The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2017

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Page 38 of 128

38  /  the tasting panel  /  september 2017 TRAVELING W hen thinking about wines produced from volcanic soils, what often comes to mind are the Greek island of Santorini, Sicily's Mount Etna, Madeira, the Canary Islands and the Azores. But what few people realize is that Hungary's most cel- ebrated white wine regions are also rooted in volcanic soils. Aszú's birthplace, the Tokaj region, is home to hundreds of extinct volcanoes, which impart signature mineral characteristics. Hungary has a centuries-old wine history, and across the country's 22 wine regions is a huge diversity of soils. Regions with volcanic soils––including Badacsony, Csobánc, Mátra, Somló and Szent-György mountain by Lake Balaton––produce wines with a salty minerality. Soils in these regions comprise deep layers of andesitic, dacitic and rhyolitic rocks, combined with marine sediments and fossils, imparting unique structure and flavor to wines. The sub-zones of the area display diversity, but the main soil is basalt, which gives a masculine character to both white and red wines, with strict structure, acidity and balance. A particularity of these wines is that they need some air; decanting and large Burgundy-style glasses will help. Southwest of Lake Balaton, the country's smallest wine region, Somló, gives birth to Hungary's richest and most full-bodied white wines. Hárslevelu" and Furmint perform well in this spot, and due to its characteristic volcanic soil, these wines will stand out in a blind tasting, offering a salty character, massive structure and petrol notes. On the opposite side of the country, Tokaj, the best-known wine region, is paramount when it comes to Hungarian volcanic wines. Since 1737, it has been classified as the first "closed" wine region in the world. In Tokaj's Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, wine production has been classically sweet, but nowadays plenty of young and talented pro- ducers focus on dry and sparkling styles. The dry Furmint produced here is considered by professionals to be the "next big thing" in the white wine world. Tokaj's dominant soil is clay with rocky elements, although the overall soil is very complex. Minerality is the leading charac- teristic, not just due to the rocky loess and clay soils but because the authentic grape varieties grown here, such as Furmint, Hárslevelu" and Yellow Muscat, exhibit it well. The soil imbues both sweet and dry wines with acidity and structure. The region, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre since 2002, is worth a visit, not only for the wines, but for the hospital- ity of the Hungarian countryside and the complexity of the local gastronomy. Badacsony is one of Hungary's 22 wine regions and features basalt soils, which gives a masculine character to both white and red wines, with strict struc- ture, acidity and balance. Erupting with Flavor HUNGARY'S VOLCANIC SOILS BRING WINES WITH STYLE AND FINESSE by Izzy Watson HUNGARIAN TOURISM AGENCY

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