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Fortuna Tasting Menu: Wine

June 2, 2012

I’ve been living in Poprad, Slovakia for about 3 years now. I knew the place well since I used to visit throughout my childhood with my parents, but I’ve only ever been here while in holiday mode which is not the same as living mode. One of my main gripes about the place is that it’s difficult to get good food and good ingredients. The supermarkets sell very standard stuff and I have to frequent all of them because they specialize in different categories (Billa has good ham, Kaufland good veggies, Tesco is better at cheese and alcohol, HyperNova does good wine and ground meat etc.). The local market is rather pathetic in terms of selection. The overwhelming majority of restaurants and diners in this country are dismal as well. You’re usually fine while ordering mashed potatoes and schnitzel, but anything involving spices or good meat will almost certainly be a disappointment.

Imagine my elation when we found a fantastic place at walking distance from our home, quite by accident about a year ago. The serving staff speak decent English, the restaurateur is passionate and the chef is a genius. He has the knack of creating a dish around a key ingredient without exaggerating the taste. I know that sounds easy, but I doubt it is.

Today we attended a special tasting menu based on Slovak traditional ingredients and wines, and I was surprised to learn how many good ones there are produced here. The following list is mostly for my own reference. The wines were all selected from two native wineries; Ostrožovič and Vino Nichta. There were a total of six courses, each accompanied by two selected wines.

Apéritif:

  • Vino Nichta Feteasca regala 2011. A very clean and simple dry white wine.
  • Ostrožovič Muškat žltý 2010. A wine from volcanic soil with loads and loads of fruity and spicy flavours.

Starter:

  • Sheep-cheese terrine with smoked trout and paprika puree.
  • Vino Nichta Veltlínksé zelené 2011. Nothing special, good white wine, just nothing special.
  • Ostrožovič Furmint barrique Solaris 2009. A white wine with a very strong, smoky flavour. Excellent companion to the smoked fish.

Soup:

  • Green-pea soup with quail eggs and home-made sourdough bread.
  • Vino Nichta Rulandské biele 2010. White wine with a lovely smell, but the taste failed to cash in on that promise in my opinion.
  • Ostrožovič Lipovina Solaris 2010. A white wine with a very pungent bouquet. I don’t think I much liked the overtones. The taste was equally strong, but in a different direction from the scent. This was probably my least favourite of the white wines served.

Relevé:

  • Grilled zander with sweet cabbage and potato pancake.
  • Vino Nichta Sauvignon 2011. A very sweet white wine that goes well with the sweet cabbage.
  • Ostrožovič Lipovina Natur 2010. The ‘Natur’ suffix indicates that zero chemicals and insecticides were used in the growing and processing of the grapes. I’m obviously not a world-class wine connoisseur but I couldn’t tell the difference. The wine was lovely though. Fruity and strong, a good combination with a sweet and salty course.

First main course:

  • Pork loin with bacon, ham and gherkins
  • Vino Nichta Cabernet Sauvignon 2010. The first red wine served. I’m not a big fan of red wine, but this one was palatable I suppose.
  • Ostrožovič Furmint Sur-lie 2010. A lovely smooth and sweet white wine that packs a punch strong enough to be served with dark meat.

Second main course:

  • Beef with mushrooms and tarhona (Eastern European cous-cous). Bit of a boring dish, seemed uncharacteristically bland and standard for chef Slavomír Hrehorčák.
  • Vino Nichta Dunaj 2010. As mentioned before, not a big red wine fan. This one however took me by surprise. A dark and smoky yet sweet wine that goes well with red meat. I couldn’t drink  much of it (let’s face it, everyone is pretty drunk at this point) but it was certainly the best red wine I ever tasted.
  • Ostrožovič Cabernet Sauvignon Solaris 2010. Red. Don’t know what else to say. Tasted like 99% of other red wines I’ve drunk over the course of my life.

Dessert:

  • Quark cake on a poppy-seed base with fresh raspberries.
  • Vino Nichta Devín 2011. Can’t remember this one, it was utterly eclipsed by the Ostrožovič wine served alongside it.
  • Ostrožovič Muškat žltý Saturnia 2009. Drinking this wine is like detonating a fruit bomb in your mouth. It’s hard to imagine this many flavours can all come out of grapes. A fantastic accompaniment with a sweet and sour dessert.
Digestif:
  • Vino Nichta Muškat Moravský “66” 2011. A surprisingly colourless yet heavy Tokaj. It was a lot fresher than the Tokaj I usually buy for home. I’d certainly like to get more of this wine in the house as I imagine it must be quite a treat during a hot summer day.
  • Ostrožovič Tokajský výber 4-putňový 2002. Somewhat similar to my regular Tokaj wine, though with some chemical overtones I wasn’t entirely happy with. Considering the hefty price tag on this one I don’t think I’ll want to experiment with that any further.

I hope you’re all appropriately envious at this stage. To my pleasant surprise Slovakia is a far better wine nation that I previously thought. I was already an avid fan of some of the Tokaj dessert wines that are grown and produced here, but today I found several semi-sweet and semi-dry wines that will definitely enrich my culinary life.

Oh joy, the restaurant just send over the bottles.

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