While Hungary might not be the first place you’d associate with bubbly, Hungarians do produce some high quality sparkling wine that may beat Champagne on both quality and price (ok, we may be a little biased here, but we mean it). Here’s why.
Sparkling wines have been produced in Central and Eastern Europe since the early 19th-century. "Champagne" was further popularised in the region, late in the century, when József Törley started production in Hungary using French methods. Törley learned as an apprentice in Reims and has since become one of the largest European producers of sparkling wine.
The Hungarian sparkling wine is enjoying now a renaissance with many high-quality producers, proving that it is something to count with and worth noticing.
Let us take you on a little journey to the Frittmann family’s cellars in the Kunsag region and introduce to you three of their delicate sparklers, with the help of Peter Frittmann, winemaker and project manager of the wine estate. We asked Peter to explain us a little about the making of their exciting and refreshing bubblies. As you'd expect from a passionate winemaker, he had a lot to say.
Source of image: www.frittmann.hu
Irsai Oliver is one of the varieties that we usually start the harvest with. The cellars are all ready and the winemaker is at ease knowing that everything is in place to welcome the new harvest. On the other hand, as we have no information about the vintage, worry and excitement start to kick in: When would it be best to start the harvest? What’s the weather going to be like? Is there any more rain coming? What does the aromatics look like, how are the acids coming together?
This secco is a 2015 vintage that was harvested 4 days before the 2016 picking, on 14th August 2015. The year was exceptionally warm and precipitation was quite irregular.
Irsai Oliver is a variety with rather low acidity (that’s probably one of the reasons why so many people like it) and therefore sugar level is of secondary significance here.
This vintage has 5.6g/litre acid level and 3g/litre residual sugar. The grapes are soaked with skin on and fermented at 15 degrees. The wine is then saturated and the carbon dioxide gas is dissipated slowly and carefully in order to create those extra fine bubbles that make a sip turn into a foamy creaminess when touching the tongue.
We start with our beautiful Kekfrankos wine (the 2015 harvest was on 15th September) and use a similar technology to the white version, taking extra special care when hand-picking and selecting the berries: We want to make sure that we work with beautiful, healthy grapes and pick from our designated rosé area only.
Our terroir is rather fantastic: Thanks to the simple soil structures we can create beautifully fruity wines. The Kekfrankos variety is a very consistent one that delivers year by year highly balanced aromatics.
Why did we decide to make sparkling wine out of it? We think that this high stability is especially important when it comes to creating bubbly. Acid level is 5.8-6g/litre with 2.5g/litre residual sugar content.
Due to the fine bubbles, the scent and aromas of raspberry come out beautifully. This is a gloriously attractive sparkler that’s light and refreshing.
In 2013, we had to start the harvest on our 35 years old Ezerjo plantation rather early. It was due to a lot of rain on an especially deep terrain. The result was a very low sugar level and extremely high acid level must. There wasn’t much we could do with its wine (9.4g/litre acid content). So, it was just left in the cellar until 2014.
In the spring, we started to taste it and were surprised to discover some beautiful flavours. We were sure we needed to do something with it. The question was only, what?
Then came the idea that we should create a pezsgo base from it, which we did with the help of a pezsgo master. (Pezsgő is Hungarian for sparkling wine. - DW)
As it was a test project only, we wanted to use the traditional method and created 6000 bottles in the spring of 2016. We then disgorged it in batches, in brut category with 8g/litre residual sugar. We have now 2500 bottles from this vintage and it’s becoming better and better. We therefore decided to harvest grapes specifically for Ezerjo Pezsgo in 2016 too, which means there will definitely be continuation to it.
It seems to be proven now that Ezerjo variety is a very valuable Hungaricum which we really should cherish and nurture.
We hope you enjoy these beautiful Hungarian sparklers whatever occasion it is you want to celebrate.
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