Fekete Bela Juhfark 2018
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Press 4 White • October 2023 Direct Press Selection
Sometimes we come across wines that seem to good too be true, and this is one of them: one of the final vintages from Bela Fekéte, aka ‘the grand old man of Somló.’ Bela is a nonagenarian who is respected as one of the finest winemakers in this region of Hungary. Somló is the site of an ancient underwater volcano, vines planted around its dome, rising out of the surrounding plain like some kind of destination for heroes in a Tolkein fantasy. It has been home to viticulture for 2000 years and it is Hungary’s smallest but most serious appellation for dry white wine. The wines from Somló are quite distinctive, due in no small part to the unique volcano they come from. They have been written about since 1093 and loved by generations of European royalty (including Maria Theresa and Queen Victoria) for a reason.
Fekéte’s 100% Juhfark—a grape found only in Somló that translates to 'sheep's tail'—delivers on all of these regional peculiarities. This is an opulent, savory, volcanic wine to be sure, with luxe texture, waxy breadth, and a delicate hint of honey and white chocolate. Yet somehow it remains lifted and refreshing: that is the secret that makes Fekéte’s wines so exceptional. These are reminiscent of Jura whites, every bit as unique and complex, though they are richer and saltier with powerful tension and backbone from Juhfark's naturally high acidity. Fekete's vineyards are said to have a ‘secret garden’ quality that is a little wild, especially compared to his neighbors, but the results are anything but an accident. Long, slow aging in 1200L Hungarian oak also helps with longevity. These wines need some time, and this is just starting to show us the incredible depth it possesses. Pair it with goat cheese, stuffed cabbage, salmon, pork, or hearty chicken stews. Jonathan Kemp