Fekete Béla, Somlói Juhfark
Fekete Béla, Somlói Juhfark

Fekete Béla, Somlói Juhfark

Somló, Hungary 2019 (750mL)
Regular price$37.00

Fekete Béla, Somlói Juhfark

Here’s a little bonus offer for the thrill-seekers out there. Sadly, there’s not much of this electrifying white to go around, but the lucky few who get some are hitting upon an Old World white wine benchmark on par with all the better-known global greats. It’s from Hungary, which may seem like a “new” frontier, but in fact, it’s one of Europe’s oldest wine cultures. Further, this 2019 is produced by a living legend, Fekete Béla, the “Grand Old Man of Somló,” a nonagenarian whose every word is treated as gospel. Saying that this mineral-rich white from the native Juhfark (YOU-fark) grape is “special” doesn’t begin to cover it. Today’s 2019 is Fekete’s current release: the wine spent one year in ancient Hungarian barrels, two in stainless steel, and one more in bottle. All this time, it remains untouched, allowing nature to run its course on this untamed, high-intensity grape. The result is spectacular, even a bit shocking—like a blast of ice-cold water to the face—but it’s an experience that cannot be ignored. You’ll geek out over this, guaranteed! 

Every enchanting wine Fekete Béla has crafted over the decades (they age for decades, too) has elevated the stature of the microscopic appellation of Somló. After the 2015 vintage, he retired and passed the torch to a new generation, but he didn’t fully step away—he can still be found assisting, tasting, and offering up his invaluable wisdom in the cellar. Prior to earning the “Grand Old Man” label, Béla would make annual treks to Somló to purchase grapes for his “garage” wines. But one year in the early 1970s changed everything: A farmer on this fabled hillside asked Fekete if he would be interested in purchasing a couple of hectares. He accepted, and for the next 30+ years, he built up his holdings to four hectares and crafted the region’s greatest expressions of wine. Upon his semi-retirement, he sold the estate to younger wine minds and close friends Ákos Dölle, György Emmert, Gábor Riesz, all of whom call him “uncle.”

Wine production in Somló, as well as the crumbling remains of a castle at the summit of the hill, dates back nearly 1,000 years. As Fekete’s importer notes: “In 1752, local laws stated that if you were found adding water to wine, expect 25 lashings as the minimum punishment. If you were found to be labeling wine as Somló but using other fruit sources, you would be banned from making wine permanently and might even have your property confiscated.” The acclaim (but not the punishments) for these wines continued up until the Second World War, where vineyards were appropriated by the state and redistributed under communism. Obviously, tumultuous times followed—until the arrival of Fekete Béla. 

Somló is Hungary’s smallest wine appellation and consists of a lone volcanic hill that rises abruptly near Hungary’s border with Austria. The soils are rich in basalt and most of the vines sit at high altitudes with expositions to the southeast. Fekete’s 3.5 hectares are farmed without any “manicuring,” irrigation, or chemicals, and are sorted/harvested by hand. In the winery, today’s 2018 Juhfark was macerated on skins for a few hours before a spontaneous fermentation in 1,000-liter Hungarian oak casks and 12 months of aging. The wine was then transferred into stainless steel, where it aged 24 additional months. Finally, after three years in total, the wine was bottled—but wasn’t released to the public until the following year!

Although it’s a 2019, this crystalline Juhfark is still a baby. Nevertheless, there’s a great deal of pleasure and exoticism to be had. This is high-intensity wine, filled with rip-roaring acidity, searing volcanic minerality, and deceivingly full body. There’s enough ripe, exotic fruit to keep this from being “punishing” or “uninviting.” Dip your nose in and it’ll excite you right away with quince, apricot, yellow apple peel, lime, lemon zest, mango peel, smoke, crushed rock, volcanic ash, and various European spices. The winemaker himself says “minerals above all rule this wine in all dimensions.” Hard to define this wine any better than that. It’s incredibly powerful, richly textured, and radiating with acid and crushed minerals. Enjoy now, in five years, or 10+ years. Whenever you do pull the cork, buckle up—it’s a wild ride. Cheers!

Fekete Béla, Somlói Juhfark

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