City Livery Club: Fine Hungarian Wine Tasting – Judy Tayler-Smith, Hon Secretary and Past Chairman, 2010

On 26th November the City Livery Wine Circle held a joint event with the London Branch of the International Wine and Food Society. Wine Circle Hon Secretary, Judy Tayler- Smith is Chairman of the London Branch of the IWFS and gave the opening speech where she welcomed all members, guests and speakers. She and Wine Circle Events Secretary Michael Gilham arranged the tasting as a special function for the members of both organisations.

The tasting was held in the opulent Oriental Room in the London Capital Club behind Mansion House. Attendees numbered 54, the largest group we have had for a tasting.

The wines on the evening were supplied by Mephisto Wine Merchants, ( who are dedicated to the supply and promotion of Fine Hungarian Wines in the UK and have established relationships with some of the most well known fine winemakers in Hungary. We were also absolutely delighted that the wine makers themselves were present at the tasting and flew into the UK from Hungary to present their own wines in person aided by Vivienne Franks. From the number of wine experts that were there on the evening that gave outstanding praise for the wines and the numbers of orders that were placed, it was clear everybody was impressed with the sheer quality of wines sampled.
Following the tasting, the London Capital Club laid on a splendid and opulent buffet, and we had as many good comments about the food as we did about the wine.

This was one of those evenings where everything was excellent, the wines, the food, the presenters and the venue.

Wine Circle Chairman Brian Jones remarked in his closing speech that it was the best wine tasting the Wine Circle had ever had. That is true praise indeed!


A Weekend of Bor in Budapest – Jancis Robinson OBE MW, 2010 

I had a great time in Buda and Pest last weekend. The picture shows Pest viewed across the Danube from Buda at night, the famous bridge connecting these twin cities being modelled on the Hammersmith bridge in London.

I was there for Budapest's first major consumer wine fair, VinCE, organised with great aplomb by the Hungarian edition of Decanter magazine and its earthly embodiment Ágnes Németh or, as Hungarians are known, Németh Ágnes. This, regrettably, was the first time I had been back to Hungary since two visits in the 1970s. Although I have tried to keep up with progress in vineyards and cellars there as best I could from London (click on the Hungary tag below), this weekend provided a great chance to update myself on some of Hungary’s best wines.

It’s so sad that, in the UK at least, virtually the only Hungarian wines we see are basic international varietals that the supermarkets somewhat unwillingly stock at bargain basement prices. I did meet, however, the people behind Mephisto Wines, who are specialising in importing some of the better stuff into the UK.

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International Wine & Food Society: Fine Hungarian Wine Tasting – Judy Tayler-Smith, Chairman, 2010

London Branch Chairman is Hon. Secretary and Past Chairman of the City Livery Wine Circle and with their Events Secretary, Michael Gilham, she arranged a special joint function. The tasting was held in the opulent Oriental Room in the London Capital Club behind Mansion House.

Having ‘Fine’ in the same sentence as Hungarian, came as a bit of a surprise to some of the 54 attendees. Michael Broadbent MW recently wrote that he believes the southern wine district of Villány in Hungary, is the natural home of the Cabernet Franc grape and that excellent wines are coming from the Villány and Szekszárd appellations. The appellation is Hungary’s southernmost wine region and is located near the 46th meridian which is nearly the same latitude as Bordeaux’s northern areas. In 2006 Villány was the first region in Hungary to introduce its own controlled origin scheme, DHC or Districtus Hungaricus Controllatus, which symbolizes the region’s commitment to high quality standards. Szekszárd is situated about an hour’s drive north of Villány-Siklós and the soil there is the rare iron rich “Terra Rossa”, renowned the world over for growing high quality grapes. Tokaji wines have been proclaimed “the wine of kings and king of wines” and continue to make a significant contribution to the wine-drinking world.

The wines presented were supplied by Mephisto Wine Merchants ( who are dedicated to the supply and promotion of Fine Hungarian Wines in the UK and have carefully chosen the best quality wines coming out of Hungary. UK Directors, Laszlo Hesley and Solangela Tangarife and Hungary Director Janos Orgyan organised the tasting of white, red and sweet wines from leading producers including the Bock Winery, the Malatinszky Winery, the Takler Winery, and from Tokaji, The Samuel Tinon Winery. Judy welcomed members, guests and speakers and introduced Vivienne Franks of the Wine Education Service who conducted the tasting.

Mephisto Wines had invited the four winemakers to present their wines in person. Csaba Malatinszky, the son of a nobleman, started the tasting with his Noblesse Siklósi Chardonnay 2007, followed by his Noblesse Merlot Rosé 2007 and then his Kúria Cabernet Franc 2006 which attendees commented tasted like one of the finest Bordeaux wines. József Bock of the Bock Winery, who was awarded the prestigious title of “Hungarian Winemaker of the Year” by the Hungarian Wine Academy in 1997, then presented his wines aided by Laszlo Hesley who acted as an interpreter. Bock continues to produce award-winning wines and has won gold medals at Challenge International du Vin, Vinalies Internationales and Syrah du Monde. His first wine was a Hárslevelü 2007, followed by a Portugieser 2008 and a Syrah 2006 which the attendees likened to a Côte Rôtie. The third winemaker, Ferenc Takler is of Southern German origin and is the 9th generation winemaker in the Szekszárd area. The winery is run by his father and two sons and they also won the “Hungarian Winemaker Of The Year” in 2004. Wines tasted were the Kadarka 2007, the Kékfrankos 2007 and the Kékfrankos Reserve 2006. Last but by no means least came the luscious sweet wines of the Samuel Tinon Winery. Born in Bordeaux, he graduated in viticulture and oenology in 1989 and was the first French winemaker to settle in Tokaji. His wines can be found in some of the top Parisian Hotels and in 2007 Geo Magazine singled out his 2001 5 Puttonyos Aszú as being one of the world’s top 40 finest wines. He presented a Sweet Szamorodni 2004 followed by a Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2004, it was nutty and rich with honey and apricot overtones.

It was clear everybody was impressed with the sheer quality of wines sampled. Following the tasting the Club laid on a splendid buffet and we had as many good comments about the food as we did about the wine. This was one of those evenings where everything was excellent, the wines, the food, the speakers and the venue. City Livery Wine Circle Chairman, Brian Jones remarked in his speech that it was the best wine tasting the City Livery Wine Circle had ever had. That is great praise indeed!
Judy Tayler-Smith, Chairman.


Decanter: Hungary Sees Red – Caroline Gilby MW, 2010

There's more than Tokaji and cheap white in Hungary – the warm, southern region of Villány is leading the way with reds.


Csaba Malatinszky is tall, serious and quietly spoken; a man who lives, breathes and dreams wine. His family had owned vineyards before World War II but, like so many, lost everything to the state. He started his career working in a restaurant in Budapest and became Hungary's first qualified sommelier, then opened its first specialist wine shop in 1993.

'I was working with things connected to wine but always from the outside looking in. One day I felt this was not enough and I realised I had to grow my own vines.' Malatinszky's eyes had been opened to French wine while working as a sommelier, so he headed for Bordeaux to study at Pichon-Baron, Cos d'Estournel and Lynch-Bages.

'This gave me the final push and experience to take the next step, even without financial backing,' he says. Attracted to Villány for its potential for reds, he bought his first vineyards in 1997. For many years he was seen as an upstart outsider by those born and bred here. 'Now I feel part of the community,' he says.

Malatinszky's winemaking is notable for his fanatical attention to detail, even selecting his own yeast strains. He has recently bought new vineyards for his beloved Cabernet Franc and intends to build a small house among the vines. He believes 'Villány is the only place in the world where Cabernet Franc is the top grape. It's more noble here than Cabernet Sauvignon. My goal is to produce wine with complexity that expresses terroir.'


József Bock enjoys playing host and welcoming people to his family-run winery, hotel and restaurant: 'My goal is to constantly raise the quality of my wines and improve my hospitality.'

His family had settled in Villány from Germany in the 18th century, but lost their land after the war; in 1956 people of German origin were evicted, but Bock's hospitalised father, Antal, refused to leave. A few years later, he bought back a tiny plot of his family's original vineyard on Jammertal Hill.

József (above) was born in 1948 and qualified as a mechanical engineer, though like everyone else in Villány finished the day working in the vineyards to earn a little extra. He was also an early entrepreneur, setting up a small business grafting rootstocks with two friends. Antal died in 1981 and József made him a promise to look after his vines. 'It seemed only natural that I should build on what I'd learned in the vineyards from my father.'

Engineering remained his career until 1992 when he turned to wine full time.Today Bock has 60ha of vines, and continues to be a pioneer – he was the first to make a Bordeaux blend in the region and was recently among the first to grow Syrah, which suits Villány's warm climate. 'I've been captivated by Australian Shiraz and was curious to see how it would adapt to our climate and terroir.' His warm personality is reflected in his wines, very concentrated with ripe fruit.


The Drinks Business Hungary Report 2009 – The Drinks Business, 2009


Hungarian Wines From Villany-Siklos and Szekszard – Robert Giorgione, 2009


Csaba Malatinszky, Hungarian Noble King of Cab. Franc – Dr. Yashoda Devi, 2009


Hungary Wine Seminar – Brett Jones, 2009


Discover the Magic of Tokaji – Robert Giorgione, 2009

SAMUEL TINON: 03 Tokaji Szamorodni (dry) - Samuel Tinon is a very talented French
wine maker, who comes from the region of Bordeaux. He came to Hungary in 1990
and cut his teeth at Royal Tokaji and Oremus during the exciting and innovative period
of the 1990's. His winery was established in 2000. The first vintage of his own label
Samuel Tinon wines, from his own vineyards and made at his own winery was in 2001.
However, not enough was produced to be released. This style of wine is quite
'traditional' in the region, as it undergoes an oxidative process during its vinification
quite similar to the French 'vin jaune' of the Jura. This is quite a quirky wine and may
come as a shock to some people, if they've never tasted it before. It's dry, sherry-like,
rich, nutty, yet has a long finish, which is not only concentrated, yet fresh and very
balanced. In Hungary, this style is mostly drunk as an aperitif, but I think it would be a
really good partner to food. Similarly to a dry sherry it has versatility. I would enjoy it
most with cheese, especially Alpine Gruyere and Comte.


Decanter's Top 11 Tokajis – John Abbott, 2009


Darker gold. Heavy oxidisation – akin to quality sherry. Wild flowers and honey dominate –
a real depth of complexity, with an impressive rusticity. High acidity with drying finish.


World of Wine Robert Giorgine Explores The Success of Hungarian Winemaking – Robert Giorgione, 2009


'Tasting Notes on These Excellent (Malatinszky) Wines' – Steven Spurrier, 2009


Fine bright rose, fuller than those from Provence, more like a Tavel. Attractive fresh fruit
aromas, light summer fruits, cherries and strawberries. Clear fruit flavours on the palate,
quite firm fruit, with a touch of natural fruit tannins, fleshy yet firm, fine dry finish. More of a
food rosé than an aperitif, but good on its own due to its lively and refreshing finish,
balance and length. Carries its 13.5 alcohol well as natural acidity keeps it refreshing.


Very fine deep carmine colour. Rich, but not overdone. Excellent Cabernet Franc nose of
wild raspberries and a hint of violets, very pure, good depth of fruit. Very good fleshy
red/black fruit flavours, with suavity and a lightly velvety texture and lifted fruit finish. A wine
of great purity and polish, fine vineyard origin, ripeness and depth of fruit and natural
acidity and tannins; all in balance and almost taffeta-like considering the 14.5 alcohol. 
A wine of great charm and character, stays on the palate and on the mind, very good indeed
for at least another 5 years.


A very good range of wines, plainly made with respect for the soil, the grapes and the region,
seems like minimal intervention. All the wines have a fine naturalness which makes them
perfect to accompany a meal with friends.

Many thanks for having given me the chance to taste and to enjoy these wines!


Visiting the Malatinszky Winery in Villány, Hungary – Paula Sindberg, 2009


Hungary's Red Revolution – Caroline Gilby MW, 2009


Weird Wines, Strange Spirits and Six Flights of Stairs – John Radford, 2008