Cornucopia of Hungarian Wines



Albert Camus, one of my favourite philosophers, had once said, “In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.”

That could, in brief, summarise my visit to the Hungarian Wine festival at The Claridges this winter. During the cold wind, when everyone donned woolen coats and boots, with glasses of wine to warm their insides, it was an evening to be remembered. I found a summer within myself that day.

As I entered the premises, the aroma of the wine tingled the senses. It was fresh and fascinating.

People have often talked about the four S’s in wine-tasting — swirl, sniff, sip and spit, and, forgive me, I’ve never been able to abide by it, especially the last part!

The fine collection of wine at the Claridges garden, from Tokaj, Somlo Villan and Szekszard Hungary, was arranged in a circular placement of a buffet-styled view.

The Wine Journey

The white wine’s peculiar taste complemented the cheese and the charcuterie, which comprised the Milano salami, Parma ham, Chicken mortadella, and so on, along with some condiments. The selection of cheese was extravagant — from edam, emmental to gruyere and smoked scarmoza.

I tried the Chicken mortadella slices, with focaccia bread, which tasted very similar to salami — the right balance between lightness and taste. It was pleasant. Riesling, paired with the cold meat and cheese, made for a heavenly combination. The ham, however, was moist and sweet and salty at the same time, not so much to my taste.

As I moved ahead, happy with the appetisers, to the second menu, an enthusiastic white guy was pointing to a map and explaining which wine had come from which part of Hungary. I stood there, engrossed in the conversation for a while. “The sweet wine you’re drinking,” he paused to point at a man with a glass of Barta, “is from Hegyalja, one of the seven larger wine regions of Hungary,” he said.

The red wine was light bodied, which went well with the grills, sea food and meat. I went with the Tundertane, blended with merlot and kekfrankos. T’was fruity in taste. Along with it, I’d picked up the Herb rubbed lamb chops, which was spicy but loaded with flavour. It had a mature taste on the tongue. I sensed red currents in the wine, some cherry, and perhaps, cranberry. Overall, it was easy wine.

Talking with Chef Vivek Rana about the experience, he shared, “Wine-tasting is all about savouring the taste. You close your eyes and listen to your senses. Listen to what they are telling you.”

“Today’s journey is well-planned. Why cheese or charcuterie goes along with white wine is because the fat on the charcuterie is cut down by the acidity in the white wine or Riesling. Similarly, the light bodied wine is balanced with grill fish and grill lamb, whereas, the full bodied wine marry well with the main course. And the sweet wine for the dessert,” he explained.

Sure enough, finally, the heavy bodied wine, Rhapsody, of the thrid menu was rich and had a more complex flavour, which augmented the taste of food in the main course. Tarty and slightly sour, the drink would trickle down the throat and create a chill-effect. I chose  roasted fish with barbeque sauce, which made for a great companion. The tannin in the wine compensated with the richness of the red meat.

The end of the journey held the best surprise.The dessert wine was sweet and gelled amazingly with the warm Chocolate and walnut brownie or just as much with the Apple strudel.

In a conversation with Andras Laszlo Kiraly, the ambassador of Hungary, he expressed, “We want people to have a great evening because they deserve it. After all the suffering and neglect, it is time for the people of Delhi to have a relaxing evening.”

Kiraly added, “Hungarian embassies have a duty to promote their wine. When we’re promoting the wine, we’re promoting Hungary, and also tourism. Because, the best way to enjoy the authentic taste is to visit the cellars in Hungary itself. Claridges makes for a central and great location and we are happy to be here.”

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