Sadly, the wines of Hungary, which is indubitably one of the world’s greatest viticultural nations, are largely unknown outside of its borders, with the exception of the great sweet wine Tokaji. But this “wine of kings” is hardly the only fine wine made there, and some day, the world will know the whole truth.
Most of the grapes grown in Hungary, both native and “international”, are white; this is mostly due to Hungary’s climate and soil, but other reason come into play to, but that, as I often say, is another post. There are, however a couple of regions, mostly in the warmer reaches of the country’s southwest – like Szekszard and Villany – in which red varieties truly thrive, and the latter region, Villany, is the zone from which this evening’s wine comes.
And one of the varieties that can be found in Villany is a grape called Portugieser. First things first – it would seem by its name that this grape might have clear associations with the Iberian peninsula’s westernmost nation. In reality however, there is no such connection; Portugieser’s actual birthplace is still a mystery, but not even one Portugieser vine (which is also sometimes known by its Hungarian-language name Kekoporto) has ever been found in Portugal. Ever. How it wound up with such a misleading moniker is still anybody’s guess.
Most Portugieser is raised in Central and Eastern Europe – in Austria, Germany, Croatia, and of course, in Hungary. But whatever Portugieser’s origins, there is little debate that Hungary, and more specifically, Villany is the region in which Portugieser reaches it’s highest point in terms of quality. In many areas, Portugieser yields only just serviceable, and often downright flabby, anodyne wines bottled in jugs to be chugged down at Summer picnics. Not so with the Portugieser from Villany, a spot whose terroir yields deeply-colored, “sweet”, plush and spicy wines that pair perfectly with Hungary’s bold, indulgent, and spicy cuisine. None of Hungary’s red wines are easy to track down (with the possible exception of too many cruddy examples of another potentially fine Hungarian red from the northeastern corner of the country – Egri Bikaver – “Bull’s Blood” in English) and Portugieser might fall near the end of the availability list, but t’s nonetheless well worth seeking out.
The dinner that went with this lovely and surprisingly sophisticated wine was first, a soup of tarhonya (pellet-like egg pasta), bacon, dried mushrooms, cabbage and sweet paprika in a chicken broth, followed by beef, rice, and herb-stuffed green peppers baked in a tomato, celery leaf and white wine sauce with boiled potatoes, and a couple of dollops of sour cream.
Attlia Gere Villany Portugieser 2011
Slightly cloudy magenta/garnet color. Quite elegant nose of blackberry, dried fig, and cranberry fruit aromas with strong supporting notes of damp soil, mint, oregano, and sandalwood. The palate is medium weight, round, moderately rich and smooth with very soft, slightly peppery tannins and tart acidity with flavors of blueberry, black currant, dried purple flowers and a hint of cloves. Bitterish blood orange flavors on the long and quite complex finish.