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Pannonhalmi Apatsagi Pinceszet Rajnai Rizling 2015
Recommended to be served with cold starters, salads, garnishes prepared with asparagus, sea food and fish as well as with friendly discussions on summer evenings.
In the ensuing decades, monks living in Pannonhalma did not give up hope of resuscitating their wine-making traditions. Since the fall of Communism, the monks have revived the viticultural traditions and the wineries. In 2000, the abbey repurchased vineyards that had been confiscated and began replanting grape vines in the same year.
The main grape varieties are Rhine Riesling, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, and Welshriesling. In addition, they have planted the more international Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. They currently have 52 hectares under vine and the first harvest took place in autumn 2003.
Under the guidance of the well-respected and international winemaker Tibor Gal (he made Ornellaia for many years), all vineyards were replanted and a modern, three tier gravity flow cellar was built. Pannonhalma lies equidistant between Budapest and Vienna and is one of the smallest of Hungary’s 22 wine regions. Topographical conditions resemble those of the upper Loire Valley, Alsace, or Burgundy. Sustainable farming practices are used and the harvest is by hand. The wines produced at Pannonhalmi Apatsagi Pinceszet bear marks of its terroir and reflect its history and authenticity.
Best known for lusciously sweet dessert wines but also home to distinctive dry whites and reds, Hungary is an exciting country at the crossroads of tradition and innovation. Mostly flat with a continental climate, Hungary is almost perfectly bisected by the Danube River (known here as the Duna), and contains central Europe’s largest lake, Balaton. Soil types vary throughout the country but some of the best vines, particularly in Tokaj, are planted on mineral-rich, volcanic soil.
Tokaj, Hungary’s most famous wine region, is home to the venerated botrytized sweet wine, Tokaji, produced from a blend of Furmint and Hárslevelű. Dry and semi-dry wines are also made in Tokaj, using the same varieties. Other native white varieties include the relatively aromatic and floral, Irsai Olivér, Cserszegi Fűszeres and Királyleányka, as well as the distinctively smoky and savory, Juhfark. Common red varieties include velvety, Pinot Noir-like Kadarka and juicy, easy-drinking Kékfrankos (known elsewhere as Blaufränkisch).
A regal variety of incredible purity and precision, Riesling possesses a remarkable ability to reflect the character of wherever it is grown while still maintaining easily identifiable typicity. This versatile grape can be just as enjoyable dry or sweet, young or old, still or sparkling and can age longer than nearly any other white variety. Riesling is best known in Germany and Alsace, and is also of great importance in Austria. The variety has also been particularly successful in Australia’s Clare and Eden Valleys, New Zealand, Washington, cooler regions of California, and the Finger Lakes region of New York.
In the Glass
Riesling typically produces wine with relatively low alcohol, high acidity, steely minerality and stone fruit, spice, citrus and floral notes. At its ripest, it leans towards juicy peach, nectarine and pineapple, while cooler climes produce Rieslings more redolent of meyer lemon, lime and green apple. With age, Riesling can become truly revelatory, developing unique, complex aromatics, often with a hint of petrol.
Riesling is quite versatile, enjoying the company of sweet-fleshed fish like sole, most Asian food, especially Thai and Vietnamese (bottlings with some residual sugar and low alcohol are the perfect companions for dishes with substantial spice) and freshly shucked oysters. Sweeter styles work well with fruit-based desserts.
It can be difficult to discern the level of sweetness in a Riesling, and German labeling laws do not make things any easier. Look for the world “trocken” to indicate a dry wine, or “halbtrocken” or “feinherb” for off-dry. Some producers will include a helpful sweetness scale on the back label—happily, a growing trend.