Levente Kvassay - “I swapped studs for wellies”

Small producer or artisanal winemaker? What would you call yourself?

I’m a second generation Villány winemaker from the 1986 vintage with a small, barely six and a half hectare plot. I grew up in this extraordinary, most southerly corner of Hungary, in Villány. My father was a winemaker. When I was small they didn’t have anyone else to look after me, so I went with him into the vineyard. I adore Villány and wouldn’t change it for anything else.


You became a winemaker, too…

I started out as a football player, so I swapped the studs for wellies. I learnt a lot in the cellar of József Bock, where I worked for years. For the last two years, I’ve been completely following my own way. Luckily, there are more and more of us in Villány who have the chance to be a bit more easy-going and more experimental compared to the professional wineries with the well-known and appreciated style. Ever since I started out, I’ve been going against Villány traditions with my five different white varieties, while the majority of winemakers still attempt full-bodied reds. Until now, those who knew me associated me with fresh wines. Now with the Ezám and the two to three single varietal wines, I might be able to show what I’m currently able to do with reds.


How are these reds made?

I’m running the cellar on my own but I have people who assist me. After crushing and de-stemming, I only use the free-run juice. I inoculate it, then at the end of the noisy fermentation, I carry out malolactic fermentation of the raw material that has been vinified to dry, then it goes into the barrel for a year. I like new barrels; for a relatively short time, part of the wines ages in lightly toasted Zemplén oak, which I buy from a cooper in Gönc.


What makes Ezám, as it name implies, the wow wine?

It’s a selection of my favourite new barrels; half from Cabernet Franc and half from Sauvignon. In 2012, the autumn was the stuff of winemakers’ dreams. That year gave the opportunity for real fullness and serious potential. Therefore, it had already been decided on the selecting table that my first serious attempt at a big wine would be made. I hope I can bring happiness with it.