Broadening my horizons, I am today going to talk about a wine experience in Hungary a couple of weeks ago. I embarked on a new and very exciting wine adventure when I attended the Portugieser Du Monde wine competition as part of their wine jury.
This year was the 6th edition of Portugieser Du Monde that is a wine event organized to shine the light on wines made with the Portugieser grape variety. There were 90+ wines from producers in Hungary, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Croatia participating in this year’s competition.
The event is organized by the Hungarian food and wine magazine Pécsi Borozó with its editor-in-chief Györffy Zoltán as the President of the wine event and the wine academic Dr. József Kosárka as the President of the wine jury.
I got to know József Kosárka at Radici del Sud last year in Bari where we had a fun week hanging out together tasting southern Italian wine. I was very happy and felt honored when I got a question from József if I would like to come to Pécs and take part in the Portugieser Du Monde wine jury.
As a former historian, where I was focusing on the nationalist period in my Ph.D., I had Lajos Kossuth among the freedom fighters I studied as he was used as a symbol in other countries in that period to express the need of political change. However, I had actually never been to Hungary before…until early April this year. And, what better way to experience Hungary for the first time than on a wine tour…?
A funny anecdote
A funny thing happened at the general tasting after the Portugieser Du Monde award ceremony. Imagine my surprise when I was standing at one of the producer tables waiting to get to taste their wines, suddenly thinking I hear someone speak in Swedish to me. I turned looking probably a bit suspiciously at the woman next to me. Anyway, I replied in Swedish not really knowing why thinking it was still all in my head.
The woman continues speaking Swedish to me saying she is Hungarian from Pécs but lives with her Swedish husband in Sweden and that they have come to the event partly to get to know me. This because they had seen my name on the list of jury members. I was looking at her thinking this was very odd. LOL Why would anyone come to meet with me because I was part of a wine jury? This was my first thought…then I just felt shy and awkward.
Anyway, then she presents her husband who starts speaking with a true Simrishamn (southern) accent and it turns out they are living about 40 km from my hometown in southern Sweden. They were really nice and we continued to taste wines together. And if you read this then please to contact me. 🙂 Of course, I never got their contact info, etc.
Such nice coincidences that happen sometimes. 🙂
Now, let’s discover more about the Portugieser grape and Hungarian wine together below…
Portugieser – Let’s discover its origin
Even though the name makes you think it is a grape from Portugal, in reality, it is a grape variety with Central European origin. It is a grape that was cultivated within the Austro-Hungarian Empire and still today it is common in Austria, Hungary and other countries such as Croatia, Germany, Serbia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, and Romania.
In the past, Portugieser wines seem to not have been that much considered by wine critics. These wines have been thought of as produced for quantity rather than quality. According to what I have been able to read, work has been made during recent years to reevaluate this grape variety.
Anyway, when I was reading up on and asking around about this grape not many of my friends here knew much about it. Some said they thought it to be a light and not very complex wine but then asked me to tell them more about it after my visit to the Portugieser Du Monde event. 🙂
I have tasted wine made with the Portugieser grape in Germany at my brother’s place in Mannheim several times, but I never much thought about the origin of the wine. My brother was one of the few people I talked to who was raving about these wines saying he finds them to be fruity and very enjoyable.
So, I went with a very open mind and curiosity and immediately liked what I was tasting from the first few wines. The first wine we tasted in my jury group was a fresh sparkling Portugieser wine with a lovely pink color and nice fruity nose. I found it very enjoyable.
Afterward, we found out that it was the sparkling wine Griffin Rosé Sparkling from the Croatian producer Ivančić and that it won the category Portugieser Specialities at the Portugieser Du Monde event.
So, I would say, just as other more recent comments seem to say, that when Portugieser is vinified with the correct attention it can produce very interesting wines with a beautiful fruity nose and a certain longevity. The wines are in general medium bodied and with a medium acidity and notes of cherry, plum, raspberry, and sometimes a light floral touch. Very drinkable and enjoyable wines.
3 Days With Portugieser Du Monde in Hungary
On Friday, the first of the event days, it was a beautiful and sunny day where we started directly with the jury tastings in the center of Pécs. We were divided into smaller jury groups where each group had their number of wines to taste through. It was very interesting because it was a way to get a good overview of distinctive styles and types of wine made with the Portugieser grape.
We were a harmonious group of jury members that straight away connected well among us. Later on, during the winery visits and the following lunches and dinners we had lots of fun together. József is really good at making you feel at home and part of the group.
In the afternoon, after the jury tasting, we went to visit Sikós Castle and then on a tour to Villány to visit Stier winery, the main street with different wineries and their wine bars in Villány, followed by Bock winery where we also had dinner. Here, I learned that the area around Villány is considered to be a good terroir for Cabernet Franc. Indeed, most of the wineries produce a lot of Cabernet Franc as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. However, they also have interesting local grape varieties.
During the dinner at Bock winery, among other wines, we tasted their Kadarka Selection 2016. Kadarka is a red grape that is native to Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. It used to be popular during the 19th century but then fell a bit into oblivion during the 20th century. It is one of the grapes that can be used in the Hungarian red cuvée wine Bull’s Blood (Egri Bikavér). Kadarka is a grape that gives wines with good acidity and notes of black fruit and spices mainly.
Saturday started with a short sightseeing tour in the center of Pécs. It is indeed a very beautiful town and with a lot of history to tell. We had a very good guide who told us a lot about the different monuments and main squares. Another fun thing was the visit to a wine bar and a sort of diner for local people. Here they served wine in glasses with a spoon as if it was ice cream or sorbet.
Saturday was, of course, also the D-day of the Portugieser Du Monde event with the award ceremony at the M21 gallery in the Zsolnay Cultural Quarter in Pécs. Györffy Zoltán and József Kosárka were leading the award ceremony together with the mayor of Pécs. The awards of 2018 were as follows:
- Portugieser Du Monde 2018 Champion in the category Young Portugiesers:
Pz Plešivica Portuguiser 2017 (Plesivica, Croatia)
- Portugieser Du Monde 2018 Champion in the category Vintage Portugiesers:
Winery Huppert Portugieser Classic 2015 (Rhenish Hesse, Germany)
- Portugieser Du Monde 2018 Champion in the category Portugieser Blends:
Vylyan Winery RedY 2017 (Villány, Hungary)
- Portugieser Du Monde 2018 Champion in the category Portugieser Specialities:
Ivancic Griffin Rose Sparkling (Plešivica, Croatia)
After the award ceremony, many of the producers were there to present their wines at the M21 gallery during the afternoon. It was nice to be able to stroll around and taste different Portugieser wines and talk to the producers.
RedY – A New Young and Trendy Portugieser Wine
The new wine category being presented at this year’s Portugieser Du Monde event was the RedY wines that are Portugieser wines made for the younger Y generation. It is a blend where Portugieser is the main grape variety and the wines are light, fruit-forward, matured in steel, and easy and enjoyable to drink. The wines have a trendy label that appeals to a younger audience and they are priced reasonably. The 9 wineries that are part of this new launch of RedY are Bock, Csányi, Gere Tamás és Zsolt, Maczkó, Mokos, Ősi, Polgár, Szemes, Tiffán Ede és Zsolt, and Vylyan.
Dinner at the Balkan Bizstró
Saturday evening ended with a fun dinner at the Balkan Bizstró in the center of Pécs. It was the perfect dinner gathering after all the wine jury tastings, winery tours, sightseeing, and the award ceremony. All of us bonded even more and had fun together with great Balkan food and lots of beer.
Recapping the Portugieser Du Monde event
The Portugieser Du Monde was just an amazing experience. I feel very fortunate to have been invited and to have had the opportunity to get to know so many nice wine people. In just three days, we explored so many different facets of southern Hungary and its wine scene. I was almost sad to have to leave the beautiful town of Pécs after so few days. However, I hope to be back very soon.