On a recent trip to Hungary I met up with Maria Crabb (pictured above), the dynamic force behind Borett Wines, which is a grouping of some of Hungary’s most artisanal wineries. Maria’s job is to help them sell their wines in export markets. I met her first in the Finger Lakes at the FLXcursion in summer 2023, and so as I was judging in Budapest a few weeks later, she got some of her portfolio and one of her winemakers and we tasted together.
Erica Racz is the winegrower behind Sanzon Tokaj, a winery based in the village of Erdőbénye. This is one of the four important villages in the region, each of which have different soils and climates. This is the most mineral, with volcanic soils dominated by ryolite and hard rocks. She has 4 hectares in five plots.
Sanzon Tokaj Classic Furmint 2021 Tokaji, Hungary
Very close to the village. Soils are lighter with little stones and some loam, farming is organic and very low SO2 use. Fermented and aged in a 500 litre Kadar Hungary barrel, typical for the region made of local oak. Lovely aromatics with fine citrus and apple character. In the mouth this has amazing acidity with taut mineral notes and nice spicy characters. It’s stony and intense. Very lively and spicy with real precision. 93/100
Sanzon Tokaj Ràny Hárslevelű 2021 Tokaji, Hungary
Single vineyard wine from rocky terroirs with just 50 cm top-soil. 50% carbonic maceration for 10 days then pressed back to amphora. The other 50% is whole-bunched pressed to Stockinger barrel. Powerful and spicy with a lovely acid line, showing nice detail. Green apple, lime and some flesh with nice grapey hints and some strony mineral notes. This has high acidity and great precision with a tapering finish. There’s fruit here but also lovely acidity and mineral depth. 94/100
Sanzon Tokaj Ràny Hárslevelű 2020 Tokaji, Hungary
Lovely fruit here: fine spicy pear and green apple with some yellow plum. Fine spices and minerals with a hint of marmalade. Stony and bright with just a hint of development. 94/100
This is a winery in Badascony, with basaltic volcanic soils. One of their specialities is a variety called Kéknyelű, which is unusual in that it only has female sex organs in its flowers. This means you need to plant a couple of rows of this and then a row of another variety that flowers at the same time (typically Budai Zöld is used).
Válibor Kéknyelű 2021 Badascony, Hungary
12.5% alcohol. This is transparent with light citrus fruit and a touch of pear and green apple. Very pure and refined with delicacy and a lovely mineral twist. So pure with a stony, mineral twist. Pure, straight, youthful and ageworthy. 93/100
Válibor Tabula Rasa 2021 Badascony, Hungary
This is Rajnai Riesling (true Riesling) with 12% Olaszrizling. This is bright and fruit driven with lively citrus fruit and a touch of table grape. Nice purity here: pretty and expressive with nice precision. 93/100
Filep is a father and son venture, and they farm 2 hectares in Tokaji and 2 hectares in Eger. They focus on Furmint, Hárslevelű and Kékfrankos.
Filep Hárslevelű 2019 Tokaji, Hungary
13% alcohol. 500 litre oak, wild ferment, low SO2. This is from Tailya, which is rhiolyte with andesite. Lots of wind here, so no botrytis. Lovely crystalline citrys nose with some honey and spice. Nice intensity on the palate with pure citrus fruit and fine spices. Stony and detailed with great precision, showing delicacy allied with power. Very fine. 94/100
Filep Furmint-Hárslevelű 2019 Tokaji, Hungary
Lovely balance here: spicy citrus fruit with some pear richness. Delicate and refined with fine spicy detail and some richness, but also some smoky mineral notes. Such finesse. 94/100
Szent Donak are based in Csopak, the north part of Lake Balaton, and farm 16 hectares organically.
St Donat Márga Furmint Válogatas 2021 Balaton, Hungary
13.5% alcohol. Stainless steel fermentation. There’s a lovely smoky, spicy edge to the sweet lemony fruit here, with nice detail. This has depth but also fine spicy precision. Lovely fruit, and real detail and finesse. 94/100
St Donat Slikker 2021 Balaton, Hungary
13% alcohol. This is from a famous old vine plot of Olsazrizling from red clay soils (they have 1.5 hectares of this vineyard). Nice weight here: this is a little stony and mineral with bright grapey fruit and a touch of lime and mandarin. Very expressive with a sense of lightness. 92/100
St Donat Magma Kékfrankos 2020 Balaton, Hungary
Volcanic soils. This has a lovely definition to the sweet cherry and plum fruit. Juicy and linear with some raspberry and a nice bright stony, mineral framing: it’s like cherry juice! Supple and nicely expressive. 94/100
Winegrower Tamas Kis has 4.5 hectares of organically farmed vines on the famous Somló hill.
Somlói Vándor Nagy-Somlói Juhfark 2022 Hungary
12.5% alcohol. This is fermented and matured in 500 litre oak. Ripe fruit here: fine and fresh with nice presence, showing lovely citrus, pear and green apple fruit with some stony notes as well as fine spices. 93/100
Somlói Vándor Nagy-Somlói Celli 2022 Hungary
This is a historical vineyard and it’s largely Juhfark, but there are a range of other varieties in this field blend. Very aromatic with sweet citrus and a hint of table grape. Smoky and spicy with some minerality, and a hint of bacon. Lovely fruit and nice depth to this wine, which is quite serious. 94/100
Barta are based in Mád, Tokaj. They farm organically, and one of their top sites is the Old King Vineyard (Öreg Király-dűlő) which they replanted in 2004 – a once famous site had been abandoned.
Barta KVG Vinyeard Furmint Hárslevelű 2021 Tokaji, Hungary
French oak. This is powerful, spicy and lively with lovely acidity and just a touch of sweetness balancing out the keen acidity. Spicy, lively and intense with nice detail and focus. Spicy and intense showing lovely balance. 94/100
Barta Öreg Király-Dűlő Mad KVG Vineyard 6 Puttonyos 2019 Tokaji, Hungary
Organic farming. 232 g/l residual sugar. TA g/l. Very pure and fine. Tightwound and pure with fine pear and peach fruit, showing lovely balance between the sugar and acidity. A very pure style of Tokaji. 93/100
Based in Badascon, Sandahl are famous for their comic labels. They have no barrels in the winery: everything is in stainless steel.
Sandahl Oh Deer Riesling 2018 Badascon, Hungary
13.5% alcohol. This is mineral and taut with some depth, showing nice apricot hints alongside pear and apple fruit, as well as a core of citrus. Nice depth, with a slight salinity, showing good focus and purity. Has a slight hint of TDN. 92/100
Sandahl Brave Birds Riesling 2019 Badascon, Hungary
More botrytis here. Lovely textured and weight with pear and white peach, as well as a touch of apricot. Lovely depth and intensity with fine spicy notes. Good weight. 93/100
Bussay are based in Zala, which is close to the Slovenian and Austrian borders in Western Hungary. Soils are sedimentary, high in clay, and this wine is fermented in 1200 litre oak. The winery was founded in 1988 by László Bussay and is now run by his daughter, Dr Dóri Bussay. She’s focusing on forgotten indigenous varieties like Csókaszőlő, as well as bringing in international varieties suited to this place. They farm 5.5 acres of vines.
Bussay Csókaszőlő 2022 Zala, Balaton, Hungary
13% alcohol. A rare local variety. Fresh, lively and spicy with red cherries and a bit of redcurrant, showing bright, elegant fruit with good acidity. Grippy and structured with nice finesse, and potential ageability. 94/100
Bussay Kövecs Olaszrizling 2021 Zala, Balaton, Hungary
Very fine, bright and linear with nice vivid citrus fruit and a stony edge. Juicy and linear with nice stoniness and some finesse. Juicy finish. 93/100
IFJ Márkvárt Janos
Based in Szekszárd, Jani Márkvárt describes himself as ‘born with 50% Kadarka in my blood.’ He was raised in the region and has a family heritage of an old plot of head-trained Kadarka vines. He farms 4.5 hectares organically, and focuses on Kadarka, Kékfrankos and Bikavér, as well as Syrah. Low intervention in the cellar.
Márkvárt Kekfrankos 2018 Szekszárd, Hungary
14% alcohol. Aged in 500 litre Hungarian oak. Slighty reduced nose with some herb and spice as well as ripe berry fruits. Juicy and supple on the palate with juicy cherry and strawberry fruit with nice balance. 90/100
Márkvárt Bikaver 2019 Szekszárd, Hungary
There are only two regions that can make this: Eger and Szekszárd, and it must be a blend of at least 4 varieties with at least 50% Kékfrankos and 10% Kadarka. This one has some Zweigelt, Merlot and Syrah in the mix, too. Juicy, stony, mineral nose with cherries, plums and blackberries, showing nice fruit and good weight. 93/100
Ralf Wassmann and Susann Hanauer are Germans who have established a wine estate in Villány-Siklós, Hungary, where they farm using biodynamics and make the wines naturally.
Wassman Kékfrankos 2017 Villány, Hungary
13% alcohol. Vivid and intense, this is a brooding monster of a wine. Dense, savoury and spicy with blackcurrant and black cherry fruit, with good tannins. Structured, bold but quite lovely. 94/100
Wassman Cabernet Franc 2018 Villány, Hungary
13.5% alcohol. No added sulfites. Powerful, structured, spicy and peppery with drying tannins. Bold and dense with a vivid quality and bold black fruits. Firm tannins here, but I really like it. 93/100
Many of these wines are imported into the UK by Novel Wines
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