Losonci and Szecskő - Pirates of the Pannonian Sea

We went to Gyöngyöspata to visit two bright-eyed friends who think in a way that’s very similar to the way we do about wines, life and – about what is also very important to us and them – terroir. They believe in a wine region, they see its beauty and also bear its hardships with love. We talked to Tamás Szecskő and Bálint Losonci in their favourite vineyard, the Gereg, on the Monday. By Wednesday it had been renamed Borsos, as it is indicated on the old maps. This is because the Mátra wine region is taking shape.

Losonci Bálint Szecskő Tamás Losonci és Szecskő Terroir Losonci és Szecskő

Why Mátra?

B. L.: In 2001, after reading an interview with István Szepsy, I decided that I wanted to become a winemaker. In 2004, I found an advert for grapes for sale from the Úrráteszi vineyard. I found the name appealing [lit. ‘it makes you a lord’], and besides at [Hungarian wine magazine] Borbarát [where I worked] I also fell in love with the wines of Attila Gábor Németh and Tamás Szecskő, so this region was an obvious choice. That’s why me and my partner started making wines here as a hobby, but the cost of the fuel claimed all our incomes. Therefore we became Gyöngyöspata locals as a lifestyle move. The village has soul and it has given us experiences from the first minute onwards: the skirt of the hill, the Pata castle, our beautiful church and the seven rows of cellars.

T. Sz.: It’s a different story for me. My family has lived here for generations. I used to bump into my mates on Camping bicycles and Simpson motorbikes right here where we are standing. It wasn’t even a question of where I’d be a winemaker when I grew up.

 

Why do you believe in it so much?

T. Sz.: The soil is the key. We are standing on the banks of the one-time Pannonian Sea, on a volcanic cone. It’s rare to find a place where limestone meets andesite soil.

B. L.: And of course, the whole of the terroir. Look around here. This landscape; the village; the ravens; the Mátra that protects the grapes from the north; the river Zagyva, along which the cold passes; and the hardworking people of Pata. It’s a good place.

 

Are you artisan winemakers?

B. L.: It’s a perpetual question. If we were to place ourselves on a scale, then yes. If we think according to dogma, then no. This is organic, quality winemaking in small cellars, carried out on our own and with friends, done by hand in a traditional way. That’s how we do it.

T. Sz.: It involves minimal spraying. 90% of our time is spent in the vineyard and 10% in the cellar. We use our own yeast from the grapes and the air. We ferment spontaneously but not with wild yeast because that would ruin the wine.

B. L.: The wines are mainly made in tanks but not under reductive conditions; cooled but with the presence of oxygen. Thus, the fruit and the acids provided by the limey soil can remain in the final wine. The wine will have body and concentration that is not suppressed by the barrel. Austrian examples, including the wines of Bernhard Ott and Prager among others, are made in this way.

 

Are you friends?

B. L.: We’ve been friends since 2004. Gábor Karner, our third capital partner, told me to call Tamás Szecskő when I was planning to come here. We started talking on the phone and in the end we spoke so often that my girlfriend became jealous. Then we met in person and it became evident that this was the direction to take. Tamás is the godfather of my older son.

T. Sz.: We are friends who are sometimes considered crazy by the local winemakers. There are six to eight like-minded winemakers around here. The older ones think more about mass production and they count in tonnes per hectare. This wine region is slowly transforming.