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2003 Ferenc Takler "Proprietors Reserve" Cabernet Franc, Szekszárd, Hungary

takler.jpgIt's not often that I come across Hungarian wines at all, especially given my very low tolerance for dessert wines. Hungary is, of course, famous for its Tokaji dessert wines, whose sugar levels are measured in puttonyos or "buckets" of sugar. My last occasion to review a Hungarian wine turned Vinography into an instant destination for wine-loving Hungarians, who arrived in droves with suggestions, praise, and travel tips after a Hungarian internet news site picked up my review.

I may be potentially opening the floodgates again with this review, but I can hardly help myself from reviewing this stunning wine that a friend was kind enough to share over dinner the other night. My experience with this wine is enough to convince me that Hungarians have been saving some of their best wine to drink themselves, while we consume sugar by the bucketful.

While the northeastern part of the country plays host to Tokaji, the region which has been producing sweet wines from botrytized (Noble rot infected) grapes for hundreds of years, the southwestern part of Hungary contains several wine regions that are increasingly experimenting with international varietals. Villány is perhaps the better known of these regions, but along with it, Szekszárd has now started to gain more attention from wine drinkers around the world. Both regions have started to produce rich red wines of unusual character, and in particular, from the Cabernet Franc varietal.

Lest anyone (who isn't Hungarian) think that these are relatively new wine regions, you need only turn to the poetry of Janos Garai, who in 1846, described Szekszárd as the home of the famous Bikaver, or Bulls Blood. Franz Schubert's favorite wine came from the ancient local grape Kadarka, "The Nectar of Szekszárd," which led to his composition of the Trout Quintet. Another famous devotee of Szekszárd wines was Franz Liszt who composed the Szekszárd Mass to honor the region. Liszt purportedly also sent Pope Pius IX a Szekszárd red wine as a personal gift.

Ferenc Takler's family has been making wine in the Szekszárd region even before Janos Garai was writing poetry, starting in the 18th century, and maintaining a tradition handed down from father to son. Today Takler works his 75 acres of grapes in 9 different regions of the appellation with the help of his sons who help him produce the winery's portfolio of local and international varieties. The winery makes Kadarka, Bikavér (known famously as Bull's Blood), and Kékfrankos (better known as Blaufrankisch elsewhere in Europe), along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.

Takler's wines, along with many other Hungarian wines are now being brought into the country courtesy of Monarchia, a marketing and importation company(whose web site is a bit broken at the moment) who seems to have gathered together a number of winemakers like Takler under one roof. The Takler label also bears the name Monarchia, leading to some confusion by wine lovers.

This wine is made from 100% Cabernet Franc. After harvest, the grapes are fermented in traditional, open top fermenters and the wine is aged in French oak barrels before bottling. 119 cases are produced.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is dark, opaque garnet in the glass, and has a multilayered nose that initially displays aromas of walnuts, lavender, cassis, and violets. Over time it became less floral and more caramel in quality, and finally settled into what my wife correctly pegged as the smell of charred marshmallow. In the mouth it is lush and full, with excellent balance, sumptuous, silky tannic structure, and complex flavors of black cherry, plum, and some hints of nuttiness as it powers towards a stunning finish. Very approachable, even given its young age, it's likely however that this wine will improve over the next 4 to 6 years. One of the best single varietal Cabernet Francs I've ever had.

Food Pairing:
This wines depth and richness demand a rich red meat dish. I'd love to drink it with a braised lamb shank with rosemary and tomatoes.

Overall Score: 9.5/10

How Much?: $60

This wine can be purchased on the internet.

Comments (38)

Jack wrote:
12.21.05 at 10:49 AM

This was my first tasting of this wine, too. It's a great wine and is also one of the 2-5 best Cab Francs I've ever tasted - and I've tasted many Cab Francs.

It's definitely in the Extracted, Concentrated style, rather than a Chinon/Bourgueil style. It reminded me most of a Pride Cab Franc (except more concentrated) and I liked it better than any California Cab Franc I've had - it's more, hmmm, well-rounded?

Joanne wasn't so wild about it - she's not big on wines that have floral noses, for one thing.

Finally, this wine shows that it's possible to make a great red in the Szekszárd appellation of Hungary, and makes me want to try other wines from that area.

-- Jack

Miklós M. wrote:
12.23.05 at 3:29 AM

Örülök, hogy végre valaki felfedezi a magyar borokat, még a távoli Amerikából is. Igazi ínyenceknek érdemes odafigyelni ezekre a távoli borvidékekre, mert a kommunizmus hosszú évtizedei után egyre inkább felelevenednek a régi borhagyományok Magyarországon.
I am so happy, that finally there is someone, who discovers the wines of Hungary, even from the so far America. If you are a real gourmand, you should pay attention to these outlying wine-districts, for the long decades of communism, the old traditions of the wine culture in Hungary are resuscitating...

Heimann/Szekszard wrote:
12.23.05 at 3:45 AM

Having your very positive comments on Szepsy from Tokaj, now your 9,5 - 10 points hit Takler's Cab.Franc. We do hope that these two lately tested wines from Hungary raised your appetite for more Hungarian wines, and even a short visit to us. If we -Hungarian vintners- can be of your help, please let us know, meanwhile I would strongly suggest that you should rather rely on the blogger comrades, than the burocrats.

kosi wrote:
12.23.05 at 4:49 AM

As I told you before, you must come to Hungary :) I have three new recommendations:

1. 2003 Cabernet Franc from Kiss Gabor (Gabor Kiss in English as we put the family name first) (Villany) 2. 2003 Sigillum Loliense cuvee from Konyari Janos (South of lake Balaton) 3. 2003 Merlot from Vida Peter (Szekszard)

As you see all of them from 2003, I am sure there will be more to come from this year !

Winelover wrote:
12.23.05 at 5:02 AM

'Hungarians have been saving some of their best wine for themselves...'

As a matter of fact, this wine hasn't even made it to the Hungarian stores. 100% has been exported to the USA

NB. Only the 'top of the top' of Hungarian reds is really good, but those cost generally 50-60$ and more.
(However, there are many beautiful Hungarian dry white wines, not rarely at prices of 15-20$ or even less.)

Bandi wrote:
12.23.05 at 5:14 AM


Or, plan B, a larger variety of Hungarian wines should be exported into the U.S. I'm not in wine business but surely someone around here is.

Kovacs Attila wrote:
12.23.05 at 5:25 AM

Dear Mr. Alder Yarrow!

I find the link to this topic in the far-east-corner of the internet, in the hungarian-language box.
(You know, Europe, over the big water.)

People say there, you must be the opinion leader in topic "wine".

But - as I read your words about the sugar-content in bucekts of "Tokaji" wine...

Dear mister opinion leader wine guru.

There is no sugar added to Tokaji.

We add a special sort of grapes to the wine. This is the so called ASZU.

I must say, if you talk about sugar, than you know about wine so much, as I do about your beutiful english language.

But I don't dare to act as english teacher...

You just drink that awfull crap, what you could buy over there, and you talk shit at once.

Why don't you try to fly over here, and let us help you find out something about REAL wines.

Good luck and best wishes!

kosi wrote:
12.23.05 at 7:33 AM

Attila, you are shooting at the wrong person.

Norbert Saboo wrote:
12.23.05 at 8:35 AM

Attila, you are simply and solely a conceited, idiot! (btw. it's a typical hungarian flavor thanks for FIDESZ)

Alder wrote:
12.23.05 at 8:41 AM


Thanks for the recommendations. I will keep an eye out for them. And I will keep trying to find the time and money to come visit!

Alder wrote:
12.23.05 at 8:44 AM

Heimann Zoltan,

Thanks very much for your comments and your offer of help. My appetite for Hungarian wines is definitely growing.

Alder wrote:
12.23.05 at 8:44 AM


Perhaps you have misunderstood my bad English. I did not say or imply that sugar was added to Tokaji Azsu. Thanks for reading Vinography, anyway!

Alder wrote:
12.23.05 at 8:47 AM


Thanks very much for the comments (and the translation for your fellow countrymen). I don't think I can claim to have "discovered" hungarian wines -- in the case of both of the wines I reviewed, they were offered to me by fellow wine lovers, but I am happy to write about them for a wider audience, especially because they are so good.

ferenc wrote:
12.23.05 at 10:57 AM


I disagree with the totally misdirected and baseless flaming of Attila, and thank you not only for noticing the wine, but giving out some background info from your research.

The summary degrading judgement of the California wines is ignorance like tourists judging from the bottom shelves of supermarkets. If it was patriotic fever, we might mention some local favorites: Buena Vista winery - founded by Miklos Haraszti, or wines of Ivan Tamas:)

Attila however was correct in the "aszu" thing - at least the

'...measured in puttonyos or "buckets" of sugar...'

for me and perhaps for others too is a little misleading- at least implied that it's proportional with the sugar content.

Indeed as Attila wrote the "Puttonys"
are declaration of how many 'puttonys' of these botryfied grapes are added to each batch of regular grapes. More puttonys is considered more noble,and usually aged longer.

'Puttony' is by the way is in the traditional grape harvest a sort of "conveyor": pickers pick the grape into korbs or buckets and man with 'puttonys' on their back walk along the rows and receive the contents of the buckets and transfer it to the end of the rows, or directly to the tubs.

You've mentioned the Szekszard and Tokaj area, but maybe I could suggest sampling the Eger and the Badacsony (and all the southern slopes on the North side of Lake Balaton) regions.

I didn't know that the Bull's Blood originates from Szekszard region, it is more commonly associated with the Eger region (see Trader Joe's from time to time). Szekszard used to be famous from its "Kekfrankos", but in general the red wines.

ferenc wrote:
12.23.05 at 11:18 AM

disclaimer: I'm a wine lover, but no expert.

I think the "only the top of the top is good" perception comes from the effect that although the wine culture and production quality really took off after the state owned flatliner system of mediocracy, the marketing and sales in the EU and overseas lags behind. The top end can come through (the curiosity and sensitivity of conoisseurs requires less fanfares), but the rest of the wines are more or less restricted to lower shelves of TJ's and the whole midrange is missing.

Even the Bulls Blood of Eger (semi regular at TJ's) is misrepresented as lower shelf range but until consistency and visibility gets better I guess the merchants have no choice.

It's a pity because quite a few Hungarian wines could hold their own compared to a lot of the higher priced imports or CA wines.

ferenc wrote:
12.23.05 at 11:29 AM

Sorry for being redundant, I guess I should have read the comments of your previous Hungarian wine blog entry, where the Tokaji region traditions were explained in details (and in links totally precisely)

From those charts I would recommend the dry Tokaji wines ( Harslevelu, Furmint, or the sherry like specialty "Szamorodni" )

Anonymous wrote:
12.23.05 at 11:35 AM

How fun this thread is. A friend forwarded the link. Attila - Alder just wasn't clear originally. We all know that sugar is not added to the Tokaji sweet wines.

Incidentally, if you are interested in some of the "crap" we have available over here, let me mention a few that I saw this week in different stores - 2000 Kiralyudvar Cuvee Ilona, 1999 Szepsy 6 Puttonyos, 1999 and 2000 Oremus 5 and 6 Puttonyos, as well as several from Disznoko, Royal Tokaji, and Hetzolo. Two that are in my cellar, purchased in the US, are 1999 Oremus 5 Puttonyos and 1999 Szepsy 6 Puttonyos, in addition to the 6 Puttonyos from Fuleky, Szepsy, Oremus and Derezla that I purchased in Hungary. Some of us are lucky enough to have good crap.

But more importantly, there are some really good wines that are increasingly noticed here. I was lucky enough to try one from Heimann at dinner with some friends - don't have my notes with me but it was the wine of the night in a line-up that included several good wines from Sonoma and Australia.

While it is not available here, St Andrea in Eger makes a very good bikaver and the New York Times travel section dated December 18 mentioned it in an article about dining in Budapest. I'm sure American tourists will ask for it.

Tomorrow I am going to pick up 2002 Takler Szekeszardi Bikaver and
2003 Takler Noir Gold Kekfrankos Reserve.

So anyway, there are increasing Hungarian wines available here.

Finally, to address Bandi's point - there are several importers interested in Hungarian wines - Kobrand and Polaner, in addition to Monarchia. But there is a company that is bringing very nice wines at value points - Craftsman from Hilltop in Neszmély. Since this is about cab franc, they have a very good cabernet franc in 2003. Here are my notes:

Muted nose initially, light body. Has some tart cherry flavors and a slight bitterness on the finish. After some airing it develops nice floral aromas, provides additional depth, notes of tobacco mid-palate and faintly lingering cherry finish.

Cheers all.

greg wrote:
12.23.05 at 11:49 AM

Forgot to add my name.

Ferenc - if you want to compare, you need to compare like wines. With whites, Hungarians are the equal of anyone. Szepsy St. Tamas is excellent.

But if you're going to compare against California wines, you need to determine whether you are talking about really top wines or not. I have not had any Hungarian red wines that will hold against Araju, Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red, Insignia, Silver Oak, Shafer Hillside Select, Chappellet Prichard Hill, and Gemstone Facets, to name just a few. If you want to restrict it to wines under $100, there is still Pax, Neal, Lawrence, Peju, Chateau Potelle, BV George La Tour and Montelena, among many others. And if you keep it to under $50, there is still Pride merlot, BV Rutherford, Buehler Reserve, Steltzner Stags Leap, Justin Isosoles, and countless more.

Remember that the Californians have been relentlessly competitive in improving their wines for at least 30 years. And it is a larger place and at least it was easier to assemble vineyard land. Hungary has had only 15 years or so since the communists, and not only is it harder to put together adjacent properties because of the way much land was divided, they have the EU to contend with. As far as a history of wine producing, that is irrelevant if the legacy has been broken. At this point, it must be re-established. And I am convinced that given their intellegence and passion, it will be a very short time until Hungarian winea are able to compete with those I mentioned. And they will also have a few grapes unique to Hungary to add interest.

Anonymous wrote:
12.23.05 at 12:35 PM

Just a little correction -as far as I know, the Bikaver, or Bulls Blood is from Eger, a NE region of Hungary.
About Attila, please don't pay any attantion of shovinists.

Laci wrote:
12.23.05 at 1:14 PM

Just a little correction - the Bikaver (Bulls Blood) comes from Eger (Egri Bikavér) and Szekszárd (Szekszárdi Bikavér) too. They are naturally not the same, but both of them called Bikavér (Bulls Blood). I'm sorry, but you knew badly...

zoltan wrote:
12.23.05 at 2:50 PM

Your page was linked from the main Hungarian news portal. Thats the way I find this page. And the fact that you wrote about HU wines is a very good thin Cos during communism there was only wine-producing more volume, than value. There are some real good wine-maker right now in HU and our wines are more ad more better.
You and the guys above mentioned well about Tokaji Aszu. But as U, I dislike dessert wines. As I say wine is red and dry.
Bull's Blood or as we say Bikaver is different in Eger and in Szekszard. Eger is famous from Bikaver which is basicly a cuvee. Mainly (more than half) the ancient HU grape Kadarka, and the other half is Medoc Noir, Cabernet Franc and Oporto. Unfortunately if U wat to taste real good Eger Bikaver U must beware. Cos the volume producing philosophy still exists. As a recommndation try 2003 Tummerer Bikaver if want to taste a great one.
My favourite region is Szekszard. The home of real good red wine. And the real home of Kadarka.
Takler's wine is a good choice, unfortunately this bottle was produced only for export. We cant try. But if you let me recommend try these wines.
2003 Vesztergombi Kadarka
2000 Takler Cabernet Sauvignon Selection
2003 Takler Bikaver Reserve
2000 Bock Capella Cuvee Barrique
2000 Gere Cabernet Franc Selection
2002 Tiffan Cuvee Carissimae
2002 Konyari Sigillum Loliense
Great wines... You will see.

Jack wrote:
12.23.05 at 7:54 PM

Ah! I had wondered if the Takler Cab Franc was for export only; particularly because no one has chimed in saying they have tasted this wine. Pretty sad that a terrific Hungarian wine won't be found in Hungary!

Also, when Alder said "buckets" of sugar, he in no way implied that sugar was added to such wines.

zoli wrote:
12.23.05 at 11:01 PM

added info: kékfrankos/blaufränkisch is grown in the States too(Washington, Oregon as I know), it is called lemberger.

Jack wrote:
12.23.05 at 11:03 PM

Lemberger is also grown in Lake County,CA (Steele).

Jack wrote:
12.23.05 at 11:05 PM

Er, his grapes come from Washington State. http://www.steelewines.com/wines/ssr_bf.html

ferenc wrote:
12.23.05 at 11:26 PM


Thank God I put up the disclamer - I'm not an expert Ijust like god wines and partial to the homeland wines.

In my case the best wines of the world indeed were hungarian ones- not from the stores, but in private wineries, or with people who were "in the know".

You are right: the broken legacy doesn't count, but I would argue that as far as expertese and appreciation of quality goes the history of tradition has never been broken.

The enterpreneurs of the post communist era are standing on the shoulders of a long line of experts who have established the tradition, and they are out to restore and continue the legacy of it in a changing world.

When celebs like Gerard Depardieu get into joint ventures and establishing their own wineries they also see this legacy.

Granted, I haven't bought $100 range wines (California or other), I have to humbly note that it would be wasted on my level of expertese - beside being too rich for my pocket- and probably even in the most posh places I've ever been I never tasted wines above the $80 range, so I won't argue with you, but that is redundant, because I no expert or fanatic.

As far as I remember in my time the reds in general were not worse than the whites, so I would expect that there is nothing to stop the reds reaching same honors as the whites.

I agree the Napa wineries probably have great advantages over the hungarian wine business-besides providing good values and ROI in all price ranges-, but I think in the top quality categories neither the relatively smaller acreage, nor the EU are unsurmountable obstacles. The sufficiently capitalized forward thinking boutique wineries with the right expertese will produce exceptional wines -even if it won't be big business on global scale.
I think the soil and the unique microclimate in the volcanic slopes of the historic regions provide good chance s for the revival of the legacy - even if it takes time.

I wouldn't worry about the terrific Hungarian wine not being available in Hungary. People committed to above $80 wine are also well connected, so you don't need storefront or merchant network to get the goods.

Jacint Jago wrote:
12.24.05 at 3:05 AM

Dear Vinelovers! I suggest you to come in Transsylvania and taste the traditional Dobrai vine. Only old grandpa's are makig it with their own hands and 100 year old wood and steel instruments.Dobra is a hilly village near Satu Mare and it's more than 1000 year old. It's a red, semi dry.And when you drink it, you feel the deepness of it's taste and a shot in your head:).It's thick like oil.Unbelievable.

Sven-Ake Karlsson wrote:
12.24.05 at 3:52 AM

A Swedes dilemma.
Missing Hungarian "home-made" red/white wine made from Komlo, south Hungary. My wifes stepfather had a small vineyard, mmm very tasty wines. Now we can't buy the Egri Bikaver in Sweden anymore, we are missing it very much.
I hope the time before next visit to Hungary shall go fast.

Aron wrote:
12.24.05 at 6:41 AM

Its really great to see that Hungarian wine is being picked up by enthusiasts around the world. Takler Winery makes excellent wines and is definately amongst the top winemakers of the country. The best Hungarian wines are however from the Eger region. www.galtibor.com will guide you to the grand selection of the best hungarian wines. Syrah-Merlot or Chardonay from this winery is definately the best you will find from hungary and quite frankly from basically anywhere. - wine from Chilli, Argentina, most widely available Italian, French, Spanish wines do NOT even compare to any of the better hungarian wines. Simply not in the same league. i live in holland now, and my heart cryes when i see the otherwise decent and nice dutch people talk about a 10 Euro chillian wine as if it was good. my god :) please please everyone!! do yourself a favour and forget about the overrated wines that come from places like new zealand and australia or chilli. yes sure, some are great but most of them are wine cultures from the past 10-50 years... with excellent marketing and world class global distribution. but if you are looking to drink good wine and not some fmcg product like mass produced shi@t. look for hungarian wine. The original blogger mentions hungary as a wine region from as early as the 18th century. try to add a couple of hundred years to that... the hungarian kingdom (now a republic) continues to be one of the richest european cultures for over the past 1000+ years. the sovereignity and independence of the country from its establishment in around 1000 has only been temporarily disrupted by the ottoman empire in the 16th century, the habsburg empire in the 19th and most recently by russia after the II. World War. for the rest Hungary has been creating a wealthy culture of food, music, wine, architecture you name it.

12.24.05 at 7:26 AM


Igazan buszkeseggel toltott el, hogy egy szekszardi borrol olvashattam az oldaladon. Mert en magam is szekszardi vagyok.
Remelem meg sok magyar borrol olvashatnak az oldaladon a vilag minden reszerol, igy is serkentve az exportunkat.

I found your site on the main hungarian news site. www.index.hu
I was really proud to read your review about a wine from Szekszárd.
Because I am also from Szekszárd.
I hope I will read about some more hungarian wines. We really need some marketing, because I think the world distribution of our wines are not the best.

I hope you will come to visit us sometime. Here everything is about the wines, grapes are on every hill when the time comes people going to harvest, friends helping friends out.
So we have very old traditions. Of course there are many different wine areas in hungary. And I think there is some rivalization beetwen them, maybe you can also feel something on the comments.
So I feel a little bit sorry about this, we should be united instead fighting which region is better.
Well maybe it will change.
SO thank you again.

Anonymous wrote:
12.24.05 at 8:06 AM

Before...you guys should taste other "lore" to.

Csaba wrote:
12.24.05 at 1:00 PM

Dear Alder!

I'm just a rookie wine-lover but it's great to see that you have discovered hungarian wines.

I'm glad that you did some historical research too.

As aron pointed out hungarian wines and Hungary itself have an even richer culture and history.

There is no doubt that you have to see it with your own eyes...

Nándor wrote:
12.24.05 at 2:14 PM

norbert saboo: menj te tudod hová a politikai beállítottságoddal együtt. Nem érdekelsz minket.

csumpika wrote:
12.24.05 at 4:02 PM

As I can see you are more informed about the history of "Bikavér" than some of my compatriots. Bull's Blood is originally came from Szekszárd, you are right, and I'm really surprised you know such details about it's background.
I hope you'll find a lot of really precious bottles of wine from Hungary and get to know other areas around here. I'm sure if you do like this, you won't be disappointed!:)

Krisson wrote:
12.25.05 at 12:34 AM

Can I suggest the blogger to try Kadarka? Someone mentioned Vesztergombi. It is a very good choice...

12.25.05 at 9:34 AM

(Sorry for my english:) I am not a historician, but as I know, the wine making tradition of the szekszard region, or another hungarian regions reaches back to roman or celtic times in Hungary (Pannonia called by the romans). So these red and white wines can have a 3000 years tradition behind them, which can be relayed by these traditional families, from father to son, or from masters to pupils.

Laci wrote:
12.27.05 at 10:22 AM

By the way (Kadarka) I drunk very good kadarka from Zoltán Polgár, Villány (Polgár Pincészet, Polgár Winery). He has a special siller wine from kadarka too: Polgár Kadarka Siller. It's very good, too.

12.12.06 at 11:04 PM

Szia (Hungarian for "howdy") to all,

It has been a great pleasure to read this thread about the Takler Cab Franc. This is a truly great wine, made by a wonderful family led by one of a generation of Hungarian winemakers passionate about renovating Hungary's proper place as one of the world's top wine making nations.

It is nice to see people discussing Hungarian wines on this blog, as my company is importing premium Hungarian wine for distribution in the U.S. We represent the Villány wineries of Jozsef Bock, Attila Gere, Csaba Malatinszky, and Weninger & Gere (a joint venture between Gere and Franz Weninger - one of Austria's top winemakers). These winemakers are certainly the peers of Ferenc Takler, and part of that generation that I previously mentioned.

In September we had the opportunity to attend the annual Budapest Wine Festival, held in the outdoor terraces of the Buda Castle, overlooking the Danube River. There were over 150 wineries, from throughout the country, present, with over ten thousand people attending daily. What an amazing experience. Not to mentione eye-opening to see that the world has yet to discover the next "new" frontier of great wines!

We are dedicated to building the market and awareness for great Hungarian wines in the United States, and will continue to add top winemakers from other regions to our portfolio. We look forward to the ongoing discussion.

Best of regards and szia ('ciao' in Hungarian).


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