On Tuesday, 7th May I flew to Budapest to judge at the 14th edition of Pannon Bormustra or Wine Challenge, one of the most prestigious wine shows in Hungary. Its aim is to provide both producers and consumers with a compass as to what wines represent the best of Hungary. Therefore, wines are not awarded gold, silver or bronze medals, but there are 15 top wines selected in all three categories: white, red and sweet. I shall report on the results in detail in another article, but for now let us see what a fine welcome the organisers had put on when we arrived in Budapest and took us out to Onyx, one of the Michelin-star restaurants in Budapest.
I arrived at the restaurants somewhat late, as I had taken a detour on the way from the airport to get my pedicure and manicure done, a treat any visitor should indulge in when visiting Hungary. Upon arrival at Onyx, situated rather grandly in the building of the century-old Gerbeaud Café on Vörösmarty Square right in the heart of Pest, I was welcomed warmly and my luggage quickly disappeared into the safe storage.
I was shown through into what is a semi-private dining-room of the restaurant and I joined my fellow judges: Gabriella Mészáros and András Kató from Hungary, Isa Ball MS from The Fat Duck, a Heston Blumenthal restaurant in the UK, Tomasz Prange-Barczynski, founding editor of Wino magazine in Poland, Stephen Tanzer, publisher of International Wine Cellar from New York City, and Christian Aaro, President of the Danish Sommelier Association and owner of AOC in Copenhagen, a fine dining restaurant. Tim Atkin MW joined us some half an hour after I had arrived.
Though I was late, I was offered a glass of the Sparkling Királyudvar 2009 (score: 16.9), which was pronounced gold and boasted of persistent fine bubbles. Whilst its intensity was medium, it displayed a lovely aromatic bouquet of apricot, ripe mango and citrus fruits. It was slightly off-dry and the body was considerable due to the oaky flavours combined with the very ripe apricot tones. It showed a lovely balance and concentration, whilst keeping us very fresh.
I missed out on the amuse bouche and the first starter, yet I had some five courses to get through along with another seven wines. All the dishes were truly amazing because of the tremendous amount of attention to detail that the chefs dedicated to creating them. Instead of going at great length about the food though, let me share my wine experience with you here.
The Káli Kövek Rezeda Rizling (score: 16.1), where I failed to note down the vintage, was a pronounced lemon wine with a tiny straw hue made of Rhine Riesling. Completely dry, with a fresh mouth-feel and medium alcohol, it combined apple peals and zesty citrus fruit with a moderate concentration. The Bott Csontos Furmint 2011 (score: 16) was pretty much in the same league with its pronounced lemon colour and subdued, but elegant floral nose of rose water. It had a lovely lemon nose with some white-peppers. As for the palate, quite medium bodied as far as acids and alcohol were concerned, with a touch of bitter taste on the mid-palate and it finished quite quickly.
No wonder that the reds were making the best impression after the sparkling. The Pósta Kadarka 2011 (score: 16.4) had a lovely ruby colour with a touch of garnet hue. It was dry, with very ripe red fruits and marked alcohol and a smooth texture resultant of nicely ripe tannins and a great concentration. The Karner Gábor Vitézföld Kékfrankos 2008 (score: 16.9) was deep crimson and had a lovely playful nose of strawberry and raspberry with a hint of cinnamon and leather tones. Dry and fresh with ripe fruits on the palate, spiced with pine and leathery tones. Whilst the alcohol was marked, it retained a beguiling freshness. The Sauska Konkoly Merlot 2008 (score: 16.9) was a lovely big-bodied dry red wine with generous ripe fruits of sour-cherries in a firm frame of mid-grain tannins and plenty of smoky flavours.
Just before the pudding wine, we enjoyed a few sips of the Spiegelberg Olaszrizling 2010 (score: 17.4), which had a deep golden colour with a straw hue. Dry and fresh, it had apple and honeysuckle flavours with a salty touch and excellent concentration. It was the Tokaj Nobilis 6 puttonyos aszú (score: 17) that closed our dinner. A deep golden with a brass hue, the wine was fragrant with orange, peach, honey, lime and pineapple. Fresh and sweet, but beautifully balanced and showed a very good concentration. It was a very suitable conclusion of a delicious dinner.
If you are interested in booking a table at Onyx, I suggest you check out their various options. You may want to go a la carte but there are some very good value menu options offered too. Definitely worth a visit, though mind you it will mostly be a post-modern interpretation of traditional Hungarian tastes and flavours.