Olaszizling is Hungary’s most widely planted white grape variety, often snubbed by those with more discerning palates, is Olaszrizling (which translates as “Italian Riesling”). Aka Welschriesling in Austria, Riesling Italico in Italy and Romania, Laški Rizling in Slovenia, Rylink Vlašský in the Czech Republic, Rizling Italyanski in Serbia, Rizling Vlašský in Slovakia and Graševina in Croatia..
It is frequently found in local bars and restaurants as the cheapest house wine. It’s often sold in bulk as folyó (jug) wine. And it is generally seen as a basic quaffer. In Croatia, it’s a standardized cheap wine with some residual sugar, representing every fourth bottle sold in the country. Austrian Welschriesling, mainly from Burgenland and Styria, is a light, dry wine with crisp acidity.
Around the Neusiedlersee in Austria, often blended with chardonnay, it can produce wonderful, unctuous botrytized sweet wines, which scoop up numerous international awards. When taken seriously, it can yield rich, terroir-driven, single-vineyard, refined dry wines.
The best on the volcanic basalt soils of Somló and Badacsony where the wines show greater depth. Whereas the variety’s Hungarian spiritual home can be found further along the northern shore at Csopak, where quality-conscious producers have established a strict quality system, the Csopak Codex, which has been functioning successfully since 2012. Csopak’s producers turn out some seriously sophisticated vineyard-selected wines that show what Olaszrizling is capable of.
Wines made from Olaszrizling range from simple wines with flavors of lemon, apple, almond, and perhaps some floral notes to more sophisticated, terroir-driven wines with mineral, salty notes and riper peach or mandarin fruit. Csopak wines may also have a touch of rhubarb. Some Olaszrizling is made into botrytized sweet wines, which are luscious with ripe fruit and honey, with brittle, burnt caramel, marzipan and vanilla notes developing as they age.
Sip it as an aperitif or pair it with some rantott hús, aka Wiener Schnitzel, smoked fish or some local cheese. Enjoy a single-vineyard Olaszrizling with salty mineral notes at a fine-dining restaurant in Budapest.