IT is spring and perhaps more than ever my personal vision of the world of wine seems a little out of focus. Maybe it is just the time invested or the true nature of cycles, or even the lack of personal critical success, but it does give one pause to reflect. By the way, above is a photo of the old vineyards in Hungary's Soproni Borvidek. It sits in the border foothills of the Alps in the southeastern region of neighboring Austria. As early as the XIV century, this former Roman colony was classified as the most important wine region in Hungary. Talk about wine history! Its old soils have seen the shift in empires, numerous wars and an Eastern Block trade restriction, yet today there is the new promise of a wine renaissance here as investment and more international markets expand opportunity. In 2004 Hungary was admitted to the European Union and its spectrum of wine-lovin' customers. Current results here display hundreds of these unique vineyards increasingly planted to 'international varieties'. And to perhaps anchor its history, Hungary also produces the botrytized amber nectar, Tokaji.
|Mechanical harvesting in lower region Hungary|
|Wine Folly graphics(nice!)|
Heading northwest to focus on the current commerce engine of the EU with its diverse economy, neighboring Germany shares a lot of the same central European culture. This is white wine country, increasingly dominated by the noble Riesling grape, a native varietal which has hardily adapted to its northern climactic extreme vineyards. Just as in the time of the Romans, here it is about a vineyards proximity to the river. A historically challenging landscape, the river valleys are dominated by many small hand-working growers. The vine has followed the rivers moderating influences along the mighty Rhine, and the Mosel, above the Elbe, the Saale and the Unstrut in the southeast. Its sweet fruit is harvested late in the grape season, sometimes a berry at a time; the vines make it thru brutal winters and awaken annually with bud break again in the spring.
Hardly anything says spring quite like acid-driven Riesling, which is found in each of these three countries. Its greatest heights surely are found in Germany, but most of what is produced is from the broad category labeled Landwein, or ubiquitous table wines. The best of the varietal most often come from a specific place. Upper tiers of the German Wine Law offer first pick, mostly dry Kabinett; fuller, off-dry Spatlese; and textured, sweeter Auslese. Even with their confusing labels and language, the industry has advanced to simpler, user-friendly label declarations(trocken=dry) and friendly consumer symbols displayed. It is just another example of Old World producers staying true to their nature, yet acknowledging growing consumer trends, such as food & wine pairings.
Replanted vineyards above the Mosel in Zell
In Vino Veritas & Cheers!