Last Monday’s WSET class was top notch; I didn’t anticipate it to be. The focus was on wines from Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Cyprus. Not that I’ve got anything against wines from these countries, (I was quite looking forward to tasting Tokaji!) but I wasn’t as familiar with them. Getting into the reading was tough, as it involved learning aspects of another language while at the same time learning about the wines. After a period of time the lines and pages blurred together as I read paragraphs of many extremely long words with unfamiliar accents.. It reminded me of when I first began studying wine. Not having a reference for what I was reading, I felt a little lost. The language barrier was my first reason for not looking forward to class. Reason number two: the instructor was John Szabo MS. For those who don’t know, John became Canada’s first Master Sommelier in 2004. He is heavily involved with the wine scene: consulting, writing, traveling, critiquing and teaching. My perception of John was that he was one serious wine dude, (who never smiles in a photo). Needless to say, I was a bit intimidated to attend class on unfamiliar subjects, in languages I can’t pronounce taught by a wine rock star. Great.
I am pleased to report that class was much better than I had anticipated! John generously brought a line up of 18 wines! He brought a flight of Tokaji from his private cellar dating back to 1993. He lectured and we tasted, we tasted and he lectured. Though I don’t think “lecture” is the right word, John simply shared stories of the people, towns and vineyards he had been to on his travels through Hungary and Greece. He spoke of historic accounts and legendary folklore. Class flew by. At the end of class there were plenty of bottles left to take home. I picked up my favourite white and red.
Later that evening, sharing what I’d learnt and the half bottles of wine with my best friend Chris, we discovered on the back label of the red wine that I had chosen that the bottle was in fact John’s wine. John owns a vineyard in Hungary in the Eger region. His wine is bottled under the lable Eged-Hegy Dülö, Egri Kékfrankos from J&J Wine Co. The wine had great intensity in colour and aromas. It smelt of dark cherries, blueberries and earth. Well structured tannins and medium body. The wine is made from Kékfrankos a.k.a. Blaufränkisch. The area and grape are associated with the most famous Hungarian red wine known as Bull’s Blood. The white wine I selected was made from a grape variety called Irsai Olivér. It makes a highly aromatic wine similar to a Muscat or Torrontes. A nice sipping wine.
People say they love wine because there is always something new to learn. I truly felt that way this week and it was refreshing.
2009 Irsai Olivér, Balatonlellei, Garamvari Szölöbirtok, Lake Balaton, Hungary
2006 Eged-Hegy Dülö, Egri Kékfrankos, Eger, Hungaray