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Kadarka, Siller – The Hidden Gems

Elizabeth Gabay MW

Jozsef Bock’s family has cultivated vineyards in Villány, in southern Hungary, since the early 1700s. Jozsef Bock himself has been one of the founding figures in the Hungarian wine renaissance over the past 30 years. Part of this renaissance has been to make big, bold Bordeaux blend red wines. The wines have won loyal followers and international attention and the creation of the Villanyi Franc (Cabernet Franc) brand. On my latest visit to the cellars, however, it was the more delicate wines which caught my attention. 

Kadarka

Kadarka, a regional variety found in southern Slovakia, Bulgaria, Serbia and western Romania – but most significantly in Hungary, was once an important variety. Its reputation suffered due to difficulties in producing high volume wines and erratic ripening. But, when made well, this variety can make beautiful silky Pinot Noir style wines which are an absolute joy to drink.

Bock ages his Kadarka for a short time in old Hungarian oak barriques to give a touch of extra weight. His current vintage has typical medium depth colour with ripe cherry fruit, spice, fresh wild berry fruit and silky tannins. Assured that this delicate wine would age well, two older examples from 2013 and 2009 were shown. The 2009 had ripe cherry fruit but had taken on beautiful floral aromas while the 2013 was full of vibrant raspberry and cherry fruit. Proof that delicacy and balance can make wines with ageing potential too. Sadly, only 2000 bottles are made, making this a rare gem.

Siller

Kadarka is one of those varieties which suffers from uneven ripening (hence some of its vibrant acidity). In the past the white berries could be used for white Kadarka and bunches with mixed ripening could make a light red/siller wine. Siller (Schiller in German) is one of the oldest styles of rosé made. Its name means ‘to shimmer’ referring to the colour being between red and pink. Few people make siller today, with the fashion for an international pale rosé. Bock’s siller is made with Kadarka which has had 24 hours of maceration. Fresh raspberry fruit and vibrant acidity it has a delicate tannic finish. Again, a real rarity with only 1000 bottles.

Bock also makes a classic, pale rosé, made of a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Kékfrankos, Portuguesier and Merlot. The 2017 was dry with peach and raspberry fruit and hints of creamy vanilla which made me think of a Peach Melba – full of charm.

Maybe not the wines on which Bock has built his reputation, this hidden gems in his portfolio are well worth hunting out.