Decanter, 2011 november – LONDON
Csaba Malatinszky’s veins must run with Cabernet Franc. He is obsessive about tending his vines and says his 30 hectares, farmed organically in Villány and Siklos since 2009, are as much as he’d ever want to own as that’ll he can manage himself without delegating. He was Hungary’s leading sommelier before turning to winemaking and his focus is balanced, complex reds, notably Cabernet Franc, which suits the Villány terroir so well. The flagship, unfiltered Kúria range always impresses, especially Cab Franc and Kövesföld (a single vineyard Bordeux blend), while his aromatic Serena white and refined Chardonnay are well worth trying.
BEST OLD WORLD WHITE
MALATINSZKY SERENA, HUNGARY 2009
From the Villany-Siklos region in southern Hungary, winemaker Csaba Malatinszky’s blend of 55% Chardonnay, 40% Riesling and 5% Muscat Ottonel can be enjoyed effortlessly over a whole night’s, he says. Silver pale, floral white fruits, layered and refreshing, excitingly new.
Decanter, London december
Jancis Robinson tasting notes
Jancis Mary Robinson OBE, MW is a British wine critic, journalist and editor of wine literature. She currently writes a weekly column for the Financial Times, and writes for her website jancisrobinson.com. She also provides advice for Queen Elizabeth II’s wine cellar.
Malatinszky, Noblesse Cabernet Franc 2008 Villány Drink 2010-2015
Noblesse is Malatinszky’s middle range of wines. Fresh and fragrant with good life, and some real richness, on the palate. Lovely stuff.
Malatinszky, Kúria Cabernet Franc 2008 Villány Drink 2012-2017
Kúria is the top-level range of wines. Barrel sample. Very dark and bordeaux-like. Much denser and more tannic than the 2007.
Kúria Malatinszky, Unfiltered Cabernet Franc 2006 Villány-Siklós (Pannonia) 17.5 Drink
This winery was established in 1997 ‘near Croatia’. Malatinszky was the new Hungary’s first sommelier and wine merchant. The Villány people are wary of this wine because it is non traditional. Fermented in stainless steel and matured in French barriques. By a University of Bordeaux graduate. Very pure, light- to medium-bodied claret style – fragrant and extremely fine even if not perhaps the most obviously Hungarian of these reds. A great wine to serve blind? Quite minerally.
Imported by Mephisto Wine Merchants in the UK
Malatinszky, Csaba Cabernet Sauvignon unfiltered 2003 Villány-Siklós 17 Drink
Scented and quite exciting – very minerally. Great balance. Minerals and very tasty.
OK, full disclosure here – in early July 2009 I went on a trip to Hungary to visit wineries in the south central part of the country (specifically in the regions of Villány and Szekszard). Although I had to pay for my own flights to and from the country, the rest of the trip (internal transport, winery visits, hotels and meals) was provided to me at no charge. If that makes me a flak in your eyes for these Hungarian wineries or for Hungary wines in general, then so be it. But all the opinions expressed in this blog are my own and I owe NOTHING to anyone nor could anyone make me say nice things about wines that I don’t like. So there!
Having got that off my chest, I can proceed with my post.
This trip was organized by Vivienne Franks for Wine Education Service (WES), predominantly for the benefit of their educators. I managed to grab a spot on the trip because I happened to be standing next to Vivienne and Laszlo Hesley, MD of Mephistro Wines who import from all the wineries we would be visiting, when a spare space came available. Always one to grab the main chance, I immediately volunteered for this arduous duty. Tough life, right?
So off we went in early July, meeting at the Budapest airport in the early afternoon. I’ll be covering other aspects of our visit in later posts but right now I’m posting about our visit to the Malatinszky Winery on the afternoon of our first full day in Hungary. Why am I starting in the middle of our trip? Because as “payment” for my trip, I was required to write-up notes on one of our visits. My assignment was Malatinszky so I’ve got that ready to go. So, without further ado, here are my impressions of our visit to Malatinszky.
Although Csaba Malatinszky comes from a noble family that can trace its wine-making roots to the 14th century around Lake Balaton, he didn’t start out making wines. Instead, he started on his journey toward making internationally-recognized quality wines while working as a sommelier at the world-famous Gundel restaurant in Budapest (not an unusual path as many of us now in the wine industry had a “real” life before we got the opportunity to live our wine fantasy. Perhaps, there is some sort of initiation requirement to do “something” else before having such a fun job.). While at Gundel Csaba went on a wine study tour to the Medoc where he had the opportunity to blend wines at some of the best estates, Chateau Pichon-Longueville, Chateau Lynch-Bages, and Chateau Cos D’ Estournel Thus, began his love affair with the grapes of Bordeaux which Csaba feels best express terroir.
Csaba left Gundel in 1991 and shortly thereafter started the first specialist wine retail shop in Budapest, La Boutique des Vins. At about the same time he started making his own blend, “Le Sommelier” in cooperation with Jozsep Bock in Villány. In 1994 he started his own production in Villány and in 1997 his winery was built. Now Csaba owns approximately 28 ha of vines, most of which are west of Villány in the direction of Siklós. The soil is predominantly loess with some clay and limestone. Approximately 30% of the vines are Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the remaining 40% split among the local varieties, Kekfrankos and Kadarda, plus Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. In 2005 he produced approximately 85,000 bottles while in 2007 he produced 130,000 bottles.
We met with Csaba at his relatively new (1997) winery just a short walk down the street in Villány from our host (and Csaba’s wine mentor), Jozsep Bock’s winery. This was just one more winery in Villány that looked brand new. I was impressed by how prosperous and modern all the wineries in Villány, and indeed, all those we saw in Hungary, appeared. To the surprise of many of us who have seen the packed and sometimes shabby conditions at wineries in France and Italy, Csaba feels that his current winery is too small so a much larger winery, guest house, and restaurant complex is planned near his vineyards. Business must be very good indeed.
After a brief introduction to his winery and wine-making history, Csaba lead us into his winery. Gleaming steel tanks were everywhere, pristine at this time of year with harvest so far in the future. In the centre of the tank room was a set of beautiful oak doors rising at about a 30-degree angle from the floor. At the push of a button the doors began to open and the entrance to what we dubbed the “Bat Cave” began to open. Once open the doors revealed a set of brick stairs sans handrails (what would Health & Safety think?) that lead to the barrel room. This was a place so immaculate and so unlike most barrel rooms, you could probably eat off the floor.
After our visit to the winery, we returned to the sunny garden for a tasting of Csaba’s wines. As a confirmed lover of exotic indigenous grape varieties myself, I have to admit that Csaba’s passion for the usual international (French) suspects was a bit off-putting. Still, I can’t fault the quality of his products.
In the lovely surroundings of the Malatinzsky garden, we tasted some 15 different wines, about half tank samples that should be bottled later this year. Csaba’s philosophy of wine making is to express terroir, to seek typicity with gentle pressing and slow pumpovers. His aim is to create food-friendly wines. Some of his wines, like Kadarka, have only steel tank fermentation and see no wood at all. This creates a lovely, fresh wine with vibrant fruit flavours. When he does use oak, it is 100% Hungarian, used for flavour and for economy as the local barrels are much cheaper than French barrels. Csaba doesn’t want a prominent oak effect so his wood is aged for at least 4 years before use and flushed with water many times to dilute the hard tannins. He doesn’t filter his best wines and only fines as is necessary for stability. From 2010 he will be a certified organic producer though he is not sure about attempting biodynamic production.
Csaba makes 3 grades of wine. His “Le Sommelier” range is the entry level, followed by Noblesse, then Kúria wines. All are well made and delicious. The highlights of our tasting for me were his 2007 Noblesse Merlot Rosé, the 2006 Kúria Kövesföld, and the tank sample of his 2007 Pinot Bleu.
2007 Noblesse Merlot Rosé
I don’t normally like most Rosés as I feel they are wines that don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. I also am not over-fond of Merlot in any form (I won’t go as far as Miles in the movie “Sideways” – “I ain’t drinking no f*cking Merlot!” – but I’m not far from that). So it came as a surprise that one of my favourite wines was Csaba’s Merlot Rosé. This is a wine for grown-ups.
The wine is a dark rose hip colour with almost florescent highlights. Made in the saignée style with 4-5 hours of skin contact, it is brilliant and appealing to look at.
The nose is serious, full of juicy strawberry fruit and spice.
Sweet stewed strawberries with a mineral backbone on the palate, soft, creamy and rich with a long finish.
A wine with real personality.
2006 Kúria Kövesföld
This is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Cabernet Franc from Csaba’s best Kövesföld vineyard. It’s bottled ONLY in magnums.
A dark inky purple colour with a nose of espresso and sweet berries, menthol, minerals and heather. Someone called the palate a “blueberry macciatto” and that’s not too far from the truth. Blueberries, roasted coffee beans, creamy with ripe grippy tannins and a long finish. Most of Csaba’s top wines I found too big, too alcoholic and just too much (though Robert Parker and his minions would probably love them), but I rather liked this wine.
2007 Noblesse Pinot Bleu – tank sample to be bottled August 2009
The concept of this wine appealed to me. It is an unusual blend of Pinot Noir and Kekfrankos (known as Blaufränkisch in Austria). The 2007 blend was 30% Pinot Noir and 70% Kekfrankos. The 2006 version which we also tasted was a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Kekfrankos, it was earthy and full of cherries but didn’t appeal nearly as much as the 2007 where the Kekfrankos dominated and added character. While the 2006 version was a reddish purple of mid-intensity, the 2007 version showed its Kekfrankos with a dark, near blackish purple colour. The nose was all berries and spice while the palate was rich and full with zippy acidity, berries and chocolate with some vegetal character. This version was much more concentrated, longer, richer and more complex than the 2006 variety.
We also tasted the following wines which I hope to write up in the future –
2007 Siklósi Chardonnay
2006 Noblesse Pinot Bleu (mentioned above)
2006 Le Sommelier “Tenkes”, a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot
2006 Kúria Merlot
2006 Kúria Cabernet Sauvignon
2006 Kúria Cabernet Franc
2007 Noblesse Cabernet Franc – tank sample
2007 Kúria Merlot – tank sample
2007 Kúria Cabernet Sauvignon– tank sample
2007 Kúria Kövesföld – tank sample, 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc
2007 Kúria Cabernet Franc– tank sample
After a brief rest back at the hotel, we saddled up in our 4WD vehicles and headed for Csaba’s house in nearby Kisharsány (between Villány and Siklós) for our dinner. I’m not sure how much of the dinner prep Csaba did personally but I suspect it was quite a lot. And many of our dishes featured vegetables from his garden.
The meal we had was incredible, sitting out in a covered shed (though it was huge so what’s a giant shed called???) on a warm, clear night. We started with a selection of Hungarian bruschetti on organic bread. These included 2 kinds of steak tartare (one with basil and cumin and the other with parsley and garlic), sheep’s cottage cheese with roasted pumpkin and pistachio seeds and herbs, and HUGE slices of fois gras. Despite the large and satisfying lunch we’d had earlier in the day at the Bock guesthouse, we all dug in as if we were starving. The main course was an interesting white pumpkin risotto with cream and dill. This was incredibly delicate, fresh and bright and the pumpkin was served al dente so it retained an appealing crunch. As a side dish we had a rich but light veal stew (somewhat odd that the stew was clearly served as an accompaniment to the pumpkin risotto). The cheese course included Hungarian hard goat’s cheese, Hungarian aged “Gouda” type cheese, Dolcelatte blue and Fulum Daber (spelling??) from France. Dessert was a sort of berry parfait but by this time I was fading and didn’t take any notes. I also spent too much time eating and taking notes and forgot to get any photos of our dinner.
Andreas Larsson – tasting notes
2001 Best Sommelier of Sweden
2002 Best Sommelier of Sweden
2003 Best Sommelier of Sweden
2004 Best Sommelier of Europe (Trophée Ruinart)
2005 Best Sommelier of Sweden
2005 Wine international Sommelier
2005 choosen by the Grand Jury Européen (GJE)
2007 Best Sommelier of the World
2008 Laureat of the Swedish Wine Academy Grand Prize
Andreas Larsson is currently the best Sommelier of the World
He is head Sommelier at Restaurant PM & Vänner in Sweden
He is today considered one of the leading wine tasters and travels all over the world where he´s hired as a consultant, lecturer, educator, speaker, wine taster.
He has a special affinity for the classical french vineyards, the new Bordeaux, the evolution in Spain, great Riesling, Sherry and Champagne.
AL started his career as a chef in 1990 after graduating from restaurant school and worked active as a chef for several years.
After some brief periods of combining the cuisine with playing Jazz music he decided to focus more on his interest for wine and the world of beverages.
After a lot of travelling and studies AL got his sommelier diploma at “Restaurangakademien” in Stockholm 1999. After that hs been amongst other things the head sommelier of the renowned Swedish Restaurant Bon Lloc * Guide Michelin.
Malatinszky Noblesse Chardonnay 2007
Generous nose, nutty with hints of hazelnuts, almonds and ripe citrus, distinct and dry palate, very rich with a bright freshness and mineral feeling, good lenght, a nice and individual wine with an approaching complexity.
Malatinszky Cabernet Franc 2006
Dark plum cherry and tobacco on the nose, still youthful and little closed, the palate is very concentrated with massive tannins, albeit not harsh nor aggressive, good structure and lenght, this still deserves some time but this is very fine material for ageing
Malatinszky Cabernoir 2006
Very elegant and Bordeaux – like nose with hints of dark berries, blackcurrant, sweet herbs and damp tobacco, the palate is rather medium-bodied but with an excellent density of fruit, well-rounded tannins, good lenght, nicely-made.
Tasting notes from Caroline Gilby
Closed at first but opens up with a little air, and really shows its class with food. Lovely balance of fruit and acids, pure cassis and blackberry fruit and elegant tannin structure. A wine is representing perfectly the terroirwith real keeping potential too.
Noblesse Cabernet Franc 2007
A very appealing example of Villany’s flagship red grape. Bright ruby
with crushed berry aromas and a hint of ground coffee. Medium in weight
with gentle forward fruit and supple tannins.
Kuria Cabernet Franc 2007
Deep vibrant ruby purple. Intense and complex on the nose though still
very young – notes of raspberry, black tea and subtle vanilla.
Intense and concentrated on the palate, with fine fruit and deliciously textured tannins, balanced acids, and a long finish. Still quite a baby wine and needs time to show its full potential.
Hungarian wines from Villany-Siklos and Szekszard
” . . The first of the trio of wine makers to present their wines was Csaba Malatinszky. He has become a bit of a star and has built up quite a reputation, especially for the production of Cabernet Franc. Many questions were fired at him and he answered them very well, because most of us were intrigued why he chose to produce wines from this grape variety. A debate ensued amongst us. Was it Loire Valley or Bordeaux in style? Of course, it’s easy to make comparisons, especially with regards to ‘international’ style wines, but he responded with “this is what Villany has to offer”. In a blind tasting it would be very interesting to include some of these wines, because I’m convinced that there would be some surprising results. However, the message to me was clear. These wines are very well-made, have a natural feel, individuality and purity about them and are not trying to be anything else. We tasted 2007 “Noblesse” Siklosi Chardonnay, 2007 “Noblesse” Merlot Rose and 2006 “Kuria” Cabernet Franc. Overall, I was most impressed with the Chardonnay. Coming from the cooler climate of neighbouring Siklos, it displayed wonderful minerality, clean, elegant fruit, judicious use of oak and a fresh acidity. At £11.45 RRP, not only would I confidently put that up against most Chardonnays from around the world, even Burgundy, but also represented very good value for money.
I could really relate to Csaba, who followed a unique career path to becoming a wine maker. He began as head sommelier at Budapest’s world-famous Gundel Restaurant and became the first internationally certified exponent of the profession in Hungary. In 1993, he opened one of the city’s first specialist wine retail shops, “La Boutique des Vins”. His vinous knowledge, attention to detail, drive and passion are truly expressed in his wines. Moreover, they reflect his training in Bordeaux and he is proving that the Cabernet Franc and other ‘Bordelais cepages’ are uniquely the most suitable for this region. However, even though the wines are precise and well-defined, they also taste very natural. I feel this is because he was formerly a sommelier, believes that his wines deserve to drunk partnering food and to be enjoyed by fellow gourmets and epicureans. He certainly knows his target market and confidently displays his talents with style and charm. These are premium wines, but the challenge is there within this current situation.”
Steven Spurrier – tasting note
Steven Spurrier (born 1941) is a British wine expert and former merchant in Paris, France, who has been described as a champion of French wine. Spurrier organized the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, which disspelled the myth of French wine superiority and promoted the expansion of wine production in the new world. He is also the founder of the Academie du Vin and Christie’s Wine Course, in addition to authoring and co-authoring several wine books.
Please find my tasting notes on these excellent wines. Best regards, Steven Spurrier.
TASTING OF MALATINSZKY WINES.
VILLANYI ROZE 2008.
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 or a food rose 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.
LE SOMMELIER TENKES 2006.
Bright carmine ruby, full but not heavy; fine aromas of crushed red and black berry fruits, natural ripeness and again without any over-extraction, good fragrant fruit nose with natural lift; good first impression on the palate, fine blend of Cabernet and Merlot, with the Cabernet dominating in terms of grip and firmness, the Merlot adding some middle suppleness, the finish showing a little greenness; good now with meat dishes to absorb the natural tannins, or wait a year for them to be absorbed naturally, but not complex enough to keep for the long term; overall a good, bright, naturally tannic wine that carries the 14 alcohol well due to its freshness on the palate.
KURIA CABERNET FRANC 2006.
Very fine deep carmine colour, richer and deeper than Tenkes, 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.
Deep young, nicely concentrated dark ruby, very fresh-looking; fine expression of up-front red/black fruits, with a touch of black cherry jam and a little warm spiciness; same fleshy, up-front fruit on the palate, natural tannins, still a little green and has not the complexity nor the purity of the Cabernet Franc, but has an attractive, youthful robustness, perfect for red meats or grilled meat (even grilled fish) especially when eaten in the open air; will develop nicely, but do not keep so long that the youthful fruit is lost.
A very good range of wines, plainly made with respect for the soil, the grapes and the region, seems like minimal intervention and all four have a fine naturalness which makes them perfect to accompany a meal with friends. Many thanks for having given me the change to taste and to enjoy these wines.
Anton Mosimann is a shiny star of the London’s and international cuisine world. He was chief of significant hotel’s and restaurant’s kitchen. One of the most important period was the traditional The Dorchester, where has been in charge for 13 years. Int he last 20 years, he si running his own club, the Mosimann’s which is the exclusive meeting-point of the British aristocracy and the Royal Family. Our presentation, held int he Mosimann’s was a great success for our vinery. The tasters were astonished by the exceptional Cabernet Franc 2006, and due to that, the Malatinszky wines will appear int he sortiment of several dominant hotel and restaurant of London int he next months.
Benares Restaurant & Bar (Michelin 1*)
China Tang Restaurant
Greenhouse Restaurant (Michelin 1*)
L’ Oranger Restaurant
The Dorchester (Michelin 3*)
The George Bistro Restaurant
The Ritz Hotel London