Dec 25: A successful buffet dinner that was a bounty of Hungarian wines and food, including the famous Tokaj and the red Rhapsody from Eger, which laid the foundation for similar gastronomical delights in future, was organised by Liszt Institute- headed by Dr. Mariann Erdo at The Claridges recently, with the marketing support from Indian Wine Academy (IWA) inviting around 40 right profiled guests to this unique experience. Subhash Arora, President of IWA reports
Do you know that:
· Hungary was involved in the two World Wars, and later forced to be behind the Iron Curtain till it was liberated in 1989
· It is now a free, democratic Republic
· Hungary joined European Union in 2004 and has been a part of Schengen since 2007
· It has been producing wine for 2000 years and qualifies as the Old World
· A hundred years ago, the sweet Tokaj was the most popular Hungarian wine that was the toast of Royal courts in Europe while other lush Hungarian whites and reds were enjoyed throughout Europe
· Foreign investment was allowed in this landlocked country in 1989. The well-known journalist and author Hugh Johnson was one of the first to invest and start the Royal Tokaji Wine Company in 1990
· There are 22 wine regions but best wines are produced in 5-6 regions like Tokaj, Villány, Eger, Szekszárd, Matra and Nagy Somló
The answer to these and many more culture related questions might be known to you if you are connected with Liszt Institute-Hungarian Cultural Center Delhi, headed by Dr. Mariann Erdö for the last few months. But you still might not be aware that Hungary produces good quality wines with both indigenous and international grape varieties beyond the iconic Tokaj. You may not have even tasted Hungarian wines before!
Before 10 December, 2021, that is.
This was the evening when Liszt Institute organised the first grand dinner with several Hungarian wines including Tokaj and the Bull’s Blood-Egri Bikavér from Eger which I had the pleasure of visiting 3 years ago-on my way to the iconic Tokaj region. It was only coincidental that the evening fell right in the middle of Vinexpo India organised from 9-11 May. And it did felicitate a few wine lovers across India to attend the dinner, besides several members of the Delhi Wine Club.
Liszt Institute, Dr. Mariann and her colleague Harleen Ahluwalia worked hard for weeks to make the event unique and successful. It was truly one of the best gastronomical international events with an air of sophistication and elegance bringing memories of the European Royal courts where Hungarian wines used to be the protagonists at several dinners.
One side of The lawn of Hotel Claridges had a cluster of 4 elegant looking tents which were really the stations for wine and food dishes- ready to welcome the guests. Besides there were a few others where one could sit and enjoy food in the company of friends. There was also a sitting arrangement for Alfresco dining with heaters that warmed the area adequately.
The first Tent had Cheeses- Edam, Emmental, Gruyere and smoked Scamorza with condiments; Charcuterie and freshly baked bread baskets where the variety made it look like a mini bakery was also at this station which had three wines chilling in the champagne buckets. Here are the wines served- all three with different grapes/blends-a pleasant start to the evening.
Borbély Bács-Hegy Badacsony Olasz Rizling 2016 (a white wine produced by Borbély from Olaszrizling grapes in the Bács mountain area in Badacsony situated by Lake Balaton).
Dubicz Irsai Oliver Matra 2017 (A white wine produced from Irsai Oliver grapes by Dubicz Vineyards in Mátra, Eger).
Szoke Kiralyleanyka Matra 2013 (a blend of two indigenous grapes- Kövérszőlő and Leányka crafted by Szoke Winery in Mátra).
The second tent was the Grills section and Tündertanc Merlot Blaufränkisch Szekszárd 2016, a blend of Merlot and Blaufränkisch (Kékfrankos) grapes from the premier vineyard region Szekszárd and the winery Tündértánc. The wine was well paired with Grills- Lamb Chops, Red Snapper and a generous choice of sauces that went rather well with the wine. I cannot say the same about vegetarians who had to make do with Roasted Baby Potato & Vegetables. But the medium to full body wine was very quaffable and well matched with the dishes.
Also Read: IWINETC 2018: 10th International Wine Conference opens in Budapest
This section was the Mains, and perhaps the most tempting during the evening (Tokai served in the 4th course in the Menu notwithstanding). For me Rhapsody Egri Bikavér 2017 was an excellent choice for the main course with good options -at least for non-vegetarians Roasted Chicken with red wine jus, honey glazed carrots, buttery Brussels sprouts, the world famous Hungarian Goulash, Ratatouille and a Moroccan vegetable and chicken stew deserved a standing ovation for the Chefs.
Egri Bikavér known as Bull's Blood, is the traditional red wine of Eger, a north Hungarian appellation. Located between Budapest and Tokaj, Eger was the venue for a battle between the Hungarians and the Ottomans in the 16th century. Legend has it that the Hungarian army was outnumbered by the Turks but won the battle by scaring them into believing they were drinking bull’s blood when they were actually drinking the traditional Eger wine that left their faces and teeth red.
Bull’s Blood has been known for quantity rather than quality, like most wines during the communist regime but private investment in the earlier State-run wineries has made a discernible change in the quality. Rhapsody Monopole (single vineyard) Egri Bikavér with a blend of Kékfrankos (35%), and an equal proportion of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon (25% each) and about 7-8% each of Merlot and Kadarka- a local variety, produced by Kovacs Nimrod Winery was a good example of how the Hungarians have made this blend pleasant on the palate again.
Although there were three desserts including apple strudel, chocolate and walnut brownie, and a Hungarian dessert Aranygaluska (also known as golden dumpling cake), they were made almost redundant by the two golden sweet iconic Tokaj known as the king of wines and wines for kings for a couple centuries. The quality had suffered under the Soviet regime though many producers are thankful that they did impart education for producers.
Béres Magita, Cuvee Tokaj 2014 produced with Furmint grapes by the Béres Vineyards and Winery since 2002, is an excellent dessert wine that can be consumed chilled by itself.
Barta Oreg Kiraly Dulo Furmint Mad 2018 was an aromatic wine with floral notes produced by Barta, also made from Furmint grapes.
The evening was a professional delight- from the standpoint of food and wine as well as the ambience and the warmth exuberated. It had full support of the Embassy as was evident from the presence of the Ambassador of Hungary, H.E. Mr. András László Király, who was present throughout the evening to lend support to the event and mingled freely with guests.
Also Read: Wine Club Dinner: Hungarian Brown Sahib
The knowledge about Hungarian wines in India is little so the hosts could have perhaps someone say a few words about the wines. It reminded me of a similar instance when I had given a Masterclass on Bulgarian wines to the invitees at the embassy where several wines were available for tasting before and during dinner. But Dr. Mariann clarified that it was only an introductory experiential dinner for guests to enjoy with Hungarian wines. She plans to organise more such events and hopefully, learning about wines would be a part of those evenings.
Dr. Mariann is well aware of the importance of repeating such events and is already visualising the next event. Indian Wine Academy supports all such efforts and was happy to collaborate with Liszt in marketing the event successfully. We had to regret 12 persons as we had already exceeded the number of 35 earmarked for the evening that would be itched in the memory of those who attended. Follow the FB page of Liszt Institute for updates.
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