2011 Fekete Béla Hárslevelű Somló
Region: Somló < Hungary
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Organic/biodynamic farming, volcanic soil, fermented in old 1200 liter Hungarian oak casks. Without bâtonnage and never completely sealed off from oxygen, all wines are aged for 2 years before bottling.
Winemaker: Fekete Béla
Harslevelu (pronounced “Harsh-leveloo”) is a grape native to Somló (Shoam-low), Hungary’s smallest appellation and once an underwater volcano. Now dormant, its slopes of ancient sea sediment, hardened lava, and basalt are home to some of Hungary’s steepest vineyards. This is one of the last vintages for Fekete Béla, who’s 93 years old now and just called game over with the 2013 vintage. The wines of Somló, all white wines (no red grapes are grown here), tend to be high in alcohol, very acidic, and full of smoky volcanic minerality. They’re meant to be aged and can be aggressive when young, which is why Uncle Béla lets his rest for 2 years in large cask before bottling. This, the 2011, is the current vintage, and it is just hitting its stride. Literally translating to “Linden Leaf,” Hárslevelű does have flavors of lime blossom and mild honeys that Linden trees are known for. The honey, waxy thing quickly gives way to a backbone of smoke and soil, with a firm, spicy grip and surprisingly tannic finish. A super geeky but delicious fall white, it’s big enough to decant for a hearty roast chicken, but also lovely with cheese, or dishes with Mediterranean spice.