Zoltán Demeter Tokaji Sárga Muskotály Anett 2008
My recent tasting of Hungarian wines from Cozzi & Boffa provided a fascinating (and also delicious) glimpse of some of Hungary’s leading wine domaines. It was an experience that surprised not only by virtue of style, but also by their quality; expecting a mix of rustic wines made using ancient varieties with unusual names, I found many of the reds possessed a very modern polish, and featured Bordeaux varieties, especially Cabernet Franc and Merlot (occasionally with a little Kadarka and Kékfrankos – much more the sort of thing I was expected – blended in). And in many cases the resultant red wines were very fine indeed. As for the whites these were much more what I was expecting; individually-styled wines, generally produced in a dry style, featuring above all Furmint and Hárslevelü. The wines of Zoltán Demeter were really stunning and exciting; the balance in the mouth was not necessarily perfect, but there was so much going for these wines that just had to be reflected in my scores, which were higher rather than lower.
It might, therefore, come as no surprise that I was delighted recently to get my hands on some more wines from Zoltán Demeter, through Cozzi & Boffa. This time Furmint and Hárslevelü have been joined by more esoteric varieties, in particular Sárga Muskotály. It is a synonym of course, one which provides us with an obvious hint as to this variety’s more familiar alias, that being Muscat, and in particular Muscat Blanc á Petits Grains, the third most commonly encountered variety in the Tokaj vineyards after Furmint and Hárslevelü.
The Muscat varieties have a fascinating history; although today they are something of a niche interest (if an interest at all), they have been with us far longer than the ‘international’ globe-trotting varieties which attract most attention today, familiar names such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Ancient Greek texts refer to scented, musky, sweet-smelling grapes called anathelicon moschaton and it seems very plausible that this was an ancestor of our modern-day Muscats. The distribution of the varieties – typically found all around the Mediterranean, such as in the Muscat vin doux naturals of southern France and Greece, or Moscato sparkling wines of Italy – reflects this ancient origin. Of course today the variety has spread much further afield; one of its greatest accomplishments is without a shadow of a doubt the intense and complex Australian liqueur Muscats. Many of these wines utilise Muscat Blanc á Petits Grains, the Muscat strain with the best reputation; the lesser types, which comprise Muscat of Alexandria (again the name suggests a fine and ancient heritage even if the resultant wine is less enthralling), Muscat Ottonel and Muscat Hamburg. The latter of this musky quartet illustrates the group’s diversity; the Hamburg strain yields a black-skinned fruit which was once popular as a provider of table grapes, and could be found in many an English greenhouse. I once planted a ‘Black Muscat’ myself; I’m sorry to say it withered and died within the first season, an indicator of my own very British viticultural heritage, perhaps.
Included in this most recent tasting of Hungarian wines – which I will write up after I have dealt with Bordeaux 2010, which begins with my return to Bordeaux next week – was a dry Sárga Muskotály, but for my palate this didn’t work anywhere near as well as the cuvée featured here, Anett, in which the heady, floral-citrus perfume of the variety is supported by a sweet seam of residual sugar, a seam which is 197 g/l deep. It is, like all of these wines from Zoltán Demeter, another single vineyard bottling, this being number 551 of 581 half-bottles. In the glass the 2008 Tokaji Sárga Muskotály Anett has an attractive, rich but bright golden hue. It is very aromatic and perfumed as we would expect from any strain of Muscat, but with a dense, golden and polished character rather than anything too flashy or floral. There follows a lovely presence in the mouth, just dripping with sweet fruit with a sense of citrus zest, orange blossom and blood oranges too. It is backed up by a lovely weight, not savoury but certainly adding a welcome note of restraint, a solid and mealy character counterbalancing the bright and vibrant fruit. There is a little sourness to the fruit which I like, a gentle grip, and a moderate acidity sitting against that rich layer of residual sugar. This is delicious stuff, with a lovely creamy edge of great purity, and it is incredibly long too, fleeting in and out on the palate for minutes. 17.5/20 (28/3/11)