Dr. José Vouillamoz is undoubtedly the first name that comes to our mind when we speak about the origin of grape varieties. He is a grape genetists, and his passion for wine manifested in a really heavy book called Wine Grapes, which he wrote together with Jancis Robinson MW and Julia Harding MW.
José Vouillamoz will hold a most exciting masterclass at VinCE Budapest Wine Show in March in Budapest, where he will present Hungarian grape varieties along with their relatives, and some of the siblings will be really surprising for sure! At the moment we uncover one of the pairs of the tasting: Kadarka and its Bulgarian twin, Gamza. The two grapes are in fact identical as it is written in the above mentioned book: “Kadarka is said to have been introduced to Hungary from the Balkans, either by Serbians, which fits with Kadarka being the Slavic name for Scutari, a lake (also known as Skadar) between Montenegro and Albania, and with the fact that the variety was once cultivated under the synonym Skadarka in Croatia and Serbia (Levadoux 1956; Galet 2000; Rohály et al. 2003), or by Turks, hence its synonym Törökszőlő (‘Turkish grape’). It is conceivable that it made its way to Hungary via Bulgaria, where it is still widely planted under the synonym Gamza, and where it is considered to be indigenous. It is also said to be “be indigenous to the region of Miniş near Arad in western Romania, where the first sweet Aszú-style red wine was made from shrivelled Cadarcă grapes in 1744 (Dejeu 2004). The exact origin of Kadarka remains unknown but it lies somewhere within the Balkan-Pannonian area.” Excerpt From: Robinson, Jancis; Harding, Julia; Vouillamoz, Jose. “Wine Grapes (9780062325518).” iBooks.
A sensitive grape
Kadarka is grown almost all over the country. It has significant vineyards in the Great Hungarian Plain, where Kunság, Csongrád and Hajós–Baja wine regions are situated. Kadarka is most important in Szekszárd and Eger, the two wine regions where the famous blend, Bikavér (Bull’s Blood) is made, and Kadarka is usually one component of the blend. Total plantings of Kadarka account for less than 700 hectares.
It is really hard to cultivate Kadarka. Late ripening, sensitive, its thin skin can be affected with harmful and noble rot. The colour is medium deep ruby. On the nose rich, spicy and elegant – if in good hands. On the palate juicy, spicy, medium bodied with good acidity and low tannins. Usually consumed young, within 1–3 years, but with properly restricted yield and careful vinification Kadarka can be aged for a long time – as it is proved by some vertical tastings carried on in Szekszárd and other wine regions.
My grandfather Kadarka – American wine bar favourite
Some winemakers believe that Kadarka is a grape variety that has a future in Hungary. János Eszterbauer in Szekszárd is one of them. He has 4 hectares planted with Kadarka from where in a ‘good Kadarka year’ they produce 30.000 bottles. About 20.000 bottles are labelled as ‘Sógor’ (literally ‘brother-in-law’), a fresh, gentle, vivid, spicy Kadarka. One third of the production makes ‘Nagyapám’ (literally ‘my grandfather’), a premium Kadarka, though only in good vintages. A significant percentage of this goes to the USA: there are about 130–150 wine bars in New York, and in 25 of them Eszterbauer Nagyapám Kadarka is available!
Some other Kadarka wines to try: