September 2013
Promise in Hungary
“Because Port is aged so long,” says
Young, “you start to lose a sense of ter-
roir.” A similar concern lies behind
some of the dry wines of Tokaj, in Hun-
gary. “In my opinion, familiarization
with the Tokaj region starts through
showing the uniqueness of the single
vineyards,” says Zoltán Demeter, a lead-
ing winemaker there (and whose wines
are labeled Demeter Zoltán). “The va-
riety in the soils of this winegrowing
region set a quality rank going back 300
years. Through this the first territorial
classification in the world was born.”
(Interestingly, the Douro was home to
the second such classification, in 1756.)
The focus on varietally-labeled dry
Furmint and Hárslevelű (both indig-
enous varieties) is new, but Tokaj has
always produced dry wines; not every
vineyard develops the botrytis needed
for sweet Tokaji Aszú every vintage.
(Note: Tokaj refers to the region Tokaj-
Hegyalja; Tokaji is the area’s traditional
sweet wine.) “Recently the Tokaj dry
wine has lost its position as secondary
product and developed into the status
of one of the most important products
coming from this region,” says Demeter.
Whereas familiarity with Port—even if
in name only—can help introduce wine
drinkers to Douro table wines, Tokaji’s
star faded under Communism in the
century, so their dry wines may be
some people’s first encounter with the
region. “The interest in our region has
begun with the appearance of dry wines
and I hope it will last at least until the
greatness and uniqueness of Tokaji Aszú
is rediscovered,” says Demeter.
And in France, it's
Natural vs. Sec
Some of France’s sweet wine regions
are not immune from the trend toward
dry wine production. “In Languedoc-
Roussillon,” says Mollie Battenhouse,
business development manager at im-
porter V.O.S. Selections, “the sweet
wines definitely fill a niche, but there’s
a finite amount of shelf space for them.
People are rediscovering the south of
France through the dry wines.” She says
the reds were the first step, but adds that
more and more impressive white wines
are coming from the area. Domaine Des
Schistes, for example, makes several
whites that she says have done very well
for V.O.S. in the market.
French regulations have changed
to accommodate these dry wines, ac-
cording to Matthew Stubbs MW at
the Vinécole, an education center for
Languedoc-Roussillon wines. “French
AOC law has become much more flexi-
ble to allow the production of dry wines
in traditional VDN [Vins Doux Na-
turel—sweet fortified wines, similar to
Port] heartlands. The AOCs for Côtes
du Roussillon and Côtes du Roussillon
Villages date back to the 1970s when
the sweet styles started to decline.
These allowed the producers to switch
styles but under an AOC format.” He
says the regulations can seem complex
and restrictive, but they reflect the re-
gion’s diversity and continue to evolve.
While Stubbs echoes Demeter’s
hope that the dry wines will open the
door for renewed interest in the sweet
styles, Marjorie Gallet, co-owner of
Domaine Le Roc des Anges in Maury
in Roussillon worries that in some cases
producers eager to court the dry wine
market are using vineyards more suit-
ed to VDNs, at the expense of quality
in the fortified wines. She’s also con-
cerned that new AOCs like Maury Sec
could be confusing for consumers.
That said, there’s room for all sorts
of styles in the area’s diverse vineyards.
“I think we are in an incredible place
where we can produce big wines in all
colors and styles,” says Gallet. “Our
various rocky soils, the geographical
position close to the sea and the moun-
tains, and the Mediterranean climate
allow us to produce whatever we want.”
Mollie Battenhouse
Zoltán Demeter
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