interesting flavor with minimal work.”

Red Boat Fish Sauce is a labor of love from Cuong Pham, who originally left his home country as one of the Vietnamese Boat People before landing in the US and working for Apple. For years he missed the flavors of his childhood and yearned for the nostalgic tastes, which could not be satisfied in any of the commercially available fish sauces he found in Asian markets. In 2006 he set out to make his own. He opened a plant in Vietnam, on the tropical island of Phu Quoc, where the small black anchovies are legendary. Red Boat is made only from anchovies and salt, nothing else, no MSG or additives, it is low in calories, and like the finest olive oil, only from the first pressing. The anchovies are aged with salt, the oil extracted and that’s it - Red Boat. Go into an Asian market and read the ingredients on any other brand you find and you will quickly see the difference. “If you smell them you can tell the difference,” said Lee. “Some incorporate fish guts, squid, anything to make them fishier. As a result they are too fishy, too salty, but not enough umami. Red Boat adds flavor, not just salt.”

“We take the fish right off the boat, salt them, and put them in wooden barrels for a year, like whisky or wine. Then we take only the first press and sell off the rest to other producers. The 40° N on the label is not forty degrees north, it means forty degrees of nitrogen, which is the measure of quality in fish sauce,” said Betsy Fox, spokeswoman for Red Boat. “Most are in the twenties. I’ve not seen any others put the number on the label because they have nothing to boast about.”

Red Boat is salty, and in most recipes would be a substitute for salt, but adds much more than just saltiness. “It adds a layer of depth to anything you do,” said Chef Lee, who has been using it in traditional Sothern dishes, including biscuit gravy. “Make a bowl of instant ramen like you did in college, taste it, and then add a few drops. You’ll see, it just explodes into layers of flavor. But it’s not just about Asian cuisine. I use it in a classic French brown butter sauce to sauté shrimp. You don’t think of Mexican food and fish sauce, but it works. I make a meat marinade of equal parts fish sauce and honey, plus soy, coriander, garlic. It’s simple but incredibly flavorful, savory. It works well with acid so I use it in vinaigrette. Sweetness goes well with fish sauce, so with honey or caramelized sugar as a glaze for chicken wings. Everyone wants their wings perfectly glazed but you only get perfect glazing with lots of sugar. Adding fish sauce keeps it from getting too sweet. Caesar salad dressing calls for anchovies - instead add a couple of drops of Red Boat. Any dish with cream it works great. I’m in Louisville and I do it in southern gravy.”

I attended a tasting of some of Chef Lee’s dishes and the wow factor of the Red Boat is for real. I can’t wait to try it at home, and I think it will add a new dimension to my already solid slow-smoked barbecue, among other things.

“It’s taking off. You go into any chef’s kitchen in the world today and you will find soy sauce. It wasn’t always that way, but I know chef show put in their Bolognese,” said Lee. “It’s a way to add salt to any dish. Fish sauce is the same but a way to add umami to any dish. This is a brand new thing, and I think it is going to be the next big thing.”

The Red Boat website explains in detail the production process, including a short video, and has a number of varied recipes from superstar chefs who have embraced its charms, including Patricia Wells, Anita Lo and Zakary Pelaccio. A large bottle (500 ml) is $10 online from Red Boat (plus shipping). I just got a bottle.


Ultimate Guide to the Canterbury Wine Region

­Nestled against the southern slope of the Alps, the low, fe­rtile spread of land known as the Canterbury region is an environmental jewel resting on New Zealand's South Island. Beginning in Northland (in the north, of course) and running down to Waipara before ending in the southern city of Central Otago, this large region covers a long stretc­h of varied landscape, climates and vineyards [source: Cooper]. The terroirs of Canterbury can be broken up into 10 different regions, all with their own special flavor.

With coastal breezes and the vibrant warmth of bright days, the regions of Canterbury host all varieties of vines and grapes growing in rich, loamy coastal soils or drained and rocky former riverbeds [source: NZ Wine]. Miles of pasture and lush greenery sweep right up to the edges of pristine beaches along the East coast this vast area has become one of the wine world's most picturesque and productive wine settings [source: New Zealand Tourism Guide]. And it's almost as if the land has been this way forever.

­When French missionaries arrived in New Zealand in the 1800s, they built churches, living quarters and towns. Wine soon followed, as vines were planted for production of the wine so crucial to the mass of the Catholic Church [source: Mission Estate Winery]. Vineyards soon flourished across the country, and today we know New Zealand as the most southern point of wine production in the world. It's also known for the variety of wines it produces, including some of the world's most appreciated Sauvignon Blanc wines [source:Gibson].

History and Culture of the Canterbury Wine Region

Originally inhabited by the Maori people, New Zealand was settled in the 1840s by Europe­ans, decades after British sea captain James Cook explored the area. Christchurch, the oldest city in New Zealand, was incorporated in 1856 [source: History Channel, Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism]. The French were the first to plant vines in the area, but vineyards did not become strongly established until the 1970s [source: Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism, Ministry of Heritage and Culture].

Vineyards began to grow densely in Canterbury, specifically around the Christchurch area and northern part of the region. Now, with the backdrop of pristine mountains and hills and the hustle and bustle of city markets, wildlife viewing and recreational activities, the South Island's prime city offers more than just a taste of wine culture on its city streets [source: Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism].

Today, it's possible to do everything from paddle back into history in traditional Maori canoes, hike on trails among breathtaking scenery and end the day with wine tasting [source: Sbrocco]. You can even venture down North Canterbury's food and wine trail to experience the best of the best in this culture-rich region [source: Scoop].

What makes this trail so unique from other wine trails that have enticed wine enthusiasts from around the world? In our next section, explore the agriculture and viticulture of the Canterbury region and find out how Christchurch's nickname, "Garden City," influences the wine that the region produces.

Small and flightless, the Kiwi is a cute, fuzzy ball of fluff, with feathers more like hair. Yet this little bird carries a nation's pride on its back, supports the country's dollar and is the well-known nickname of New Zealanders. So, what would become of the nation's identity if the now-endangered bird became extinct? This is exactly what environmentalists in New Zealand hope to prevent with Operation Nest Egg, a project for protecting and restoring the habitat of this petite icon [source: Johnston]. ­

Agriculture of the Canterbury Wine Region

There are roughly 24,700 acres (10,000 hectares) of farmland within the Canterbury region, and it is New Zealand's largest section of rich lowlands and prime farming ground [source: Statistics New Zealand, Cuisine]. And as wine was a more than $900 million industry for New Zealand in 2007, it seems appropriate that that this bountiful region would be responsible for a big chunk of that industry [source: NZ Wines, Sluys].

The region as a whole is divided into two areas -- the Waipara region in the north and the Christchurch region farther south [source: Cooper]. When researchers at Lincoln University began investigating the soil quality and possibility of establishing vineyards in the Canterbury region in 1973, they determined that Riesling and Chardonnay could be top producers [source: Cuisine]. Even the trickier Pinot Noir, known for its earthy, yet light and fruity aroma and taste, was said to perform well in the region, finding its roots among the well-drained soils [source: Isle].

Cultivated by years of oceanic settling and change, soils in Canterbury are sandstone, silt and limestone-heavy varieties. All of these soil types work well with favorable sun and moderately cool climate to produce the wide range of grapes grown here [source: Holding, Canterbury Winegrowers Association].

Canterbury isn't only about wine. Split with rivers, the Canterbury region is also known for its salmon fishing and sheep-raising communities [source: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Te Ara].

If you're ready to sample some of Canterbury's famous wines, move onto the next section to learn about the region's finest.

For vintners, the main source of classification is grape type, of course. But when it comes to distinguishing a label or a brand, soil can play a part, too. Take for instance, the Gimblett Gravels mark. Found along the eastern side of North Island, Gimblett Gravels separate themselves from other terroirs using the land on which they stand: a sandy, gravelly riverbed washed open in the 1860s [source: Gimblett Gravels]. Vines in this area are exposed to warmer days and nights throughout the growing season, which lends to a distinctly different blend of flavors and bite in the red wines of this conglomerate—a bite that may soon beat out reds from other more prominent areas [source: McCoy]. ­

Famous Wines of the Canterbury Wine Region

Looking for a great wine and an unbeatable price? It seems as if New Zealand might be the next big thing, but even with its growing popularity, it hasn't always been so. Several wines were pulled in the 1980s, and a serious rebuilding effort was mounted in the 1990s, under which the country's production once again flourished [source: Robinson].

Today, Sauvignon Blanc is quickly becoming "the" wine of New Zealand, with a supremely recognizable "crisp, grassy" flavor [source: Canterbury Winegrowers Association]. But everything from Riesling to Pinot Noir and Merlot have worked their way into the hearts and palates of people worldwide, and should you want Chardonnay from the southernmost wineries of the world, you'll be able to find it [source: NZ Wine].

Which bottles and years are getting the rave reviews? Try one of these gems from Canterbury:

  • Pinot Noir: 1982 St. Helena
  • Riesling: 2004 Pegasus Bay, 2004 Sherwood Clearwater
  • Sauvignon Blanc: Giesen Sauvignon Blanc

South of the border and south of pretty much everything, these wines have their own distinct flavor of sun and style packed into every shippable drop. Now you can get out there and sample some for yourself.

Be sure to check out the next page for more helpful links.

In recent years, with findings of mold damage to wine, the age-old cork wine stopper has been, well, stopped. With the support of vintners who want less spoilage of their products, screw tops have steadily gained their place among select bottlers until the industry-wide shift saw a mix of both cork and screw tops. Despite the cork preferences of most people, New Zealand has become the industry leader in screw tops with some 90 percent of its bottles being capped this way [source: Goode, Wine Spectator]. ­


The decade ahead looks bright for Canadian wine

This article was published more than 1 year ago. Some information in it may no longer be current.

Quails’ Gate Estate Winery.

Despite concerted marketing efforts from the wine industry, Nielsen data shows millennials are drinking more spirits and beer as well as embracing cannabis. For them, for now, wine is an afterthought. As a result, you can expect to see more premium wines in cans and other packaging innovations made to shift standard – some might say, elitist – marketing practices to appeal to emerging consumers. These won’t be novelty products. They’ll be authentic wines packaged for convenience and have the added benefit of reducing producers’ carbon footprints.

Connoisseurs needn’t worry they’ll be faced with ordering an allocation of La Tâche Grand Cru, one of the world’s most collectable red wines, in tall boy or mini-keg, but every measure will be made to embrace new sales opportunities. Some might say the industry’s future depends on it.

The millennial question isn’t the only looming concern for producers increasingly taxed with challenges surrounding climate change, water constraints and global market developments.

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But, I believe that coming decade may will be the roaring Twenties for Canadian wine. The most determined domestic producers have long been teaming up to showcase their vintages and varieties at international trade fairs, such as ProWein in Germany, and at specialty tastings in London and New York to raise awareness and drum up orders. Those efforts will be rewarded.

Hybrid grapes are having a moment with hipster wine bars and anyone looking for distinctive wines with different personalities.

For the country’s fine wine producers, which includes virtually every operation with the ambition to sell bottles of wine for more than $20, export markets are crucial to their long-time success and profitability. The best Canadian wines are made in small batches, which gives producers the opportunity to promote quality products that offer a real sense of place. Following the model of an established region, such as France’s Burgundy, Canadian producers could enjoy success by managing their scarcity. None of Canada’s winemaking provinces – British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia – need to be the next big thing on the world wine stage. Any and all of them have the opportunity to be the next little thing and to augment their domestic sales, diversify their sales channels and solidify their long-term economic sustainability.

One of the interesting lessons from the early export success stories is that the world isn’t looking for top-of-the-line reserve wines from any Canadian producer. It’s labels that offer real quality at a good price that are always in demand. These are the sorts of wines reliably being produced in British Columbia and Ontario that might have the added benefit of creating more wine tourism as wine lovers come to realize that Canadian wine exists.

Other countries that should flourish in the coming years are Greece and Portugal, countries that will finally benefit from the impressive array of unique grape varieties and extreme value for price ratio on offer. Also, expect to hear much more from Australia, which 20 years ago went from being the world’s most enviable wine producing nation to its most underappreciated. There are some seriously talented young vintners and marketers working down under who are sure to capture the imagination of a new generation of Canadian wine lovers.

This week’s featured reviews include a selection of Canadian wines that would stand out on the world’s stage. There’s a rich and toasty sparkling wine and a stylish red blend from two of Ontario’s pioneering estate wineries and an exciting red produced with maréchal foch grown on some of the Okanagan Valley’s oldest vines. Finally, a ripe and rich red blend from the Okanagan shows solid aging potential and polish.

Quails’ Gate Estate Winery's Old Vines Foch Reserve ranks as one of the top wines made from the maréchal foch grape on the planet.


The Solera Effect

Consider how many Central American countries use the solera method, says DeLuna. Solera, she explains, “is a method developed in Spain that goes something like this: Imagine a room full of barrels. You make a spirit and put it in the first barrel, then you empty almost all of the first barrel into the second. Rinse and repeat until you’ve gone through all the barrels in your solera. Then you make a second batch of the spirit and do the same thing over again. Meaning, there’s something from the first batch in every barrel but only a minute amount.”

If you’ve used this blending technique for 25 years, you can say that the rum has been aged for that long, but most of it will be significantly younger. A label doesn’t tell you that.

Where a rum has been aged also comes into play. As a bartender at New York’s Covina and rum enthusiast, Rafa García Febles says, “Rum aged in the tropics is going to undergo different chemical changes than rum aged in London docks, as everything from temperature to humidity to sunlight to elevation affects the rate and style of aging.”

And the barrel plays a role: “A rum aged in new charred American oak in Guyana might taste fully mature after five years, and one aged in London in ancient used cognac barrels may be just getting started.”


Have Some Madeira?

It is in a way the most American of wines, even though it actually comes from a Portuguese island off the African coast. When it came time to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, this is the wine that filled the Founding Fathers’ glasses.

Workers at the Liberty Hall Museum in New Jersey recently discovered three cases of the stuff dating from 1796 — too young to be the wine that Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams raised for their toast, but old enough that they might have sipped it a few years later.

Madeira (because you have already guessed the name of the wine I’m talking about) has a glorious history here in the United States. Once upon a time you could find it prominently displayed on the top shelf of any reputable drinks shop, it was that popular. But when I went looking for a bottle at my local upscale supermarket I had to go deep into the corner where the fortified and dessert wines are kept and then stoop down to the bottom shelf.

O, Madeira. How far you have fallen!

But looks can deceive and Madeira is alive and well even if its not as prominent as it was in 1776. Madeira was America’s wine back then in part because America didn’t make much wine of its own and imported wine often suffered badly on the long sea trip from Europe to North America.

Live Long and Prosper

Madeira’s secret was (and is) its unique production process, where the wine is both heated and oxidized. The wines used to be conditioned by sending the barrels on round-trip ocean voyages in hot cargo holds. The movement of the ship and the heat below deck did the job very well.

Now it’s done shore-side in the lodges. The wines start out with high acidity (the island soils are part of that) and end up both fresh and nearly invincible. A bottle of Madeira has an almost long half-life after its been uncorked. You’ll certainly drink it up before it goes off.

There’s not a lot of Madeira wine produced, which is one reason you don’t see oceans of it in the shops. Vineyard land is not plentiful on Madeira — about 500 hectares in total cling to the steep mountainsides. Just enough to provide raw material to eight producers.

France is the number one market for Madeira wine, where it is a popular aperitif (France is the top market for Port wines, too, for the same reason). Tourists visiting Madeira enjoy enough of the wine there to make it the number two market followed by Germany, the UK, Japan, and the United States. U.S. demand has been slowly ratcheting up in recent years, now accounting for about seven percent of total production.

You Don’t Know What You’re Missing

Sue and I traveled to Madeira about a year ago and learned a lot by visiting Blandy’s and Justino’s, two of the most important producers. We were fortunate to be invited to refresh our memories last month at a seminar and trade tasting in Seattle. We tasted the range of Madeira wine types including the one pictured here from 1928. Here are some impressions from that experience.

If you haven’t tasted Madeira in a while, you need to get to work. Chances are you’ve forgotten the balance and lifting acidity that characterize the wines. These aren’t sticky sweet fruitcake wines, (although there is such a thing as a Madeira cake, which is meant to be eaten with a glass of Madeira.)

You can make Madeira as simple or complicated as you like — it is up to you. By far the majority of the wines are sweet or semi-sweet 3-year-old blends. Sweetish or drier — those are your basic choices. Drier Madeira, like Fino sherry, is pretty versatile and might surprise you.

Only small amounts of aged Madeira is made from white grape varieties like the Sercial in the photo and these wines have very distinctive characteristics that anyone who wants to take a deeper dive would appreciate. Because the wines basically last forever once opened, you can pull the cork on several different ones and enjoy the kind of comparative tasting that we experienced in Seattle without being anxious about finishing up the bottles before they goes off. On-trade readers take note!

1776 and All That

I am glad we attended the seminar and tasting, but having said all these positive things about Madeira wines, I have to report that Sue and I came away a little bit disappointed. Not with the excellent presentation. And not with the wines themselves.

We were hoping for something more in the way of a hook to draw consumers into the world of Madeira wines and we couldn’t find one. The history is great and even important, which is why I used it as the hook for this column, but is it enough to make an significant impact in the crowded wine marketplace?

Madeira was once the Big Thing in American wine. Is it The Next Big Thing today? No — can’t be. There’s not enough of it to go around. But it is a unique wine of time and place that deserves a closer look.


Share All sharing options for: The Rich History of Hungarian Wine

Most European countries have the Romans to thank for their wine industry. But Hungary, with nearly 100 varietals and 22 wine-growing regions, may predate even Julius Caesar.

The written proof supporting this theory is spotty at best, yet many historians believe the tale. "Indirect proof is there, that the Celts inhabiting the country knew viticulture as early as the third century B.C.," says sommelier Gergely Barsi Szabó of Barsi Szabó Edwards Wines.

One of only three European languages to derive its wine vocabulary from a language other than Latin, alongside Greek and Turkish, Hungarian includes words from Turkic, a language belonging to a people historically established in China during the sixth century B.C., and Bulgaro-Turkic, suggesting a South Caucasian influence as early as the fourth century B.C. In other words, if they were talking about it, they were likely making it, and long before the more famous French or Italian vineyards were planted by the Romans.

Throughout their long history, Hungarian wines have been perceived as elusive and mysterious, and nearly always lauded. Even King of France Louis XIV is said to have had a weakness for Tokaj aszú dessert wine, dubbing it, "Wine of Kings, King of Wines."

. Hungarian wines have been perceived as elusive and mysterious, and nearly always lauded .

But if Hungarian wines have long been held in such esteem, why is it that today one would be hard-pressed to find any at a local liquor store? The answer lies in the complex and varied history of Hungary.

Legend or Law?

By the fifth century A.D., Hungary's terroir — composed of multiple microclimates, each providing a distinct yet ideal winemaking environment — had made it a wine epicenter. After the Magyar invasion of Hungary in 896, what would later become the much lauded vineyards of Tokaj were awarded to the followers of Árpád, the leader of the dynasty that would rule the Kingdom of Hungary until 1301. By the 17th century, these vineyards would become some of the most valuable on the planet, enough so to merit the world’s first vineyard classification system, introduced in 1700.

Hungary's wine industry flourished — and even gave way to myths and legends, the most popular of which concerns the origin of one of Hungary’s most popular red wines, dubbed "Bull’s Blood." According to local lore, the defenders of Eger, a city in Northern Hungary, drank the local red wine to fortify themselves for battle against 16th century Turkish invaders. The wine spilled onto their beards and clothes, coloring them red, and so began the rumor that the Hungarian armies drank the blood of bulls for strength, fashioning them into fearless warriors for anyone who believed the tale.

Tokaj vineyards in Hungary. [Photo via Shutterstock/Pecold]

Of course, today, the story is more legend than law.

"It is true that the Eger fortress was unsuccessfully sieged by the Turks in 1552, and that Eger people are very proud of that, but I don’t think there was any connection between the battle and the wine," says Gábor Bánfalvi, co-ower of Budapest culinary tour company Taste Hungary. And Szabó agrees. "The truth is that most of the Hungarian cultivars were white up until the Turkish conquest, and the first red varietals entered Hungary from the south with the fleeing Serbians and the Turks," he says. "A nice legend, though."

Tokaji was the world’s first protected wine, but it is arguably also one of the world’s first sweet white wines, made from nobly rotten grapes as early as 1571. That's long before similar wines were made in Sauternes, France (1836) and Rheingau, Germany (1775) — two regions famous for their sweet grapes.

According to legend, close to harvest time one year, Hungarian farmers were forced to leave their fields in order to battle the Turks. Upon their return, the farmers’ grapes were already infected with noble rot, but they decided to pick them and make wine anyway, and they have been doing so ever since.

Tragedy Hits Wine

By the 19th century, sweet Tokaji wine was renowned the world over. But at the end of the century, disaster hit twice. Firstly, American railway links between the midwest and eastern seaboard made it possible for cheap American grain to flood the European market, and price collapse hit Hungary fairly hard. This coincided with the phylloxera epidemic that swept across Europe, destroying vines throughout the continent and devastating Hungary’s unique varietals. While neither disaster fully crippled the wine industry—Hungary counted 401 vineyard acres in 1910 as compared to 355 in 1900—these setbacks were doubled with the onset of communism. The government took control of vineyards, favoring quantity over quality, and many of Hungary’s unique varietals and the distinct quality of vinification disintegrated.

Tokaji was the world’s first protected wine, but it is arguably also one of the world’s first sweet white wines .

As a result, today, Hungary’s wine reputation is almost nonexistent. "Most people are actually surprised that we make any wine at all," says Banfálvi. But this is a huge misconception. In the past 20 years, Hungarian wines have slowly been making a comeback.

Hungary's Recovery

"In the early '90s we had a destroyed reputation and lost the market of the former Eastern block," says Banfálvi. "In two decades we were able to turn everything around, and both family and privately owned wineries have popped up all over the country, and started focusing on quality and on educating the nation on how to learn to appreciate wine again."

Grapes undergoing "noble rot." [Photo via Shutterstock/evryka]

It is a time for relearning old techniques, for adapting to a changing climate and to different varietals. Szabó calls it a "massive jump ahead."

These modern wines are not necessarily the wines that made the Hungarian wine market great before communism, but they’re just as worthy of Hungary’s long-lived reputation. "Until the late '90s or even a bit later, the most popular wines were the heavy, oaky reds and now, just like in many other places, the focus is shifting to local varietals and less oak," says Bánfalvi. Hungary is also becoming better known for fiery white wines, vinified in tandem with its famed sweet whites.

In the past 20 years, Hungarian wines have slowly been making a comeback.

The only problem, so far, is getting Hungarian wines recognized outside the country. Gábor Nagy, who runs Faust Wine Cellar in Budapest, sees the complication divided between two points. "Our quantities are not the same as France or Spain or Italy," he explains, saying that the entire wine production of Hungary is comparable to the production of Bordeaux: about 330 million liters in Bordeaux, as compared to around 260 million liters in all of Hungary.

The Wines of Hungary

Bánfalvi recommends commencing a tour of Hungarian wine with two of the country’s most famous styles, the first of which is Tokaj aszú. "Yes, it is a sweet wine, but taste it and you'll be addicted for life," he says.

And he’s right — this isn’t just any sweet wine. Made with a combination of local grapes including Hárslevelű and Furmint, Tokaji is produced in one of several sweetness categories: Aszú, 3, 4, 5, or 6 Puttonyos, the unique unit used to measure a wine's sugar content, 6 Puttonyos being the sweetest, with a minimum of 150 grams of sugar per liter. In most instances, the grapes are hand-picked from shriveled clusters when they reach peak ripeness, making Tokaj aszú a very labor-intensive but rewarding harvest. The final wine is aged for a minimum of two years in oak barrels before being bottled, adding to its deep, rich flavor.

"This wine has an amazing gold-amber color, honey, pruned apricot aromas, with some honey and citruses on the palate," says Bánfalvi. "It has a beautiful creamy texture and can be aged for centuries."

Bull’s Blood is a wine Bánfalvi says most associate with drinking cheap red wine in their college days. Of course, it is much more than this. At Faust Wine Cellar, two different Bull’s Blood wines are on offer—one from Szekszárd, in southern Hungary, and the other from Eger.

The former, Janos Nemeth’s 2012 Sygno Bull’s Blood—or Bikavér, as it is known in Hungarian—was blended from five different red wines made from five different grapes. Blending is the idea behind Bull’s Blood, which was invented in the early 20th century by Jenõ Grüber—with no actual blood included, despite rumors to the contrary. In this case, the blend is Kékfrankos, Kadarka, Zweigelt, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah, though each winemaker has his or her own combination.

"[Grüber] came up with the name and the idea of creating a blend that is better quality than the individual wines that go into it," says Bánfalvi. "I think he must have just thought it was a catchy name, it reflecting the proud history of Eger and the qualities of the wine at the same time."

But according to Nagy, Bull’s Blood would have originally come not from Eger, but from this region written evidence of Bull’s Blood in Szekszárd dates back to the 18th century, while in Eger it dates only to the 19th century, thus quashing all legends and myths to the contrary. "No vampire stories," he confirms. "Only wine."

The wine is, however, rich and powerful, at 14 percent alcohol. "Strong like bull," says Nagy. "And the color is like blood."

This Bull’s Blood, however, is not nearly as flavorful and rich as the 2009 Egri Bikavér from Ferenc Tóth winery in Eger, which has rich, spicy aromas and, Nagy promises, at least 10 years potential for aging in bottle.

The rules for making Bull’s Blood are many. "I can't tell you all of them because you'll be here until day after tomorrow as well," jokes Nagy, but he does share a few, notably that Kékfrankos must be the main wine used, making up at least a third but no more than half of the blend.

Kékfrankos is actually the principal red wine variety in Hungary today, as well as one of the oldest, dating back to the 13th or 14th century. A Kékfrankos Selection from the Ráspi Winery in the Soproni wine region, near the Austrian border, brings out the best in this Central European grape, with a single-varietal wine boasting a rich color, plus cherry, smoke and leather aromas that come from 18-month oak aging.

But before there was red wine in Hungary, there was white: Furmint is the signature white grape here, the major element of Tokaji, but also quite intriguing when vinified as a dry white, boasting green apple and grapefruit notes. "Depending on the vinification, it can be as elegant as a nice Chardonnay or as refreshing and cheerful as a Sauvignon Blanc or Grüner Veltliner," says Bánfalvi. "But at the end of the day it has its own identity and is a very important grape for us."

Kékfrankos is . the principal red wine variety in Hungary today, as well as one of the oldest

Nagy likes Furmint in Bene Winery's 2013 John's Bless Tokaji Furmint, also available at Faust. This dry white is made with 100 percent Furmint, and it is far from ordinary.

"This wine is a little bit tricky," he says. "If you smell it, it seems a bit sweet, or it has a smell of a whiskey or like a sherry, or like a brandy, or like a rum." He grins. "But if you taste it …" he shakes his head and smiles the flavor is far drier and crisper than the aroma would have you believe, a "trickiness" that comes from the minerality of Tokaj's terroir, the quality of the grapes, and the six month aging in oak barrels.

It would seem that white wines remain Hungary’s strength, especially Villányí Hárslevelü (2011), made by Zsófi Iványi in the south of the country with the Hárslevelü varietal, another grape popular in Tokaj for its aroma and color. This unique wine is made via skin-on fermentation of late-harvested grapes, producing a nearly orange wine with a whopping 14.5 percent alcohol and a deep, rich aroma of hazelnut, oak and passionfruit. Fourteen months of oak aging adds to the illusion that this white is actually a pale rosé. When swirled, it takes on a lychee-honey aroma and a long finish.

For sourcing Hungarian wines in the U.S., Bánfalvi suggests BlueDanubeWine.com. Specifically, he recommends the wines of Samuel Tinon, Bodrgo Bormühely, Demeter Zoltán, Judit Bott or Patricius Winery from Tokaj, or Gere Attila, Eszterbauer or Vylyan for a variety of reds.

The Next Big Thing

Believing that Hungary would follow in the footsteps of Germany and Austria, New York-based Athena Bochanis launched her Hungarian wine importing company, Palinkerie, in 2013. Catering to top tier restaurants like Manhattan's Michelin-starred Betony and Brooklyn's Meadowsweet, Bochanis decided to take a chance and become the east coast food and wine ambassador for Hungary. Says Bochanis, "I knew exactly what I wanted to bring: fresh-faced, high-quality, natural, and well-priced wines. Wines that were modern, but with an old-fashioned sensibility. The wines of the new Old World."

According to Meadowsweet owner Jeremy Adona, Hungarian "wines [are] versatile with different types of cuisine and easy to drink on their own." Meanwhile, Betony wine director Dean Fuerth and co-owner Eamon Rockey were also seduced by Hungarian wines. Rockey cites both the country's incredible vinification history and its "unexpected gems" as good reasons to put such bottles on Betony's list, which currently includes three different Furmints, a Juhfark, a Harslevelu, a Kékfrankos rosé, and a Kadarka.

"If nothing else, Hungarian wines are provocative when offered to a guest," says Fuerth.


Watch the video: Tarte flambée με Gold Selection από το Κτήμα Χρυσοχόου (December 2021).