A superb rosé from Hungary's top red-wine region
From €8.95, £9.50, 11.35 Swiss francs, $16
Evelyne and Erhard Heumann are a Swiss-German couple who met 46 years ago on a Greyhound bus in Las Vegas and ended up making wine in Hungary just a stone’s throw from Croatia.
When Evelyne’s father went to Villány to set up a chimney-making business in 1995, he ended up with a 40-year-old Kékoportó (Blauer Portugieser) vineyard instead. This small hobby vineyard, which started out as a welcome distraction for Erhard from the world of banking in Zurich, became more and more of a serious project, until he and Evelyne moved into the house in the middle of the vineyards in 2003.
They now have 20 ha (50 acres) of land with 10 ha (25 acres) under vineyard. The subregion of Siklós is much cooler than the rest of Villány and the soils have much deeper seams of limestone that are also closer to the surface (in Villány the limestone is around 15 m/50 ft below the surface whereas in Siklós it starts only about 1 m/3 ft below the surface), so wines tend to be fresher with a finer structure than in the rest of Villány.
Their vineyards are farmed without herbicides or pesticides and they grow and mow green cover crops between the vines. Their son, who studied oenology in Switzerland, is now their consultant winemaker.
When I tasted their wines in situ, I found all of them impressive – elegant, understated and classy. When Erhard mentioned, as we sipped this rosé during lunch in their glass box of a tasting room with floor-to-ceiling views of the vineyards, that it was exported to the US, UK and various places in Europe, my ears pricked up.
Their 2018 rosé is nearly 100% Kékfrankos (aka Blaufränkisch) with a tiny dab of Syrah and Merlot from vines aged between 10 and 20 years old and harvested on 5 September. No saignée, just destemmed grapes fermented in stainless steel at 17 °C (63 °F) and then kept in stainless steel for four months before bottling in December 2018. Acidity is 6.9 g/l, residual sugar is 3.5 g/l and it’s a very drinkable 12.5% alcohol.
The beauty of this wine is not so much on the nose, which smells cool and clean, of shells and paprika. The palate, to begin with, is exactly what you want from a good rosé – lots of super-crisp raspberry and red-apple fruit, no specious sweetness and none of that pale-and-uninteresting fruitlessness that comes from wines trying too hard to be Provençal (see Adrift on a sea of pink).
But it was the finish that gave me a tingle down my spine. That’s where the fabulous structure and bite of Kékfrankos came into play, bringing sharp definition to the fruit, an intensity to the acidity, transparency and angles like rolling a glass octahedron around on your tongue. And then there’s a saltiness that leaves you wanting another sip, and which makes this most certainly not-just-another-summer-rosé. This wine has substance – you’re pairing it with food, not weather.
The Wine Society sell it for a VGV £9.50 and you can pick it up in the Netherlands for €9.77. It has completely sold out in Denmark, unsurprisingly, and they are waiting for the 2019 to be delivered. The 2017 is available in Switzerland, and although it’s not listed on Wine-Searcher, I see that you can buy it online for €8.95 at www.vinexus.de as well as www.drinksco.fr. The US importer is Gábor Bánfalvi of Taste Hungary, who can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org. He tells me that the US retail price is around $16.