This January readers of the British Decanter magazine could find an enthusiastic comment from a certain Dr. Monica E. Seely. She wrote a reader’s letter to the editorial team promoting Hungarian wines, and her personal and soulful words found the way to the editor: her letter was selected the Letter of the month. But who is Dr. Monica E. Seely and why is she so much fond of Hungarian wines? We have asked her.
– How did you encounter Hungarian wines at all?
–I have had a love affair with Budapest for over thirty years going back to Communist days. Then there was very little good wine to be found in the shops (at least at a price I could afford). But there were always gifts of Muskotály, Tokaji and Pálinka either to take home or from visiting friends.
– Do you remember the first Hungarian wines you have tasted in the UK?
–Meanwhile, in the UK there was only Egri Bikavér and very cheap Olaszrizling. At the time both were in competition with cheap Australian and the latter would generally win as it was more widely known. Gradually good wine became available in Budapest and my palate matured. Again, I’d try to find Hungarian wine back in the UK but the situation hadn’t change much and going to a specialist importer was not really in my thinking. Aldi and Lidl didn’t exist: one was left with the big supermarket chains.
When passion initiated
– Now you are really passionate about Hungarian wines. How did you fall in love with them?
– There were two turning points for me. First, going to the Budapest Wine Festival in 2017. It was amazing to see how many different regions and grapes were available. Quality Hárslevelű and Kékfrankos were a new experience as was really good quality Furmint. Robert Smyth’s book ‘Hungarian Wine’ was purchased and I actively started seeking out Hungarian wine in the UK. Second and simultaneously, I was studying for WSET Level 2 then 3. Prior to going to the festival, I scanned Decanter World Wine Awards for 2016 and tried to find some of the suppliers at the festival. It was an interesting experience. Some were quite off-hand wanting only to talk to those in the trade. Others often the smaller more selective vineyards were so keen to show off their wine and discuss the terroir. Nonetheless by the end of the festival I’d made a few new friends and realised that Hungarian wine can be every bit as good as any other wine in the world. Indeed, in many ways it is one of the most terroir expressive wines. The dilemma facing most vineyards is how to market their wines outside their biggest market, Hungary.
Béres Vineyard and Winery received gold medal for Tokaji Aszú 5 puttonyos 2008 in 2016 at Decanter World Wine Awards, it was one of the wines Monica had on her scanned guide to taste at Budapest Wine Festival. Now vintage 2011 is available.
Considering a new carrier
- Have you visited any wine regions in Hungary?
- Yes, all of this this made me decide to go and explore different regions in 2018 and specifically Mád and Balatonfüred. Visits to various vineyards and restaurants left me wanting to know and taste more and to become an ambassador for Hungarian wines in the UK. Maybe even a second career in the Hungarian wine trade.
Grand Tokaj Kővágó Furmint 2014 received silver medal in 2016 at Decanter World Wine Awards, it was one of the wines Monica had on her scanned guide to taste at Budapest Wine Festival. Now vintage 2015 is available.
- What would you suggest to people who haven’t tasted Hungarian wines yet?
- For anyone new to Hungarian wine (leaving aside the King of Wines which most people know) an excellent starting point is good Furmint (not the cheap stuff from the major retailers), Hárslevelű and Kékfrankos. Seek a specialist supplier, tell them what wine you like and they will advise and you will be delighted.