Drink Magazine

Grape Spotlight: Szekszard Kadarka

By Winecompass
Grape Spotlight: Szekszard KadarkaKadarka is the Hungarian equivalent to Pinot Noir, both in the glass and in the vineyard.  Once planted, Kadarka vines are temperamental - and like Pinot susceptible to gray rot and requires constant attention.  The most ideal environment for Kadarka is one with long hot summers that extend into the fall that not only allow late-ripening grapes to slowly evolve but also reduce the frequency of spring and autumn frosts. Szekszard, located in southern Hungary, is one such region.
The rolling hills of Szekszard are Hungary's most fertile agricultural region and enjoy both a Continental and Mediterranean climate. These dual climates provide a long growing season and the many valleys provide distinct micro-climates. During the summer, days can be stifling hot whereas the nights are fresh and cold. The soil is mostly loose loess particles that allow the vine's roots to dig deep in search of water.
Out of the bottle Szekszard Kadarka tastes similar to Pinot Noir but particularly of Hungary. It's generally light-medium bodied but extremely savory with noticeable texture. The sour cherry flavor mimics meggy - Hungarian sour cherries favored in cold soups and desserts.  What's most interesting is that Kadarka is not indigenous to the Magyar state and is thought to have originated near Lake Scutari on the Montenegro-Albanian border when the Turkish variety Papazkarasi was crossed with local Serbian variety Skadarsko.  This grape was brought to southern Hungary at the end of the 17th century by Serbian refugees encouraged to repopulate after years of Ottoman rule. And soon afterward, Hungarians adopted the grape as their own.
One example of excellent Szekszard Kadarka comes from Taste Hungary - Péter Vida Bonsai Oregtokes Kadarka 2017 ($20). It is produced from over hundred-year-old, gnarly-looking vines that a Japanese visitor likened to a Bonsai tree.  “Often you literally have to kneel in front of the rootstocks to prune them as these are ancient bush-trained vines,” winery founder Péter Vida said. “The image on the label – a mix of a Bonsai tree and an old vine – aims to convey the sense that the wisdom of the plant is bigger than that of humans even if it is diminutive in size.”
This is a delicious wine, light-medium bodied with a sour cherry dominance followed by slight spice and dirt. Expect a layer of texture and lifting acidity.

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