Hungarian Wine: Back with a Vengeance!

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The first ever Hungarian Wine Games are underway today in New York city. A rising-star wine region of the past couple of years, Hungary is in fact one of the oldest wine-producing areas in the world. 

Discover the gems through the Hungarian Wine: Back With A Vengeance account on Delectable and learn more about the rich history of the region from our favorite Hungarian wine guru Eric Danch:

Without Hungarians, we wouldn’t have vinyl records, coffee shop culture (Café New York in Budapest was the largest and most ornate coffeehouse in the world in 1894), or the transformer (think iPhone etc…).  Apart from hipster culture ceasing to exist as we know it, it is emblematic of the Hungarian mindset of creating new ways to experience the good things in life.  As the gateway between East and West, Hungary has been largely defined by invasion, occupation or alliances ranging from the Mongolians, Turks, Germans, Austrians, Italians, French, Czechs, Slovaks, Serbs, Croatians and Communist Russia.  Hungarian culture is the remarkable transformation of foreign influences into something uniquely their own.  

Wine is no different, and perhaps the reason why they also established the world’s first wine appellation system in Tokaj – over 100 years before France.  Wine is so ingrained in their identity that they are the only country to actually sing about it in their National Anthem.  Due to having found themselves on the wrong side of a few World Wars and being cut off from the West during 50 plus years of Communism, these wines, much like Rodney Dangerfield (also of Hungarian descent), often get no respect. This is all changing right now.  With the fall of the Soviet Union’s collectivized wine machine, reopening to foreign investment, and the expansion of the EU, Hungary along with the rest of Central Europe, is simultaneously reaching deep into the identity of its past while using a very modern lens of innovation and growth.

Despite a winemaking history that spans thousands of years, it’s only recently that artisanal producers, indigenous varieties, and the push to embrace a truly unique range of terroirs have taken center stage.  The potential of its 22 distinct appellations and breadth of indigenous varieties and traditions of winemaking are only now being truly (re)discovered. The [Back with a Vengeance] producers represent an introduction to this new era.

- Eric Danch, Blue Danube Wine Company

Celebrating the Other White Wine: SherryFest 2014 lands in San Francisco

imagePhoto courtesy of SherryFest

Last fall I spent a lot of time in New York — sadly my visits fell right on either side of SherryFest 2013. While I didn’t get to join the festivities, I certainly caught the contact high. Every sommelier, every restaurant, every wine-nerd was talking, drinking and generally swooning over Sherry.

Credit for that feat goes to SherryFest founders Rosemary Gray and Peter Liem. Launched in their hometown of New York in 2012, the impetus came from both their love of sherry and their desire to help out the region and its producers. Albeit the oldest, and perhaps most treasured Consejo in all of Spain, economic turmoil over the past decade has hit the region particularly hard. Coupled with a general lack of awareness and education about sherry, many of even the most respected bodegas were in danger of shuttering their cellar doors. 

So over the past few years, SherryFest has been on one hell of a mission, and this week it’s San Francisco’s turn to join in. They’ve brought 21 sherry houses and their winemakers to town for producer dinners, seminars and an epic Grand Tasting. The Grand Tasting is already at capacity, but a few tickets are still up for grabs for the seminars and closing night dinner at St. Vincent. 

Learning with delicious libations for a good cause? You should be all over this San Francisco!

And for a little home study, SherryFest cofounder and author of Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla Peter Liem has a handy primer for all below:

Peter Liem’s Ten Things to Know about Sherry 

1. Most of the finest sherries are dry. Despite its popular image as a sweet wine, high-quality sherry is primarily a bone-dry wine, apart from Pedro Ximénez, Moscatel and Cream.

2. Sherry is a Spanish white wine. While many countries have produced wines labeled as “sherry”, true sherry comes only from the region around the town of Jerez, located in the province of Andalucía, in southern Spain.

3. Palomino is the most important grape variety in the sherry country. All dry sherries are made from palomino, while sweet sherries can be made from moscatel or Pedro Ximénez.

4. In cask, sherry is aged either biologically (with flor) or oxidatively (without flor). The flor is a layer of yeasts that forms on the surface of the wine in barrel, protecting it from oxygen and contributing flavor and character. Sherry aged under flor is a fino (or manzanilla, in the town of Sanlúcar); sherry aged without flor is an oloroso.

5. Sherry is made in a wide and diverse variety of styles. Sherry can be divided into dry wines (fino, manzanilla, amontillado, palo cortado, oloroso) and sweet wines (cream, moscatel, Pedro Ximénez). Dry sherry can be further divided into biologically-aged wines (fino, manzanilla), oxidatively-aged wines (oloroso), and intermediate styles that combine both types of aging (amontillado, palo cortado).

Fino: Sherry aged under flor, which imparts an inimitably saline and complex character to the wine.

Manzanilla: A flor-aged sherry, similar to fino, but matured in the town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

Amontillado: A sherry that undergoes two distinct phases of aging: it begins life as a fino or manzanilla, aged under flor, and then continues its aging oxidatively, without flor.

Palo Cortado: Another intermediate style, like amontillado, that typically combines characteristics of both biological and oxidative aging. It’s said to combine the finesse of an amontillado with the body of an oloroso.

Oloroso: A sherry aged entirely oxidatively, without flor.

Cream: A moderately sweet sherry, usually a blend of oloroso and Pedro Ximénez.

Moscatel: A sweet sherry made from the moscatel grape, with a characteristically floral aroma.

Pedro Ximénez: The sweetest style of sherry, from grapes that are partially dried in the sun before pressing.

6. Sherry is made in a solera system. The solera is a complex process that blends wines from many different vintage together, over a long period of time. Thus, the age of any given sherry is an estimated average rather than a precise figure.

7. Sherry is an aged wine. Even the youngest finos and manzanillas average two or three years of age, and most are aged even longer. The average age of many of the finest amontillados, olorosos and palos cortados can be measured in decades.

8. Sherry is best enjoyed with food. No wine in the world is more versatile than sherry when it comes to food pairing. Sherry can thrive alongside foods and flavors that kill many other wines.

9. Serve sherry in a white wine glass. While sherry is traditionally associated with a small, narrow glass called the copita, it is much better in a standard white wine glass, which allows it to express its full range of aromas and flavors. Finos and manzanillas should be served chilled.

10. Once opened, drink sherry quickly. Fino and manzanilla should be drunk within a few days of opening. Amontillado, palo cortado and oloroso should be drunk within a couple of weeks, although some can last longer. Pedro Ximénez can keep for months if properly stoppered. 

Text: Julia Weinberg

10 Things to Know About Sherry Primer: Copyright Peter Liem, 2013

An epic ode to Burgundy: La Paulée & a godfather of sommeliers

imagePhoto courtesy of La Paulée

Over the next several days San Francisco will be in an unabashed love affair with Burgundy. The source of this fervor: La Paulée. Alternating annually between New York and San Francisco and now in its 14th year, La Paulée has grown into a multi-day fête and may well be the most anticipated and extravagant wine event in the world.

Whether attending or drinking vicariously, keep your eyes on La Paulée to discover the wines that cement its reputation as both an epic Burgundian education and one hell of a party. 

Follow La Paulée on Delectable

Founded and led by Daniel Johnnes, the event is his homage to the famed harvest party La Paulée du Meursault. Daniel is a legend in the wine industry, a captivating man who is equally esteemed and ebullient. La Paulée is Daniel’s baby, and as the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, those same traits are often said of La Paulée. 

The lure and lore of La Paulée is unlike anything else I’ve witnessed in the wine world. Burgundy’s top winemakers are in attendance, sommeliers from around the globe flock to participate, and wine fanatics pounce as soon as tickets are released. The wines poured throughout the events are amongst the most fabled and coveted in the world. Though the wines are certainly serious, La Paulée doesn’t treat them with puritanical reverence, instead they are celebrated with unbridled joy. Such is the Burgundian way and Daniel Johnnes’.

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Because Every Day Should Be Champagne Day

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Truth be told, we’re inclined to bust out the bubbly anytime and any day. So it’s a no-brainer that we’re hopping on board for today’s Champagne campaign.

We asked three of our favorite people, from three of our favorite spots to share one of their favorite sparklers.

Bonus: they are pouring these babies by the glass tonight - so if you’re in San Francisco, LA or New York, swing on by to say hi & give ‘em a try.

San Francisco
If you’re in the city by the bay, stop by Quince or Cotogna where Wine Director Chris Baggetta rocks a Champagne where red grapes reins supreme:

imageL. Aubry Fils Premier Cru à Jouy-lès-Reims Brut Champagne

“At Quince, we are serving Aubry Champagne, a premier cru from the village of Jouy-les-Reims. Today the estate is in the hands of 2 twin brothers, Pierre and Philippe Aubry, who are perhaps best known for their preservation of the old “forgotten” Champagne varieties, such as Arbanne, Petit Meslier and Fromenteau, which they blend into their Pinot Meunier-based Brut Champagne. The high percentage of red grapes is felt in the wine’s rich body, and it finishes with a vibrant energy; its minerality persisting as long as the fruit flavors do!” -C.B.


Los Angeles
If you’re in the City of Angels and feeling irreverent, visit Owner/Wine Director Matthew Kaner at Bar Covell for a less traditional spot of sparkles:

image Luis Pato Vinho Espumante Bruto Casta Baga 2010

“It looks like a dark rosé, it has bubbles and is from Portugal. Bet you weren’t expecting that. Have it with charcuterie, have it with cheese, have it with pizza. Drink it and let your day get a little better than it was before.” -M.K.


New York
If you’re in the city that never sleeps and seeking something with purity and power, NoMad’s wine director Thomas Pastuszak has just the thing: 
imageR.H. Coutier Blanc de Blancs NV

“This is such a cool and rare find: A beautifully aromatic, powerful Blanc de Blancs coming from a family-owned estate in Ambonnay.  It’s really exciting to feature this 100% Chardonnay grower champagne coming from Pinot Noir-territory, and so much fun to chat with guests about it at NoMad.” -T.P.

Meet a Wine Director: Patrick Cappiello, King of SabertownUSA

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Photo: Melissa Hom

On a recent trip to New York, there was one place I knew I must visit: Pearl & Ash. A testament to the power of social media, for months I’d watched nearly every cork-dork I know posting wines that pull at my heartstrings.  Indeed the wine list was filled with first loves, dream bottles, and countless mystery strangers. New York has no shortage of amazing wine lists, and Pearl & Ash certainly has one of them.  What they also have is a ridiculous amount of fun. Standing at the helm of both is Managing Partner and Wine Director Patrick Cappiello.

Over an afternoon coffee (next time Coche!), I spoke to Patrick about how he got into wine, and what fuels his magnetic enthusiasm for it.

Follow Patrick on Delectable

How wine took Patrick from chucks to suits…

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What We’re Drinking: Delectable CEO/Founder Alex Fishman

Alex Fishman

Alex is having an Italian love affair

It’s not hard to understand why Delectable founder Alex Fishman is totally enamored with Sicilian reds. With the active volcano Mt. Etna presiding over the land, Sicilian wines are positively dynamic. The low-lands create gulpable fruit-driven wines, the high-altitude vineyards on Etna’s steep slopes yield intensely structured and mineral-driven wines. Common to both is a freshness and energy that’s won over many a wine nerd. If you can’t get enough Cru Beaujolais or find yourself pouring Pinot Noir like it’s water, grab the next Sicilian red you see. Sicily might just become your next wine region love-affair.

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This Week’s Most Popular Wines: Dog Days of Summer

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With fall setting upon us, discover some of the sunniest wines the Delectable community is drinking to keep the dog days of summer alive. 

When Master Sommelier and Wine Director at Eleven Madison Park Dustin Wilson isn’t on the floor, his feet are in the grapes. Literally. This rosé from his collaborative Rhône-inspired project is made from 1/2 foot-treaded, 1/2 whole-cluster pressed Grenche grapes from Santa Ynez’s Camp 4 vineyard. The combo gives it a perfect blush, lightly fleshy body and a nice dose of bright pucker. Follow Master Sommelier Dustin Wilson

With it’s natural spritz and fresh, light taste, we get why Jasmine Hirsch of Hirsch Vineyards is wholly obssessed with this rosé from Spanish Basque country. Nothing beats a wine best enjoyed on a patio with friends or with spicy cuisines. Ameztoi is one of the top producers of these hard-to-pronounce, easy-to-drink varietals, so be sure to grab a few bottles to help you savor summer as long as possible. Follow In Pursuit of Balance co-founder Jasmine Hirsch

If you’re anything like us, outdoor BBQ’s will be the one of the things you miss most about summer. Thank goodness winemaker Chris Brockway has the perfect bottle as we trade hats for hoodies. He calls this wine “the pretty side of Zin,” and we 100% concur. With solid spice and bright red fruit, this Zinfandel will compel you to bust out the grill one last time. Follow winemaker Chris Brockway

Meet a winelover: Vinny Eng

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Adventure may be wine’s most unsung attribute, but certainly not with Vinny Eng. As the former Wine Director of San Francisco’s Bar Tartine, he created a list where the joy of exploration permeated each selection. With an inspiring sense of play and purity of palate, Vinny is a true wine champion and the best drinking companion one could have. Unearthing treasures from his own Bay Area backyard, Vinny shared with us the California wines and winemakers that fuel his fire.

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