Hungarian Rhapsody

A little while ago I attended a dinner at Sotheby's (BID) auction house in New York to promote the sale the next day of a large collection of wines from Vega Sicilia, one of Spain's finest winemakers. The evening featured, of course, a generous selection of that estate's most famous wines—Unico, Reserva Special, Valbuena, and Alion as well as their newest offering, Pinita, of which the first vintage was 2001.

The wine that really caught my attention, however, was one I had never encountered before, the Oremus Mandolás, a white wine from Hungary. What sets this wine apart and makes it so unusual is that it is a dry wine made in the Tokaj region from the furmint grape. Both that region and that grape are best known for the famous sweet dessert wine, Tokaji, although if this wine is anything to judge by, the situation is likely to change quite dramatically in the future.

In the early 1990s, Hungary's historic wine industry was in a terrible shape after 45 years of Communist neglect. The new government, anxious to revitalize the business, invited various foreign winemakers, including Vega Sicilia, to invest in the privatization of the former government monopoly. Hence was born the Oremus winery.

I assumed that the dry white, the Mandolás, was sort of an afterthought, but I was mistaken—it makes up a full 40% of production, which shows that the owners are serious about making this dry white from Hungary a viable commercial proposition.

And tasting the Oremus Mandolás 2006 ($25), I can only conclude that they are onto a winner.

It's dry, vigorous and crisp. A big, mouth-filling wine packed with the rich fruit flavors of pineapple and clove-studded pears, and a spicy, aromatic quality that makes it an ideal companion for Asian food.

When to Drink: Now

Breathing/Decanting: Not necessary

Food Pairing: Pork, chicken and Asian food

Grapes: 100% furmint

Appellation: Tokaji Dry

Country: Hungary

Price: $25

Availability: Moderate

Web Site:

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