Posted by: tomciocco | March 18, 2011

ONE THOUSAND YEARS OF MAGYAR WINEMAKING

Just south of the Danube and the Slovakian border, in the northwestern corner of Hungary, you can find the wine growing region of Pannonhalma. The mostly sweetly rolling green hills of this area is dominated by one particularly high ridge on which in 996 Benedictine monks built a monastary, and as monks of yore were wont to do, planted vineyards.

But even over 1,000  years ago, these “new” vineyards represented a “back to the future” situation because a thousand years before the Benedictines, the Roman legions had subdued what is now western Hungary, and to Rome this new region of the empire became known as Pannonia (sound a little familiar?). The first Roman settlers following these legions brought vine cuttings with them and they, like our monastic friends 1000 years on, found this chalky, loess soil to be an ideal spot to plant and cultivate them.

Exactly what grape varieties Roman vignaioli or medieval monks were tending in their respective times is anyone’s guess, but today’s Pannonhalma vineyards are profitably planted to both red and white varieities – from the familiar “International” varieties like  Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to native, tongue-twistingly named Hungarian varieties like Ezerjo, Sarfeher, and  – ready? – Kiralyleanyka! This particular cuvee` is made up of an un-oaked 40% Olaszrizling (AKA Welschriesling and/or Riesling Italico, which despite all the repetition of the root name, has no relation to true Riesling whatsoever) 40% Riesling, and 20% Tramini (AKA Traminer).

As usual, this Hungarian wine brought to the table a Hungarian dinner of cucumber and mint salad followed by a blue plate special of pecsenye (thin, spiced pork cutlets with a smooth paprika, vegetable, and sour cream sauce) sweet and sour green beans with dill, and egg noodles with cabbage, onions, and parsley.

Pannonhalmi Apatsagi Pinceszet Tricollis 2009

Bright, limpid, pale gold color. Complex, minerally nose of apricot and subtle white peach fruit notes, underpinned with aromas of almond and honey wafers. The mouthfeel is round with a slight oily viscosity well balanced by a bright, clear,and clean acidity and flavors of ground ginger, grapefruit, herbs, and tonic water on the long finish.

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