When You Can’t Help Taking Notes – Tokaj and Villány in Tigris and Halászbástya

There are dinners where you should really just let yourself enjoy the atmosphere and the delicious menu. I did not manage to behave myself this time on two consecutive nights in March, so here are my notes. The dinners were organised for the speakers of VinCE, a high-end annual consumer and trade event in Budapest, and as such the line-ups were amazing.

The first dinner was hosted at Tigris Restaurant in the Fifth Quarter, just a few corners from Chain Bridge or, St Stephen’s Basilica in the other direction. Our party was hosted in the private dining room of the restaurant, which you need to access via a beautifully restored fin de siècle courtyard, hence often used by the political and business elite as well as the celebs. The food for carnivores looked and smelt amazing, but as the chefs had not known beforehand that I was vegetarian, mine was quickly improvised to an ‘okay’ standard. The service was impeccable. So, let me straight get on to the wines.

The selection was very classic, it needs to be said, with wines from Tokaj and Villány. However, as there were quite a few wine professionals around the table new to Hungary, or whose last visit had been well before, it made perfect sense to show flagship wines. Kopár Cuvée and the Cabernet Franc, also from Gere, were stunning and showed that Hungary can do Bordeaux varietals very well.

Disznókő Furmint Selection 2008
Light golden with a bit of straw. Lively nose with quince, acacia, honey and pears. Dry, toasty, almond and quince. Fresh with alcohol on the higher end, but well balanced and salty – mineral back-palate along with a good concentration lends the wine a pleasant mouth-feel. Medium finish. 16.9

Gere Attila Pinot Noir 2008
The wine was not on the market at the time of tasting, it was being bottled and laid down for bottle ageing before release.
Ruby. Ripe red fruits dominated by cherry and then strawberry with a slightly green and leafy touch. Schistous with cloves and cedar. Dry, ripe fruits, medium grained, but quite tightly packed tannins, minerals on the back-palate. Powerful with medium finish. 16.4

Kopár Cuvée 2008
Crimson. Slightly restrained, but concentrated nose; meaty, black-pepper, cloves, slightly tarry oak followed by pine. Dry, fresh, with a big body, velvety tannins, but with the vibrancy and liveliness of a young wine: violets, cassis and sour-cherry. Fragrant and long finish, very well balanced despite huge body. 18.8

Gere Attile Cabernet Franc Selection 2007
Black, crimson rim. Highly intense and vibrant nose with violets. Meaty, inky and lots of liquorice and pine. Bright and well-defined. Dry, high alcohol and crisp with super concentration. Liquorice, sour-cherry, cassis, pine tree and blue cheese. Graphite, schist. Long finish. 18.3

Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos 2005
Amber with golden rim. Highly intense nose, nutty, roasted almond, mushroom, sugared tangerine. Dry, fresh, silky and lean, then opens into a luscious mid- and back-palate with apricot, toffee and a hint of oxidative note. Highly concentrated, medium amount of botrytis, quite sharp. Long finish. 17.6

The second dinner was in Halászbástya [Fishermen’s Bastion] Restaurant, situated in the Castle District with a breathtaking view. The menu was accompanied by wines from a single winery, Vylyan – another producer in the Villány region. The proprietor of the estate, Mónika Debreczeni, was in attendance to lead us through the wines. We tasted Csóka, an almost extinct Hungarian variety, as well as some very good Pinot Noir and big Bordeaux-varietals. Of the Pinots, I would definitely pick the standard one, which showed a lovely complexity of flavours and elegance of structure as opposed to the vineyard selected Gombás, where the tannins were rougher. Of the Bordeaux varietals, Duennium was a fine blended wine, but the single varietal Cabernet Sauvignon Dobogó stole the show with its super concentration. Mind you, it was a big and generously extracted wine.

Vylyan Csóka 2009
An ancient Hungarian variety, Csóka,was salvaged from extinction through the gen-bank of the Viticultural and Oenology Research Institute of Pécs and Vylyan, who had head-grafted some 300 Kadarka plants to see what result this variety would bring.

Light ruby, medium intensity, violets and schist. Dry, fresh, high in alcohol with violets, black-currents and sour-cherry framed by ripe tannins. Quite mineral. Medium concentration and finish. 15.4

Vylyan Pinot Noir 2008
Light ruby, tiny orange rim. Lively, strawberry, leather, smoky bacon and ripe fruits. Fresh, lovely mint and leafiness. Rich in minerals and a good medium finish. 16.3

Vylyan Pinot Noir Gombás 2008
Ruby. Dried leafs, herbaceous, cedar, toffee and cherry. Tannins a bit rough, fruit has medium concentration. Quite lean with a medium finish. 15.8

Vylyan Cabernet Franc 2007
Crimson. Vibrant, violets, black-current, tarry tones, pine and blue cheese. Dry, high alcohol and acids, soft and ripe medium grained tannins. Cocoa and black-current, quite refined French oak. Intense, but concentration is medium. 15.9

Vylyan Dobogó 2006
Black core, purple rim. Highly intense nose, cassis, cocoa, sour-cherry, liquorice, black-peppercorn, smoky meat. Super dry, fresh, ripe and generous tannins. The fruits are fleshy, followed by liquorice and pine. Long and concentrated finish. 17.4

Duennium 2006
Black core, thin purple rim. Medium intensity in the nose, but with quite a bit of concentration of fruits – sour-cherry and black-current – and spices, such as cedar and cloves. Dry, medium-grained tannins, a bit gripping and quite tightly packed. Fleshy fruits in the frame of the tannins. Super-concentrated, chewy and long. 16.5


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