You might consider that the attention that wine educators and writers get from wine merchants and suppliers is an embarrass de richesse. Endless promotional emails, invitations to tastings, catalogues of the latest ‘must try’ wine discoveries come flooding either through the ether or the letterbox with unfailing regularity. It may come as a surprise, however, that some of the bigger trade tastings one attends can be extremely hard work! With virtually the whole world of wine on show, where does one start unless one has a game plan to help one narrow one’s focus? Yes, the ‘sniff, taste, spit’ routine is vital in keeping one’s head clear, and a spot of necessary discipline is more than helpful when in a room bursting with myriad tempting wines crying out to be tasted.
However, looking back across a year of the wine trade tastings I attended I was greatly impressed by one wine which I thought I’d save to tell you about as a real ‘Christmas Cracker’- a most unusual and delicious dessert tipple from Hungary, made from The Kadarka grape variety. This classic red grape variety used more commonly to be incorporated inter alia into Egri Bikavér, (the relatively well-known dry red blend called ‘Bull’s Blood’) – though much less so nowadays as the grape’s natural prone-ness to rot has been recognized as a disadvantage. In a late-harvest wine this is much more of a ‘plus’ factor however, and Kadarka performs superbly well in the wine I am suggesting you try – Egri Kadarka Late Harvest 2007.
This wine, the product of the Nagy Eged vineyard, is a real rarity as it is only very seldom made.
The vineyard itself is often swathed in cloud, hugging the highest hillside vine site in the whole of Hungary at 501metres above sea level. The terroir is absolutely ideal: gritty soils on calcareous limestone, with full southern exposures on slopes between 8-35% gradient offering the exceptional benefits of ideal drainage and ample ripening conditions on its sun-soaked autumn slopes. Add to this the benefit of a unique microclimate which offers plenty of humidity and yet constant movement of air. Sweetness level? 22-24g/litre residual sugars.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN Hungary (Eger)
NAME OF WINE Late harvest Kadarka 2007
STYLE Unfortified organic red dessert wine
PRODUCER Gróf Buttler Estate
PRICE c. £20 (50cl bottle)
It may seem a little perverse of me, but my habit across Christmas dinners past has been to serve a classic Summer Pudding rather than the more heavyweight (and unashamedly calorific) delights of traditional Christmas pudding. After the toll of the preceding hearty fare the freshness and cleansing acidity of this alternative and well loved summer dessert does wonders to restore a little balance at the Yuletide feast … or so I believe… let alone being a promise of a summer to come (eventually) out of the depths of the winter. It always seems to meet with general approval and although a recipe is hardly necessary I add the one I use here, admittedly using frozen fruit mixes given a prevailing winter season. Obviously use fresh in the summer months
About 10 slices of crustless fresh white bread
120g Caster sugar
700g Mixed frozen summer berry fruits
- Put the sugar plus a cupful of water on a very gentle heat, letting the sugar dissolve while stirring it.
- Add the fruits and bring up to simmering point again, allowing the fruit to simmer for around 10 minutes. Remove from heat, saving a little of the juice.
- Line the base and the sides of a 1.25l (2 pint) pudding basin with the bread slices, ensuring that there are no significant gaps.
- Add about half the fruit mixture and cover the top of it with further slices of the bread.
- Add the rest of the fruit mixture, and finish the top surface with the remaining bread slices.
- Put a matching sized plate over the top surface of the interior of the bowl, placing a weight on top, and chill in the fridge overnight.
- Turn out onto a plate, and pour a little of the reserved cooked juice to cover any white patches that may have resulted. Decorate the top with fresh strawberries or raspberries – or as you wish.
A dollop of crème fraîche goes well alongside