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Big and refined!
Prestige Reserve Club approached a group of Hungarian winemakers to give their opinion of how a great white wine can be big and refined at the same time by presenting two of their wines.
László Doszpod
Best of Budapest online | October 11, 2016
For this event, the following cellars responded to our invitation: Figula (Öreghegyi Olaszrizling ’15, Gella ’15), Bott (Hárslevelű ’15, Vinculum ’15), Jásdi (Furmint ’13, Siralomvágó ’13), Szepsy (Úrágya ’15, Szent Tamás ’13), St. Andrea (Panagia ’14, Mária ’13), Spiegelberg (Chardonnay ’13, Juhfark ’11) and Szent Tamás (Percze ’13 Magnum, Szent Tamás ’12 Magnum).

It was no challenge to define the characteristics of a great white wine as both winemakers and media representatives agreed that such a wine is identified by higher concentration, complexity, intensity, a longer finish, goût de terroir and harmony. It was just as easy to name the factors working against finesse, such as the lack of harmony that indicates over ripeness or unbalanced residual sugar, over-extraction and oxidative character, uncontrolled contact with the skin, perhaps indications of emerging botrytis, and in the case of intense fragrance varietals, the excessive varietal notes, the high concentration of unpleasant mineral notes, and the use of disproportionate or low quality barrels. In the upper class wines that were presented (with points between 88-94), the above problems certainly did not prevail. However, the differences signifying the style of the various cellars – fundamentally resulting from the ripeness of the grapes, limiting yield, appreciable terroir characters and barrel use – were distinguishable.

Instead of analysing the individual wines, I prefer to focus on general lessons. If grapes are harvested at their optimum ripeness, you can avoid high alcohol or residual sugar, but must reckon with producing a less full bodied and complex wine that ages slower, nevertheless, perhaps nicer in the bottle. Barrel use can be decisive in ageing and higher complexity, however, overly toasty-smoky properties and the raw oaky flavor integrates slower in the wine. The inhomogeneity of individual barrels and the inability to reproduce the consistent quality pose a major challenge to winemakers. We found that very pronounced barrel use almost never integrates in a medium bodied, moderately complex wine. Optimally timed launch is desirable for nearly all great white wines because experience shows that consumers drink such wines well before they reach their peak.

Almost all the wines sampled had no residual sugar or disharmony, while even wines with 15% alcohol content were not excessive in view of their concentration and complexity. The HUF 5-17,000 price range clearly indicates that the price level of great white wines is catching up with that of great red wines.