Author: Kristian Kielmayer, Ágnes Herczeg
Although not a Carpathian Basin variety in terms of origin, it has now become so important in Hungary that we can say it’s our other black Hungarian variety alongside Kékfrankos. It was probably brought to the country by Serbs fleeing from the Ottomans. It is strongly associated with the settlement of Shkodra in present-day Albania; although the variety’s exact origin is unknown, it is most likely a Balkan variety. It has many synonyms, such as Törökszőlő and Fekete Budai, Skadarka in Serbia and Gamza in Bulgaria. Kadarka has become a real national treasure and many producers have stood by it, devoting time and energy to shaping the variety’s identity. Old documents mention it as the most common variety in the 19th century.
It is late-flowering and ripening, with medium-sized, slightly square-shaped leaves and quite large, cylindrical, dense clusters. It tolerates drought well but does not like very low temperatures, while it prefers loess soils and low training.
Nowadays, Kadarka is grown on almost 1,000 hectares around the world, with 325 of those in Hungary. It is most common in the Szekszárd wine district in terms of proportion, while the greatest quantity is to be found in the Kunság wine district. Outside Hungary, it is also cultivated in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania and Romania (Minis wine region). In the Danube region, it is made into ethereal fresh, fruity red wines with red berry aromas, discrete spiciness, restrained tannins and light body. Its pale colour also makes it popular for rosé wines. In Szekszárd, it makes monovarietal wines and is a mandatory ingredient in the Bikavér blends.
It’s often compared to Pinot Noir, which is mainly due to its lack of anthocyanins. It is characterised by medium ruby-purple colour, red berry fruit cherry, fresh spices, paprika and gingerbread with appealing herbal and delicate floral notes. It is light to medium in body with restrained tannins and bright acidity. It is a difficult variety, but is really worth taking the trouble to work with. We can now proudly say that it is a local variety that has found its home in the Carpathian Basin and can be used to make unique, lovely wines that have their own particular style.
Kadarka grape bunch and leaf
Kadarka is one of Hungary’s most enticing grape varieties. Although not of Hungarian origin, it is now considered a Hungarian variety. It is a pale-coloured, extremely elegant wine with fresh acidity, low tannins and restrained red berry fruit aromas. Kadarka’s light style makes it pleasant to sip alone throughout the year; however, it also pairs well with a variety of dishes. Its elegance means it complements baked vegetable dishes, light roast meats, light stews with plenty of vegetables, pepper ratatouille, potato gratin, potato pasta, lasagne, pizza meatballs in tomato sauce, goulash soup and spicy fish soup as well as other light Hungarian-style dishes. Choose wines from the latest vintages and drink within a year or two to enjoy its light, fresh style at its best. Always store in a cool place, at a constant temperature, away from direct sunlight and heat, to best preserve its aromas, as the wine oxidises relatively quickly. Serve just below room temperature at about 14-16°C in a wide-bowled, narrow-lipped red wine glass. Ingredients that best match the flavour and texture of wines made from Kadarka include root vegetables, potatoes, artichokes, mushrooms, beetroot, aubergines, tomatoes, mature cheeses, camembert-style cheeses, goose, duck, game birds and offal as well as pork, veal and lamb dishes.