Káli Kövek’s three new village wines

“Grapes are like business cards, they say a lot about someone”

Káli Kövek winemaker Gyula Szabó started making village wine in a totally pioneering manner in the region, and apart from his peers in Tokaj, he was also among the first winemakers to do so in the country a few years back. This year, he’s got six wines out, three of which are village wines (Monostorapáti, Szentbékkálla, Szentantalfa). Three new wines (Furmint, Chardonnay, Riesling) have also been made. We talked to Gyula in connection with the new wines at his Köveskál base and in the Öreghegy vineyard in Monostorapáti.

How do you chose who you work with?

“Grapes are like business cards, they say a lot about someone. I watch how people cultivate their grapes. I look up the owners of the vines I like. They usually keep cultivating them, and we set the yield limits at the pruning stage. But even that isn’t necessary with everyone, because there are people who grow their grapes in the same way that we would. Then we harvest with our own troop. In the given vintage, we already know if a wine is destined to become a village wine or not, and if it keeps its beauty in the barrel, then we bottle it as well. We wish to have more village wines in future. I have greater faith in this than in upping the quantity. This is also some sort of growth; a lot of different wines from lots of villages. Of course, we’re staying in the Káli Basin, although Szentantalfa is in fact in a different wine region, which belongs to the Balatonfüred-Csopak wine region. But we won’t go much further than that.” 


Three villages, three vineyards, three wines…

The Szentbékkálla Chardonnay comes from one of Fekete Hill’s vineyards, from the Farkastető, from Zsolt Palkó’s 29-year-old plot. “In the vineyard, there’s basalt tuff with Pannonian Sea sediment subsoil, which might be the reason why the Chardonnay is so fruity, mineral and crispy. This isn’t the creamy style, despite the fact that it spent half a year in the barrel. Chardonnay is like this in this region and I like it a lot. I find it exciting, even if these days they say the variety isn’t. It is called Kereklevelű (lit. round-leafed) around here. It has been here for so long that it even has an old, Hungarian name. Furmint is called Szigeti (i.e. islander) locally. This also shows that they didn’t get here because of current trends.”


The Monosorapát Furmint comes from the other vineyard on Fekete Hill, from Szabolcs Győrffy’s Öreghegy plot, and it was fermented in 225-litre oak barrels for two months, then aged for five months. “The volcanic Fekete Hill is my great favourite. This plot with 20-year-old vines can be found on the western side of the hill and it ripens relatively early. It’s a forested part, the birds can pick them and they do the yield control instead of us. This is also why only a small quantity was made of it. The Szentantalfa Riesling that comes from the limestone and sparse basalt tuff soil of the Sósdűlő vineyard in Szentantalfa is also a village wine made in the traditional way. I like the site and the grower, György Sólyom, as well. It’s another wine region with different soil – the limestone of Nivegy Valley and the volcanic rubble of Balázs Hill. This is already the fifth vintage, and even the first one in 2012 was a big hit. That was a hot year while 2014 was cool, yet they are both great. Again, it was made in the same way in barrels, it was fermented spontaneously, yet it has an extra dimension to it, that doesn’t make it oaky but it still has a rich palate. It has long ageing potential, it will still mature greatly in the bottle. We didn’t change much of the basics in the last few years and we do everything in the same way, yet a bit better every year.”