Wines from Southern Hungary: Szekszàrd
Szekszàrd is located near the Hungarian Pecs, European Cultural Capital 2010. People from the Balkans, displaced by Turks, planted the first vines here. The region became known mainly for the indigenous wine kadarka. Meanwhile, other varieties also enjoy a high reputation.
Castles, a conservation area, vineyards and cellars, folk customs, honey makers and excellent traditional cuisine. That is Szekszàrd located on the Danube. We find fine wines here especially at Takler, Sauska, Zombaszentgál-Szõlöhegy and Vesztergombi.
The conditions for wine are excellent. The proximity to the river ensures a not too warm Mediterranean climate. The soil consists of thick layers of loess, here and there covered with brown forest soil. The white wines (Italian Riesling, Chardonnay and Tramini) are rich in aroma, sparkling or soft in character. The red wines (Kèkfrankos, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, Szekszàrder bull’s blood) are deep red, fiery and velvety …
On Takler’s family crest, a fox holds two vines. It is like a symbol of the cleverness and especially the expertise of wine making. The 60 ha vineyard is sheltered between hills and therefore enjoys a microclimate. The grapes grow on the soil most suitable for them. The grapes for the merlot grow on vine, the grapes for the kadarka on thick layers of loess. With a harvest of up to 1000 bottles per hectare, Takler was named the best winemaker of the year in both 2003 and 1903.
The Takler primarus is incredibly beautiful. This is a variety of 100% merlot. After alcoholic and malolactic fermentation, the wine is aged for 18-20 months in new oak barriques. In aroma and taste predominantly red juicy cherries with an accent of vanilla, but the wine itself has an enormous depth. We drank the 2007 vintage, but by aging for longer, the tannins are reduced even more.
In Szekszàrd is the wine castle Zombaszentgál-Szõlöhegy. Built at the end of the 19th century, it has been making wine since 2003. It is now one of the very few wine chateaus in Hungary. The plantation of kadarka is the largest of its kind with 7.1 ha. The sticks stand against the mountain slope of the gently sloping Vardomp on thick layers of loess. In the remaining part of the approximately 41 ha vineyard, the native varieties of cabernets, blauf vines and merlot flourish.
“Our pride is the bikavèr válogátas, or bull’s blood,” says the lord of the castle. It is a cuvee of predominantly kadarka supplemented with blaufranken, merlot and cabernet franc. He pours a glass and tastes wine. The wine has a spicy aroma and taste with pleasant acidity. The large amount of kadarka makes the wine mild. What remains is the fervor that characterizes bull’s blood.
Also fiery is the kadarissimo, a kadarka variety. After the traditional alcoholic and malolactic fermentation, the wine matured for six months in oak barriques. The result is a glowing but light wine.
As a restaurant, the castle has a very good regional cuisine. Most of the vegetables come from their own vegetable garden and the poultry from their own poultry farm. Overuge products are purchased from local producers. The menu reflects traditional Hungarian cuisine, including many regional dishes. As a hotel, Zombaszentgál-Szõlöhegy has beautiful rooms, named after grapes. For example, one can spend the night in the Kadarka room.
The castle also includes the Garay vinotheque in the center of Szkeszàrd. This is Hungary’s oldest wine cellar. Almost a thousand years ago, King Béle had this cellar built for the Benedictines. Over the centuries the cellar served as a storehouse for taxes in kind, the so-called tithes. Now more than a hundred people can taste wine here.
With 27 ha, the winery Vesztergombi, located in Szkeszàrd, is one of the smaller wine producers. The vineyard is spread over Porkolàbvölgy, Hidaspetre and Kerékhegy. The high quality wines have won many medals.
The reputation of the Csaba cuvee is particularly great. It is composed of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 20% Secret. The color of the 2007 vintage is very dark, almost black. The nose is impressive, especially with the red fruits of the Cabernet Sauvignon. The taste is full and soft with a nice aftertaste.