Grapes: Furmint, Hárslevelű
Producer: MAD Wine
Source: Simon and Xhosa at The Lands of Loyal Hotel
This blog post is about a Hungarian wine, but I'm going to write about Scotland. Obviously.
I love Scotland. I have only visited a few times but each trip has been brilliant! I went to the Edinburgh Festival in 2015 and discovered once again how awesome Twitter can be when I followed recommendations to some outstanding shows. We also had a few family holidays to Skye, benefiting from the Gulf Stream to swim in the sea around the islands. These holidays also included the infamous time when Ellie’s suitcase was left on the doorstep and she had to borrow clothes from me and Hetti all week. I perhaps shouldn't have laughed quite so hard when we realised what had happened…
But my defining memory of Scotland wasn't from any of those trips and, perhaps unsurprisingly, involves a very specific meal. Waking up one morning, I discovered that my late uncle David had already been out fishing on the small lake in the hills above their house and had caught a trout. I didn't think I was that late to emerge for breakfast but by the time I arrived, this fish was already cleaned, prepped and being smoked on a little smoker in the garden. We had smoked trout pate for lunch. It was absolutely idyllic. Between them, my aunt and uncle Sarah and David were just such wonderful hosts, and this simple homemade and fresh, fresh smoked trout pate epitomised how I think of rural Scotland. That and the mountains of langoustine and squat lobsters we ate on another evening. I will always remember this holiday very fondly indeed.
And that's why I love Scotland. Striding through beautiful deep, misty valleys with winding streams in the base and scrambling up the hills on the other side to eat a picnic of crusty bread and ham or cheese at the top. Or walking along the beaches, rain or shine, and coming home to steaming bowls of soup or cold meats or stew or all sorts of other delicious foods. Haggis. Sea food. Whisky. Bracing outdoor walks in stunningly beautiful countryside followed by hearty meals. Heaven.
So I was particularly excited at the opportunity to visit Scotland again this summer. Part of Chris and my wedding preparations have involved meeting as much of each other's family as possible before the big day. Sadly, we may not meet them all but it should hopefully mean that we won't be confronted by too many strange faces in September! And meeting everyone has necessitated a trip to Perthshire in Scotland. Yes!
Chris’s family were as wonderfully welcoming as I'd been led to expect, and did nothing to dent my opinion of Scotland as a place of extraordinary hosts and hostesses. From Patricia providing plates of smoked salmon and toast and cheese for us from the moment we arrived to Karl-Peter’s delicious breakfasts at the golf club and Joe cooking a really fantastic venison stew in the kitchen at the Lands of Loyal Hotel, I have rarely eaten so well! The Scottish holiday was fantastic for the hills and glens and Munros and beaches, but it was special for the generous people that I met and the amazing meals we shared.
It was during this time that we drank challenge wine #27, from Tokaji in Hungary. We were staying with Chris's uncle and aunt at their house on the golf course, but Simon and Xhosa invited us up to the Lands of Loyal for a night, to sleep in a room that should genuinely be described as sumptuous, with its large four poster bed, heavy red curtains, and soft cloudy bedding. It may have been the ‘ghost room’ but it was certainly comfortable enough to make any haunting feel like a small price to pay! Late that evening, while we were catching up with everyone in the bar, Xhosa suggested trying the sweet Tokaji on their wine list. By good fortune, we’d yet to try a wine from Hungary, so immediately leaped at the opportunity.
As always seems to be the case in Scotland, it was an excellent night, finished off this time with an excellent wine…
From The Solent Cellar website:
The village of Mad is the most prestigious in the region of Tokaj and is composed of many plots of small growers. This is a vivid and lively late harvest wine, the natural sugar concentration is balanced by refreshing acidity. Floral, fruity, intense aromas and a touch of minerality on the finish.
I'm not a fan of sweet wines generally and haven't drunk many so wasn't really sure what to expect with this wine, but I was pleasantly surprised as it was absolutely delicious! A golden, syrupy wine that smelled of orange blossom. It had a definite tropical flavour that stopped the sweetness from being sickly. It managed to walk the fine line between being rich and refreshing; succeeding in being thick but not cloying. It was really wonderful!
9/10, would recommend
I’ve actually been to the small town of Tokaj, three hours east of Budapest by train, and this took me all the way back to that (rather unusual) holiday in April 2000. At the time, I knew very little about wine, and even less about the grape varieties and fermentation processes that go together to produce Hungary’s historic, signature drink. Over the course of a handful of visits to tiny tasting cellars run by local producers, I learnt all about puttonyos and noble rot, Szamorodni and the world-famous Aszú; I also saw first-hand how proud those wine-makers were of their product, and how seriously they took the legacy and traditions passed down to them over hundreds of years.
The bottle we drank in Scotland is a késői szüretelésű, or ‘late harvest’ sweet wine, similar in flavour and profile to Aszú, but made in a slightly different way: instead of adding heavily botrytised ('Aszú') grapes to the fresh grape must, the grapes (about 80% 'botrytis') are all fermented together. This makes for a lighter, less intense wine, which can’t be sold under the Aszú label. Despite that, it was full of sweet, honeyed top notes, which gave way to lingering tropical fruit flavours, and a fresh aftertaste that acted as a bit of a palate cleanser for the next sip. I wouldn’t want to drink it every night, but it’s a high-quality dessert wine for a very competitive price: a worthy addition to our challenge!