Sometimes day's just don't pan out as you expect them to. I had my Friday afternoon pretty tightly scheduled, a swim, followed by an experiment with Bikram Yoga then off to London.
On the train to London feeling strangely stiff and flexible at the same time all my meetings started to fall through. The weather, staying up far too late watching the cricket, generally being a bit useless. The reasons were varied and plentiful. However it's not like I've never amused myself in London for a day before, so I managed a spot of xmas shopping, had a couple of pints of Caledonian 80 shilling at the Gun. Lovely beer that I've not drunk for years (not since Glasgow days) that tastes like a hearty ale that someone has added a nice Sunday roast and popped in the blender. I could almost feel the goodness surging through my pores.
Then after being cornered by my old work I succeeded in having my arm twisted into helping them out for a week before xmas, on the condition that I don't have to eat any turkey and they pay me cash (lots of it).
Feeling like I ought to totter back to Reading I got a call from Gustavo Lo Bianco, sommelier consultant, buyer, general all round good egg Brazilian wine person asking me if I fancied a little tasting of the wine of Hetszolo. Well of course I wanted to do that.
Tokaji Hetszolo is a little bit special amongst the great estates, it's cellars have possibly the most romantic history of any winery, being where Rackoci Ferenc launched his revolution against the Hapsberg dynasty, so if anywhere represents Magyar pride then it's Hetszolo.
Stylistically it's different as well, their vineyards are situated in a South East facing amphitheatre of deep, 12-15 feet, loess this gives the wines a characteristic lightness and a perfume that tends towards honey and flowers.
Hosting the tasting at the chic and stylish Fine and Rare offices was Kata Adasz, Hetszolo's ambassador in the UK and she was doing a fabulous job of shepherding the assembled through the intricacies of Tokaji nomenclature. Suffice to say that Szamoronodni is never, ever, ever going to be a break out hit in the UK market, it's just too unpronounceable.
Any way we started with the Dry Furmint 09, vinified in steel with a little bit of old oak this was quite delicate with lightly floral aromatics, showing some of Furmint's trademark acidity, but quite a subdued style in comparison to other dry Furmints.
This was followed by the Edes Szamorodni 05, Edes means sweet (Szaraz on the other hand means dry and is a whole different kettle of fish) and Szamorodni is a term deriving from the Polish market which generally means 'we picked everything' in effect the wine is made from whole bunch picking, which means that there isn't quite the concentration of Aszu berries and the wine is there for lighter in style. However there is quite a lot of discrepancy in the style of wines that carry the name. Hetzolo's was weighing in at about 75 grams of residual sugar, which to my mind wasn't quite enough, the wine showed new oak like characters that mingled playfully with some floral peach like notes, but then it finished a bit dry, which after the initial seductiveness seemed needlessly miserly.
The 2001 5 Puttonyos was where the wines started to get serious, the wine was delicate with a real drinkability, white flowers, ripe peach accents, honeyed vanilla cream and a tight little coil of acid structure, one that was crying to be drunk with food.
I decided to disregard the line up of wines and go for the older 5 puttonyos before jumping to the more powerful 6 puttonyos as I find that once you've jumped up a sugar level going back down makes the wines seem lacking. The 96 5 Puttonyos was showing a lovely meaty almost earthy side, with slightly caramelised honey, some spiced apricot and had great elegance.
Now in the past, I've perhaps been a little bit hard on Hetszolo, in that I've occasionally found their wines a little inconsequential and have also noted what seems like slightly lifted aromatics. The 99 6 Puttonyos, straight Harslevulu seemed to be a case in point, with some wood polish like notes initially before showing intense caramelised apricot and quince, before finishing with an almost white pepper like note. This was one of those wine that I find a little hard to categorise, not quite floral enough to shout Haars, but enjoyable none the less.
The final wine on show was the 93 6 Puttonyos, this was magisterial, a deep burnished ochre
coffee salt caramel, some floral toffee, dried apricot, mango, fresh, great length and intensity,
still really fresh for an 93 – showing real zing and minerality on the finish...
So a somewhat of a rehabilitation in my eyes for the Hetszolo style, though I admit that I'd only tasted youthful examples of their wines, and thus it was illuminating to see them at an age when they're actually ready to drink.