Csilla returned and turned everything upside down

We visited Csilla and Csaba Sebestyén in Szekszárd, during the early harvest. We started at Iván-völgy, then it was off to the Porkoláb and the Görögszó vineyards. These are real treasures, which you might easily speed past on the motorway, thinking that Szekszárd is not a nice place and that you shouldn’t stop there. But you simply have to stop in Szekszárd.

We spent 20 years learning and it will never end

“Of course, as is the case with Iván-völgy, we’re also pursuing single-vineyard Bikavér in the Porkoláb and in the Görögszó,” says Csilla. “We make them from Kékfrankos, Kadarka and the Bordeaux varieties. These have worked the best for us. We needed 10 years to figure out that this was our direction here in Szekszárd. A good Bikavér is Kadarka and Kékfrankos. Then, for another 10 years, we worked at finding the style among our vineyards, ravines and varieties. We spent 20 years learning and this learning and developing will never end, and that’s why it’s good. This was the most important thing that I learnt abroad.”

 

Csilla returned and turned everything upside down

“Our original plan was for Csilla to study catering and to do the tastings. Then we felt that in the long run, we could do with another two working hands in the team, so she went off studying and travelling around the world, and of course she worked a lot in Scotland. She is such a perfectionist that she climbed up the ladder to work at a two-Michelin-starred restaurant,” says Csaba about his sister’s great journey. “When she returned, she turned everything upside down in the best sense of the word. I told my parents that sis had gone mad. But I love her so much, we let her do whatever she wants, thinking that she will calm down.”

 

 

“I didn’t calm down”

… continues Csilla. “I was incredibly lucky that I could learn about the world’s most serious wines at the sommelier schools and in one of the best restaurants. And even about the weirdest wines, with which I freaked out Csaba at times. He shaped my taste, and I shaped his. By the time I let go of the special flavours – according to Csaba they were just Brett [the wine fault] – he also let go of the heavy tannins and oak. That’s how the result became a purer and more elegant wine. Now we only argue about tiny differences, although we do it with great vehemence.”

Csaba interrupts: “But these quarrels always take us forward. I think we’ve found our own way in wine. The tasting, the blending and the shaping of the message – we do all together. It requires that I’m standing with two feet on the ground, and it also needs Csilla’s widely travelled wings.”

 

Perfect harmony

“Csaba has to make the most important and the most difficult decisions – that’s a fact. Of course, in the meantime, I’m the boss – all the wineries are in fact led by the women – but I do it in a way that Csaba thinks that he makes all the decisions. We love working together and we also can. So far, he’s only made one decision that I couldn’t forgive him for. I was seven years old and although I had my own room, I also had a bed in his and I practically lived there, which started annoying him after a while. Then, he moved me back into my own room, which I couldn’t forget him for until today. Otherwise there’s perfect harmony.”

 

 

It’s solely the aromas and flavours that determine our decisions

“In 2006, I was still punching down six times a day, and I macerated for a long time. Then came Csilla with her studies and the loads of wines we tasted together, and the trips to other wine regions. And by today, we break the cap of the mash a maximum of three times during the vigorous primary fermentation and only twice in the subsequent quieter phase of the fermentation. We also cut down the length of maceration. The aim is elegance and finesse in blends, too. Together with our dad, we taste our own samples completely blind and I put together the trial blends, then Csilla mixes up the order so that it’s solely the aromas and flavours that determine our decisions and there isn’t any kind of pressure on us. As the wine practically grows in the vineyard, we’ve also adjusted the work we do there: we shade the bunches, we don’t remove the leaves until only at the end of ripening. Thus, our bunches ripen later and the skins do not get thicker, which I think is the key to elegant fruitiness alongside the length of maceration.”

 

“As I said, one foundation is the ‘Szekszárd-blend’ – the fruity, pure-flavoured Bikavér. In 2015, we got the maximum out of it. It was a cooler year, with lots of red fruit alongside the Szekszárd spiciness. We achieved this with Kadarka, the other local variety, alongside the Kékfrankos, and getting the idea from the example of the Heimanns, we also blended a touch of Sagrantino next to the local varieties. We cut down even more on oak: it was put into 500-litre Trust barrels for 20 months. Szekszárd Bikavér requires ageing. Our unique plots are important too, so the single-vineyard Bikavérs will come out one after one another.

 

  

Porkoláb

“My favourite is the Porkoláb,” Csilla begins the conversation. “Our experience until now is that it always gives a more sophisticated and more elegant wine than the rest. I think this is because of the red clay and the limestone. It’s a warm, sun-lit valley where figs ripen two weeks earlier than anywhere else. Even if we pick the grapes that ripened to black with lower acidity, the minerality at the end of the palate greatly makes up for what would be missing in the acid content. Now the Cabernet Franc 2016 is the liebling: with blackcurrant, eastern spices and intensity. I like it because despite the big body, it’s round and has good drinkability. And there is that subtle saltiness in it that makes the Porkoláb the Porkoláb.”

 

 

Görögszó

“This plot gives a massive, full, rich wine,” continues Csaba. “On top of that, above the Sárköz, you can see till the end of the world from the terraces. That vineyard is also about soil, only in a more masculine form. It has such power, zest and character that it’s the most exciting one for me and it’s dad’s favourite at the moment. It has always been the foundation of Grádus and since 2008 it has shown itself as a single vineyard variety wine. In 2016, we selected a Merlot. It’s still young but I think it’s really serious. It’s like the Görögszó. Vibrant aromas of sour cherry, rich red berries, the oak is still intense in it but it suits it.”

 

 

1. If it’s a vineyard, it’s the:

Csilla: Porkoláb.

Csaba: Iván-völgy.

Dad: Görögszó.

2. If it’s a wine, it’s:

Csilla: everything but mostly Champagne.

Csaba: anything, but mainly someone else’s.

3. If it’s a wine region, then it’s:

Csilla: Szekszárd.

Csaba: Szekszárd.

4. If not here, then in:

Csilla: Piemonte, Barbaresco.

Csaba: Priorat or the Douro Valley.

5. If very much, then it’s:

Csilla: Kékfrankos.

Csaba: Kékfrankos.

6. If not at all, then it’s:

Csilla: Pinot Noir, but only here in Szekszárd, otherwise very much yes.

Csaba: I don’t like working with Pinot here in Szekszárd either, but I love it from other places.

7. Bordeaux or Burgundy?

Csilla: Abroad only Burgundy, here regarding the varieties I’d say Bordeaux.

Csaba: Absolutely Burgundy.