Sunday, 19 September 2010

It's not team America it's Kadarka Kadarka Kadarka....

Kadarka Kadarka

The legacy of communist era viticulture hangs heavy over Hungary. You can see it in the 4 metre wide rows, built to accommodate the Belarus tractors, in the abandoned hillside vines in Tokaj and the replacement vineyards on the flat land at the foot of the hills. Here in Szekszard you can currently see it at the foot of Zoltan Heimann's Kadarka vines.
2010 will not be remembered fondly by the Heimanns (and not just because they met me), 9/10ths of the crop lies on the floor, too rotten or too unripe to be picked. The remainder is being pressed quickly to get the juice of the skins and will, after some chaptalisation, go into their rose blend. There won't be a Heimann Kadarka 2010. They have a clone called P9 planted, it was the popular thing to plant during the Communist era when growers were organised into collective units and cooperative farms. The Soviet block countries decided what they were going to pay for wine by volume and it was through this that the wine growers received their payment. This meant that there was absolutely no accounting for quality. The desire was for easy clones that produced big, big yields (incidentally this explains the otherwise inexplicable existence of Blauberger).

Back at the Heimann estate, we're in his experimental Kadarka block, some years ago he went round the region and collected cuttings from blocks like that of 90-105 year old Kadarka plants owned by the Csaladi Birbitok. It's immediately clear just how poor the P9 clone is, it's large bunches ripening unevenly and the large thin skinned succumbing to grey rot at the first sign of rain. Reverse engineering better clonal diversity and relearning the genetic potential of ancient vines is not a quick project (about 15 years in Tuscany), however Zoltan hopes to have the first wines in 2012. After which it'll be a very slow process as vineyards are replaced with better stock.
P9 Kadarja grapes

Unsurprisingly given it's thin skin, it's a difficult vine to work with, in the winery it tends towards a slightly reductive ferment, so it is usually worked with in open top tanks, due to the thin skin extraction has to be done carefully as too much will result in tannins from the pips muddying the wine.

Talking to the winemaker from Verstergombi he tells me that at the end of the 18th century Kadarka comprised some 90% of the regions plantings and that there were always 3 different wines made. A white version (see Meszaros), a red similar to that made commonly now and an Aszu version. Along with this he also mentioned that it was ideal to get somewhere in the region of 15% botrytised grapes for the red. His assertion was that this didn't affect the colour of the wine, but merely added a glycerol rich, higher sugar content to the final wine. I'm not sure whether I believe this, but I'll print it anyway...

In large tastings it can be easy to miss the charms of Kadarka, I know I failed to really appreciate it for some time, it's not a big wine, and doesn't really work that well with oak. However at it's best it's an incredibly charming sort of wine. A slightly shy girl next door to Pinot Noirs often surly cat walk model. She might not be the one that you lust after and probably won't be a cover star any time soon but that shouldn't stop you from keeping an eye out for a bottle. It shouldn't dissapoint.

A snap shot of Szekszard's Kadarkas:

Franther Pincezet 09, this was a surprise as I wasn't blown away by the rest of their wines, however their Kadarka was a treat, super ripe with a lovely liqorous wild strawberry nose and lifted red fruits, nice acidity and like the other 09's I had the pleasure of trying it had a great fullness of body on the palette. One of the best I tasted.

The Heimann's 08 show's a floral red cherry nose, it was served beautifully chilled at Klassz and had a toothsome bitter cherry character on the body with a touch of licorice on the finish.
The 09 (bottled but not released) was similar on the nose but possessed of richer more liqorous character on the palette.

Sebestyen Pince (one of the highly regarded younger growers) has mixed old and new vines with P9 as the newer planting, his Kadarka release is called Selection and this covers both parcels and barrels. It's an excellent wine with a full bodied, meaty spiced red berry nose, a little bit of oak character on the palette fleshes out a bitter dark chocolate and cherry palette.

Vestergombi, they have an 8 yr old block of Kadarka, though they weren't sure what clone had been planted, the ferment was 24-26 degrees centigrade and extraction was via remontage. The wine had a delicate floral redcurrent nose and had a odd ever so slightly stalky note on the palette.

Esterbauer have a mixed planting with older vines bringing richness to the final wine, they are famous domestically for their Kadarka, their 09 was fermented in old wood then moved to steel and had a lightly spiced red berry nose, with strawberries, raspberry and some bitter cherry. On the palette there was a nice coffee infused bitter cherry sort of fruit.

Csaladi Borbitok, Vida 07, this showed a sort of sweaty red berry and pepper nose. Some slightly rustic tannins and an odd lack of freshness. Strangely this reminded me of tasting Pinot d'Aunis from the Coteaux de Loir. Enquiring a bit further, it's mentioned Csaladi Borbitok are known for a bit of over extraction, and this showed in their other wines too.

Takler have two blocks of Kadarka, one was planted about 10yrs ago the other date from the 1950's, however they too are looking to make a massale selection of 90-95 year old vines, their 08 had a delightful medicinal rosehip nose and similar camphor licked red berry palette.

Fritz Borhaz 08, was rosehip and bramble scented, light bodied with light weight tannins at the finish.

Markvart 08, this was very pale with a spiced orange peel and bramble fruits, there was a slight confected character to it too.

Aranyfurt Mezogazdasagi KFT (a 20 grower coop) 08, very light and a little watery, with an ok strawberry and rosehip nose.

Meszaros, St Gral 07 Meszi Kadarka, named after the winemakers nickname (Meszi – sounds a bit like Mezig, for those that worked at le Breton), this had been matured in oak which sadly obscured the delicate charm of the floral fruity Kadarka nose.

And for completeness I'll mention the Feher Kadarka 09 from Meszaros. Despite my translator insisting that the skins were removed manually before pressing (I though she was taking the piss, she wasn't) this is a gentle blanc de noir style of wine, and despite being a lovely idea, it had the most peculiar nose (I'm being polite) and was of dry on the palette. I'm told this is made every year, which suggests that it sells, quite how I don't know..

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