Oszkár Maurer lives in a Hungarian community in Serbia (very close to the Hungarian border) and it seems as if he identifies as much with his Hungarian ancestry as he does with his native country. He makes an array of small batch wines using organically grown fruit, native yeast and very little SO2. “The Collective” is a project between Isabelle Legeron, the brains behind Rawfair, and several Hungarian winemakers.
Kadarka is widely grown in Hungary as well as in Romania and Bulgaria and is believed to be indigenous to the Balkans. Maurer makes this wine from a vineyard planted in 1880. At 137 years old, it is the oldest known Kadarka vineyard in the world. Think about it, do you know who was the US President in 1880? I couldn’t remember and I was a history major. (It was Rutherford B. Hayes. James Garfield won the election in 1880 and spent six months in office before he was assassinated.) Maurer fermented the wine in an open vat and aged it in large casks for 12 months. It was bottled unfined, unfiltered and with very little SO2, 15 parts in total.
This was my first Serbian wine and I was pretty excited and intrigued. I brought it along to meet up with a friend at Spark Social SF, a food park in Mission Bay, and we had a glass before I had to head off to my next engagement. I really tried not to get my hopes up, but at first I was a little disappointed. As I walked over to the Mission I had a long discussion with myself about why wines are priced as they are because at $40 I thought its value lay more in the novelty of being from such an old Serbian vineyard.
When I reached my next destination, 20 Spot, I chilled it down for an hour and, with two other wine pros, Bodhi Freedom who owns 20 Spot and Bacchus, and Nadia Dmytriw of Jolivin/Floraison Selections, tasted what morphed into a completely different wine. It was vibrant and musky, with berries, plums, rhubarb, spice, a hint of aged balsamic and underbrush. I tried to make it last as long as I could, however, as happens all too often, I managed to spill the better half of a glass on myself, an enological tragedy if there ever was one, and for sure a sign that I needed to put some more food into my stomach.
Wines like this make you realize there really is such thing as terroir (or god but I’m going with the former) because what happened over the course of a couple of hours was pretty amazing. Getting back to the value proposition, this wine is a novelty and high quality, but also has a life force that doesn’t come around too often. I get excited by wines that are lively, soulful and convey a sense of place, but there is something mystical about this wine and that’s really all there is to it.
Unfortunately, this is not a super easy bottle to find. Blue Danube imports it and I think I might have ended up with one of their last bottles as they are now officially sold out.