Wines Of Italy And Sicily, Austria, And Hungary
( Originally Published 1907 )
ITALY, on account of her geographical. position, has great natural advantages as a wine-producing country, and as regards quantity she ranks very high among European nations. The soil is good and, under the eyes of an almost tropical sun, the grapes ripen to perfection. Wine is the staple drink of the people but enough is made to allow of large quantities being exported to all parts of the world, and though formerly the mode of manufacture left a great deal to be desired, of late years there has been a marked improvement in this respect and the general excellence of some of the principal varieties have won for them a considerable reputation.
Chianti, which is grown on the sunny hills of Tuscany, is gene-rally considered to be the best type of Italian wine. It is some-what of a Claret character, full-bodied and robust, and the best qualities are thought very highly of. The Montepulciano variety is generally most acceptable to English taste, and it is not difficult to obtain, but it must be understood that everything is not Chianti which is sold in a straw-clad flask with tassels.
Another notable wine is Lacrima Cristi, which, probably, like the Liebfraumilch of the Rhine-land, owes part of its vogue to its curious name.
Asti, a sparkling white wine, en-joys some popularity as a cheap substitute for Champagne,''but it is generally too sweet for English palates, and is not much drunk in this country. Barolo is another good wine, somewhat resembling Burgundy; and white Capri, from the island of that name in the Bay of Naples, is a delicate wine of a Chablis type which is a great favourite with many people on ac-count of its delightfully fresh and winy flavour.
Perhaps the chief thing to be said for the wines of Italy is that they compare favourably with many others for purity and naturalness, and in drinking them one can be practically sure of having nothing but the fermented juice of the grape.
Sicily produces wine in great abundance but the principal one known in this country is Marsala. This wine rather resembles Madeira, and the best qualities have a fine flavour and bouquet. It is somewhat fortified, but when well-made may be considered a whole-some wine, and much to be preferred to many Sherries at the same price.
Wines of Austria
Austria produces a very large quantity of wine of varying degrees of merit, but practically the only varieties known in this country come from the famous Goldeck vineyards, at Voslau, near Vienna. The cultivation of the vine on this celebrated estate has been brought to the highest state of perfection, and all the processes of manufacture are carried out in the most approved principles by the owner Herr Schlumberger, whose reputation is world-wide and whose name is synonymous with a pro-found and enlightened knowledge of everything pertaining to the vine and its fruit.
Several varieties of both red and white wines are produced, specifically known as Voslauer, Voslau Goldeck and Voslau Goldeck Cabinet. Speaking generally the red ones resemble Burgundy and the white Chablis and Hock.
These wines are invariably well-made, well-matured and of a very high standard of excellence, and it can safely be affirmed that no purer wines exist at the present day than those which come from these famous vineyards.
Wines of Hungary
Hungary, both on the ground of quality and quantity, is undoubtedly entitled to take high rank among the wine-producing countries of the world. As in the case of the Rheingau, it is supposed that the vine was introduced here some time during the third century, and the monks of the Middle Ages are credited with having given special attention to its growth and development. History is unfortunately silent as to the particular varieties of wine which the old Abbots and Priors stored in their capacious cellars, but there is reason to believe that the famous Tokay was not unknown, and that it was as much appreciated by the jovial bons vivants of those days as it has been ever since.
This wonderful wine, with a halo of tradition surrounding it, and commanding higher prices than almost any other wine in the world, is made from the juice which exudes from the finest over-ripe grapes, and it is considered to have almost magical effects as a restorative in cases of extreme illness. The finest quality is not, however, produced in any quantity, and it is practically unobtainable from ordinary sources. Travellers in German towns should especially beware of the flasks of thick liquid sold as Tokay in the small grocers shops. Like the sham Eau-de-Cologne and the poisonous "Cognac purveyed to guileless tourists on the quays of Rotterdam and Boulogne, this detestable syrup is simply made to sell. Its makers are wholesale chemists, whose crowning act of impudence is to adorn the "Tokay" labels with the legend, In vino veritas. In extenuation of their ill-doing they plead that the mixture does truly contain some useful medicaments. This may be so, but the sugariness of bogus Tokay is very different from the sweetness of the genuine article and must go a long way towards neutralizing any beneficial effects which might flow from the vaunted drugs. In short, authentic Tokay is so rare that only the most honourable wine-merchants should be entrusted with one's commission to obtain it.
Of the other wines of Hungary the best known red ones are Carlowitz, Erlauer and Other, and of the white, Somlau and Oldenburg. They possess respectively a certain resemblance to Burgundy and Hock, but usually have rather more body and strength. Immense quantities of wine are produced in this country, and the best qualities may be considered, dietetically, as filling an important place in our list of beverages.