The (Not So) Crazy Winemaker

 

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Ninth in a series

August 21, Villany — The United States could use a few more immigrants like the winemakers of the Polgar Pince winery.

After Pecs, the tour continued in Villany, one of Hungary’s 22 wine regions and perhaps its most important (although Tokaj may be best known). We were served an excellent lunch in the caves, paired with eight wines, accompanied by commentary from Mrs. Polgar.

With Mrs. Polgar

With Mrs. Polgar

When Mrs. Polgar and her husband were both studying viticulture at university, they started winemaking at a time when one person was allowed to own only 1/4 acre of land and to keep only 200 liters of their product. The rest had to be given back to the state.

“You are completely crazy,” Mrs. Polgar’s friends told her, but, she added, “Sometimes you must be crazy.”

When their first child was born, they immediately bought an additional quarter acre, “but unfortunately we had only two children,” she added. Whether surreptitiously or with permission, they managed to “hire” land and grow grapes while Mrs. Polgar performed her state-assigned job: teaching secondary school. At least teaching allowed her to grow flowers and plants as part of the curriculum. Viticulture was not recognized as an expertise, nor approved as a profession. After the regime change in 1990, she and her husband gave up their jobs and concentrated full time on wine.

Today the Polgars have 62 hectares (or about 150 acres) under cultivation.

I especially enjoyed my duck, which was accompanied by a swipe of grape purée; to make it, Mrs. Polgar explained that she crushes grapes (Cabernet and one other grape), reduces the juice, adds 25% apple juice for the pectin, and splashes in a little red wine (adding no sugar).

The wines were good, especially the 2012 Syrah. Syrah is a relatively new grape to the region. The Polgars planted their first syrah vines in 2000, and later received an international gold medal for their efforts. Smooth and balanced, the wine has a touch of heat or pepper in the back of the mouth. All of their grapes are estate grown and they use all organic methods.

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The eight wines:

  • Nemes Feher 2015 — “Noble White”: Made from a 200 year old grape, this cuvée is very light, almost without taste.
  • Olaszrizling 2014 — the Italian Riesling grape arrived in Hungary 250 years ago, and is no longer grown in Italy. Mrs. Polgar described it as a popular white, and it’s easy to see why: it’s easy on the palate and has a pleasant aftertaste.
  • Kadarka Siller 2015 — a rosé.
  • Kadarka 2015 — A red, Mrs. Polgar called this wine “spicy, “very fruity and exciting.” 2015, she noted, was a great year in the region. The kadarka grape arrived 500 years ago during the Turkish occupation. It’s a “perfect match” for all kinds of meals: ragouts, casseroles, meat,” but it also “harmonizes with poultry, fish, etc.” (LOTS of meat in Hungary and Central Europe)
  • Kekfrankos, known as Blue Franconian in English — a 200 year old grape in Hungary, characterized by flavored of plum and ripe fruit. She recommends pairing with a heartier dish.
  • Syrah 2012
  • Polgar Cuvée 2011 — Mrs. Polgar described it as a fantastic balance of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet franc, and proudly mentioned it was recognized as the best Bordeaux-type cuvée in Hungary, noted for its flavor of cocoa and coffee.
  • Ezusthars 2015 — a late Harvest Tokaj grape. The dessert wine has 20 grams of sugar, all natural. Aged six months in Hungarian oak, she likes to pair it with green pea soup or mozzarella.

Unfortunately Polgar Wines has lost its U.S. distributor but it can be ordered online depending on the local regulations of the purchaser: http://www.polgarpinces.com. They also have a 30 room guest house. Although we didn’t visit the surrounding town, Villany is filled with wine tasting rooms or bodegas.

Dinner: The “gala” welcome, where Todd relished the “Bull’s Blood” red wine.

Next: A Little Bit of Belgrade, A Lot of Our Cabin

 

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