Kreinbacher – Traditional method sparkling wines and a new chapter in Somló

Somló and Furmint. A widely-travelled, cosmopolitan Swabian who brought life to the hill. A cellar master from Champagne who tried his knowledge out on a completely new field; traditional method, bottle aged sparkling wines; and a team with which one can only win… In one of our most traditional wine regions and in the most modern sparkling wine cellar, we met József Kreinbacher’s team and spoke to Christian Forget, champagne cellar master, about tradition and the future.

Christian Forget pezsgőmester Kreinbacher Kreinbacher Kreinbacher

What was the greatest discovery for you in Somló?

The discovery of Furmint was the greatest experience. I knew nothing about it before. When I first came here, I tasted lots of Furmints, and then we defined the most ideally situated areas. For two years, we only carried out vinification experiments, until the surprise came – that the balance between sugar and acidity is very similar to that of Champagne.

 

So everything worked like a charm?

People looked at me strangely when I had the grapes picked from the southern and south-eastern side of the hill with 10-10.5 degrees of potential alcohol. They said it’s impossible to make a good base wine from such unripe grapes. However, they placed their trust in me and now, tasting the first sparkling wines, we can say that the Champagne example works here as well.

 

Champagne and the Paul Bara estate is quite far from here, though…

The work phases are identical here in Somló to the methods we use at home. Pressing is carried out in the gentlest way with a press made in Champagne, separating the different must phases: the more valuable cuvee originating from the first phase of the pressing, and the taille (tail) from the second. We blend the base wines to compose the desired, identical sparkling wines, then comes the second fermentation in the bottle, followed by bottle ageing. Finally, the liqueur d'expedition (expedition liqueur) and degorgement (disgorging) close the procedure.

 

Does everything ferment and age in the bottle?

The Méthode Champenoise or Méthode Traditionnelle, the traditional method used for making champagne, is very important for the quality, but it is only one element of the formula. Sparkling wine is not only about bubbles – it’s also the meeting, the unity of the terroir and the grape varieties. The conditions were provided by Somló and we’re tasting the result of this from the 2011 vintage.

 

On your own or as part of a team?

Earlier I didn’t even have a clue where Somló was, but now I come twice a month. I brought a lot from home as well. Among other things, the yeast is also from Champagne. However, we learn the most from working together. A sparkling wine has at least three lives: it’s a different drink as a base wine, during the bottle ageing phase, and following degorgement, and we have to be there at every important stage. We make decisions together in order to bring new quality to the colourful world of Hungarian sparkling wine.