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Friday, October 7, 2016

Volcano Wines in Hungary?

                                       Wine-Knows will be touring Hungary in 2018

I've just visited one of the world’s most unique wine districts---it is also one of the smallest.  Hungary’s tiny hill of Somló belongs to an exclusive collection of wine areas around the globe that are totally volcanic (think of Greece’s enchanting Santorini, Sicily's Mt. Etna, the Canaries, or Madeira----all islands).  Somló, however, is an aberration as it is hundreds of miles from the sea.

Ten million years ago Somló was an underwater volcano in a very shallow inland sea.  It erupted and spewed enough molten lava so that it rose out of the sea to a height of nearly 1,500 feet.  The spewed mineral-rich lava was mixed with bubbling gasses from super-heated air deep in the earth’s strata.  The gas penetrated the cooling magma into relatively crumbly, coarse soils that have eroded over the millenniums.  These friable soils today allow water to be delivered to the roots of vines very slowly, a lifesaver during a dry growing season when vineyards must rely on groundwater to survive. The coarse soils are also fast-draining, perfect for vines.  Equally compelling, the mineral-laden soil also contributes interesting minerality to the wine.

Although Somló is a mere 1,200 acres, the hill has over 1,200 individual wine-producers.  This is special soil and everyone for miles around wants a piece of the action.  There are only two sizable producers;  everyone else is a boutique winery, or simply making a wine for home consumption.

Somló is white wine country.  Pronouncing the grape varietals can be a challenge (Juhfark, Olaszrizling, Furmint and Harslevelu---the latter two of which are also the grapes of Tokaj.).   But, drinking these magical white wines is pure bliss.  I’m charmed by Juhfark’s  brilliant, deeply concentrated yellow color and its almond-like finish; Olaszrizling’s high-acidity;  Furmint’s honey and white flower essences; and Harvslevelu’s liquid sunshine of melons and citrus.  Wet stone nuances abound in all.

Blue Danube Wines is the exclusive importer for all Somló wine to the USA.  While Somló may be a little wine district, its white wines are huge in pleasure.  Looking for something new and enticing for a dinner party?   Somló could be your crowd-pleaser.

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