Mid-term break in Pannonhalma

We are standing in the Tavaszó vineyard, above the Ravazd on the hill with Pannonhalmi winemaker Zsolt Liptai and Attila Drozdik, the viticulturist cum chemistry teacher. The students are harvesting the grapes, slowly and noisily, but selecting them nicely. Someone manages to out-shout them, however. It’s the thundering voice of their chemistry teacher who also happens to be the viticulturist of the estate, “I take hold of it, examine it, and if it’s nice, I cut it and put it into the box. Why are you gathering round in a circle? You can’t play cards with your hands sticky from must. Spread out nicely. I take hold of the grape, examine it…” It goes like this the whole day long when the 11th graders of the Abbey’s secondary school harvest – slowly, noisily, led by a strong hand.

Diákszüret Pannonhalmán Diákszüret Pannonhalmán Diákszüret Pannonhalmán Diákszüret Pannonhalmán Diákszüret Pannonhalmán

Zsolt, the lads are harvesting Sauvignon Blanc? Is that where the 2013 selection comes from?

No, it’s the second time a Sauvignon Blanc Selection is being made and it can only come from the Széldomb, which is a warmer, windier vineyard where the Sauvignon Blanc can overripen. Following the selection of the bunches and the whole bunch pressing, it ages in small barrels, inoculated, without maceration, on the fine lees. The exotic aromas, fleshy selection comes from the best barrel. It brings back my memories of California, where they make white wine mainly in this way.

 

Was the Viognier made from overripe grapes?
Yes, it was. Here, on the top of the hill, we only pick them when they start looking as if we had left them out. By this time there isn’t a single leaf left on the vines. It usually happens at the turn of October-November. I know it is a peculiar idea to make the wine from almost shrivelled berries but this Viognier, which was originally planted for its spice, makes the most complex wine in our climate this way. It’s very deep, very ripe with peach, almond marzipan, and hay notes.

 

And here is the first single varietal Chardonnay, as well…
We fermented fifteen barrels of must, out of which six were bottled as a single varietal wine, the rest was blended into the Hemina. We used two yeasts; one that yields a fuller-bodied wine, and the other that brings a fruitier wine. The bunches grown in the Packalló (or Paskalló to give it its old name) were pressed whole, and aged in 500-litre Trust barrels for nine months. Besides my two daughters, it’s possibly the child I’m proudest of right now.

 

100% Riesling…
Yes, the Prior. It is born of our most important variety, and it changes with every vintage according to which vineyards provide the base material for the Prior. In 2013, this quality came from the Széldomb. The crop of the selected vineyard never even sees a barrel. After whole bunch pressing, it is fermented in steel and it is also rounded out in the tank on the fine lees, without stirring for seven months. It’s a very dynamic wine, beside its 6 grams of residual sugar and sharp acid backbone, it has zest as well. Its 2011 pair, which was misunderstood and I’ll show you now, is more about ageing, the petrol character and ripe face of the variety.

 

And there is also your most popular red, Infusio. It’s a year older, from the 2012 vintage…
Finally, our vineyard is 10-years-old, and perhaps the deeper structure and the increasingly exciting character can now be felt. Now, I would say it’s more Bordeaux in style than Mediterranean. It’s got noble oak, sandalwood, mahogany, which are aromas that I enjoy recognising in wine. Also, forest, red and black fruit, with a fresh palate and a long finish.