Posted by: tomciocco | July 12, 2011

TWO LITTLE BRIDGES FROM ITALY TO HUNGARY

Wound within the nature of borders is their inherent mutability. Even borders imposed by nature, via its own terrifying activities like floods, earthquakes, erosion and accretion can change, remain set for a time, and then change again, in some cases with glacial subtlety and pace, in others, with catastrophic speed . 

So with this rarified and overstated point established, believing that the city of Venice and its region, Veneto, and Hungary were once behind the same confines become a lot easier to swallow, both literally and figuratively.  So while Magyars and Latins commingled (with and via Austrians and Slovenians as well over the years) politically, so did they at the table…

The wine, in some ways could not be more Hungarian, and yet… Hailing from one of the most ancient and storied demarcated wine regions in the world, Tokaji (TOE-kai) is long and  justly famous for its sweet wines made with Harslevelu and our wine’s sole grape variety, Furmint. Those FAR more familiar with the Hungarian language than I have indicated that some of the initial research into Furmint’s origins began with its odd, for Hungarian, name. To cut a long story short, it seems that “Furmint” is a Magyarization of the name “Formentino” which as it turns out is a now very rare grape variety native to eastern Veneto and Friuli that was likely transferred to parts east as one of many components in  a dowery for a royal marriage in the early years of  Hapsburg expansion – that time and  borders thing again…

Dinner consisted of Magyaros Babasalata (Hungarian pinto bean salad with onions, celery tops, chives, sugar, oil and vinegar) and then Ponty Paprikas (Catfish fillets poached and then simmered in a sour cream, paprika, onion, tomato, and herb sauce) with a dish that also made a trip over that bridge, that border: a side called Rizi-bizi in Hungarian, which will easily be recognized by many as the Venetian rice dish Risi e bisi, which translates as “rice and peas” from the Venetian dialect. In its place of birth, it is eaten as a first course in the form of a sort of very soupy risotto.

Pajzos Antaloczy Cellars Dry Tokaji Furmint 2008

Lightly burnished limpid, bright gold color. Truly exotic and slightly challenging nose of coriander, crystallized ginger, farmer’s cheese, apricot, petroleum notes, iced tea, sawdust, and an intense minerality. In the mouth the wine is fat, “sweet”, and rich, but well balanced by a penetrating zesty acidity that springs flavors of mandarin orange juice and rind, peach nectar, rosemary, boiled corn, and dried white flowers. Echoing complex finish.

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