Virtual Tasting

The volcanic wines of the Lake Balaton - The volcanic wines of Tokaj

Katalin Kiszel-Kohari - July 19, 2020

I was invited to a virtual wine tasting (that turned out to be two separate occasions). I often say that I was invited, but to be fair, the wine world is rather small. You just got to know people. As unbelievable as it sounds, it is actually not that easy to find interested individuals who put some time and effort into such things.

I have never taken part in an event like this, so I was rather excited. Because of the lockdown, my last tasting was in mid-March, so it has been awhile. This virtual setup seemed interesting and everybody is doing it nowadays. Somehow, I was confident that a virus could not halt the enjoyment of wine with like-minded people.

The host was Jimmy Smith DipWSET, who has his YouTube channel called Wine with Jimmy. Really good stuff if you are systematically learning about wine or preparing to WSET exams. He is quite interested in volcanic wines and this is how Hungary came into view. You can find plenty of volcanic wine regions in Hungary.

The first session was about Somló. Although it is classed as being part of the Balaton wine region, as a subregion of sort, it is actually a bit further away from the lake.

The second one was about the Tokaj region, with its monumental number of extinct volcanoes.

The tasted wines were:

  • Figula Balatonfüredi Olaszrizling (Welschriesling) ‘Sáfránkert’, Balatonfüred, Hungary, 2018
  • Spiegelberg Somlói Juhfark (Sheep’s Tail), Nagysomló, Hungary, 2017
  • Kolonics Somlói Hárslevelű (Lime Leaf), Somló, Hungary, 2018
  • Balassa, Tokaji Furmint, Tokaj, Hungary, 2018
  • Balassa, Tokaji Sweet Szamorodni, ‘Bomboly’, Tokaj, Hungary, 2017
  • Tokajicum, Tokaji Aszú 5 puttonyos, Tokaj, Hungary, 2014

My unfair advantage was that I had already tasted most wines, apart from one, so I was sipping a nice Grüner Veltliner, rather than the above-mentioned items. I just did not see the point of buying them again.

The format was good, although I knew no one from the assembled group, but at the first part that was not a problem. Although the even was hosted by Jimmy, but there was a person who gave a presentation too. You could still write your questions through a chat box, and listened to the answers, so it was not chaotic, which I thought it could be. We tried Zoom meetings with the kids in school through lockdown and it was interesting to say the least.

About the wines. I do like some of Figula’s Olaszrizlings, but I was not keen on the ‘Sáfránkert’ (Saffron garden) when I tasted it. I found the 15,5% ABV rather excessive for a white wine. It is not the first time I came across such monsters. Sometimes people get confused about making a powerful wine, or just making something too alcoholic.

Juhfark is an underrated grape even in Hungary that I am quite fond of (I have already written about it in this blog). The volcanic Somló area is a tiny region with lots of interesting wines, sparkling or still, but I have never tasted the Kolonics Hárslevelű, that seemed to be the most interesting and popular wine of the tasting. I will be looking out for that one.

That was the first part, and the second part took place a week later focusing on Tokaj with a dry Furmint, a sweet wine and an aszú. Balassa is a tiny, renowned, but fairly new cellar in the Tokaj wine region. Founded in 2005, cultivates 8,7 ha of land mostly around the village Mád, Tokaj and Tarcal. Through its short history, the winery won numerous awards with its excellent produce. Both dry and sweet wines were top notch. If it is Tokaj than an aszú is a must have. This one was a rather good one. A honeyed, rich nectar with dried rose petals and quince and apricot. Great stuff.

So, there you have it, a virtual wine tasting. It was the first, but I am sure not the last occasion.

Photographs by The Tannin Addict.