Kaláka Winery – László Alkonyi

The Kaláka estate in Tállya, with its small batch releases, is a new member of our Tokaj selection. It’s a tiny outfit making pristinely pure, uniquely elegant wines that were first born in 2013, although back then just a few bottles were made for home consumption. They skipped 2014 because of the bad weather: since they didn’t use any chemicals, most of the grapes ended up on the ground. For our 2014 overview, we had the opportunity to taste at the Alkonyis’ but we could only check out the 2015 wines – from the spotlessly clean cellar’s tanks and one single barrel. These have now arrived.

Kaláka’s founder László Alkonyi is an old friend of ours. To coin a cliché, we might as well say he is our ‘Wine friend’, as László edited Borbarát magazine (lit. Wine Friend) for 15 years until it ceased being published in 2010. A generation learnt about Hungarian wine culture through this quality quarterly wine publication. A lot of people first saw the faces of István Szepsy, Imre Györgykovács or János Konyári through his photos. Today, László runs Kaláka with two of his friends, Tibor Benedek and Pál Lovász, although it is László who spends the most time in Tállya. He moved there from Budapest, and besides cultivating the grapes, he also rears racka sheep and goats.

During his years as a wine journalist, he created a perfectly refined philosophy of his own –

the foundation of which, besides naturalness and quality content, is good drinkability. The aim is to avoid harming the health of nature, colleagues and consumers. They don’t use any
chemicals, neither in the cellar, nor in the vineyard. The only thing they use is minimal sulphur and copper, which is applied well under the limits. The harvest is carried out in several sweeps, which is rarely seen in Hungary. In order to avoid phenols and to achieve lower alcohol, they harvest the ripest, but not overripe, grapes in several batches, from
which they press about 100-200 litres of must every day with the 100-year-old Kossuth press. Even the fermentation method is unconventional. They pick the grapes from the same vineyard in several sweeps and ferment the pressed must in steel tanks with each batch poured on top of the previous ones – sometimes they ‘pile’ the must of 22 harvests on top of each other. The residual sugar left in the Kaláka wines provides the harmony and ultimately the elegance and etherealness, and it’s also the guarantee of good drinkability. “Elegance ahead of intensity: in addition to a wine having good drinkability, it can be harder to recognise richness when it comes along with rustic and overly direct notes. However, one should seek elegance as joy is more important in wine than seeking intensity.”


Phenols are aromatic, acid-like chemical compounds which gradually decrease with the ripening of the grapes, although at times it might happen that the sugar content is already ideal but the phenols are not yet ripe. Lacking the ripeness of phenols results in raw, rough, unpleasant acidic wine and spoils the ageing potential of the wine.

The Kossuth press:
A traditional wooden basket press that was used by our grandfathers. By gradually pulling the press together, the wooden staves press the juice out of the berries.