ProWein 2017 Review by Caroline Gilby MW

Hungarian wine had a strong presence at this year’s Prowein in its new home with the Hungarian Tourism Agency.  There was a programme of fully booked masterclasses, held by various expert speakers in German and English.  Tokaji was a strong feature in all its guises and other classes looked at Cabernet Franc, the new generation of bubbles (Pezsgő in Hungarian) and Lake Balaton as the new wine frontier in Hungary.

Travelling through Terroirs (with the author) looked at benchmark wines from some of Hungary’s less famous regions, including Mátra (Benedek Cserszegi Fűszeres), Hajos-Baja (Koch Irsai Olivér), Pannonhalma (Abbey winery Prior Riesling) and Sopron (Pfneiszl Kékfankos Újra Együtt) in context with wines from the better-known areas of Eger and Villány (Gál Tibor Bikavér TITI, St Andrea Hangács Bikavér Grand Superior, Gere Tamás & Zsolt Portugieser, Vylyan Montenuovo Cuvée).

The other masterclass with the author was entitled “Behind Blue Eyes” and focussed on Hungary’s flagship local red grape Kékfrankos. Hungary has 7229ha, around twice as much as its neighbour Austria (under the guise of Blaufrankisch), but has come late to the party in really highlighting Kékfrankos as an exciting grape here. It’s widespread across Hungary and definitely has the potential to reflect terroir and show off regional differences. A key part of the story has been through the evolution of winemaking and viticulture. This has changed enormously from the previous era when Kékfrankos was treated as a volume workhorse, often giving mean, green thin wines. The next step saw many winemakers pursuing low yields, extraction and new oak to try and show quality through power (vinifying it like Cabernet Sauvignon). Today most winemakers have grasped that this is a grape that should be treated more like Pinot Noir, focussing on gentle extraction and old oak to allow its elegance to shine. It is acidity rather than tannin that is the defining feature of this grape. This intrinsic freshness, along with the fact that it rarely gets over-ripe even in hot years, makes it a great food wine too.

Wines featured included Kékfrankos from St Donát (Balaton-Csopak), Weninger’s Steiner single vineyard election (Sopron), Blues from Kovacs Nimrod (Eger), Hidaspetre Kékfrankos from Peter Vida (Szekszárd) and rounded off with two examples from Villány (Vylyan and Gere Tamás & Zsolt).