Miklós Tamás Rácz and Gábor Kiss

“What would an artisan winemaker do if he had money? He would develop the technology.”

That’s how our conversation with Miklós Rácz and Gábor Kiss started in front of the theatre in Pécs. On the tiny square the girls are indeed beautiful and András Lovasi, one of the most famous Hungarian musicians, is sitting in a café that’s so buzzing at two o’clock on Monday afternoon that it can be compared to Barcelona’s main square. Pécs is a Mediterranean city and may God save you from the young Villány winemakers when they get together and are in full flow.

Rácz Miklós Tamás Kiss Gábor RMT és Kiss Gábor

Gábor Kiss and Miklós Rácz spend a lot of time together. That’s partly because they do the same thing at the same pace, if not exactly in the same way. At school, then in Budapest at the Horticultural University and today at their work places. Gábor is responsible for the Matias estate, while Miki takes care of its vineyards in Pécs. Then they run home to Nagyharsány and Diósviszló, the latter which according to Gábor became part of the Villány wine region due to an administrative error, to look after their own grapes.

Gábor arrived in Villány from the Transylvanian Szilágyság. Earlier, every hill was covered by vines in Szilágysomlyó where wine and traditional sparkling wine was made. Gábor’s family lived from winemaking, too. That’s why it could happen that when the winemaker’s father spontaneously put the family on a train in 1989, half of the compartment was occupied by barrels.

Miklós, on the other hand, is a Pécs “tüke” on his father’s side, which means that the Rácz family have been living in Pécs for more than three generations, and they had grapes on Szkoko hill. Because that’s what makes someone from Pécs a “tüke”. We encountered Miki and his first wine at a competition organised for young winemakers. Even though we have known Gábor Kiss since 2001 and often see him when he buys wine at our Lánchíd shop or cheese at Baldaszti’s next door, we only visited his Kisharsáy cellar this year, during our spring trip to Villány.

“My greatest fear is that I will wake up one day and see that the world has passed me by, so we constantly taste, question and walk around with our eyes wide open”, says Gábor. The pair taste Hungarian and foreign wines together all the time, so that they can stay in the picture.

Gábor Kiss cultivates ten hectares and he’s got two tractors. Miki is yet to get one. For his three hectares he couldn’t yet find an appropriate cabriolet. “No technology,” quips Gábor: “he prunes incredibly slowly with his father. I ask them the following morning and it turns out that they hardly made any inroads because he and his father were talking and thinking on the hill”.

“I spend most of my day in the cellar”, says Miki. “Then I dash to the vineyards because for me 10% is winemaking, 90% is grape work. Fair enough, I sometimes make time and go to play squash with Gábor when he supposedly beats me all the time, or at least that’s what our colleagues hear the next day.”

Gábor adopts a Wachau model: a maximum of 15 hectares cultivated with Germanic precision – an area that one person can still handle to a high standard. Miklós is more instinctive: “I’m open to every direction, I ask questions and try to learn continuously. I cannot replace years of experience but I’m lucky with my work. I taste a lot and grapes from seven wine regions come in parallel all the time, so I can see what’s happening in every vintage.”

“We need another steady job today, anyway,” Gábor continues. “We have to build our complete lives, the vineyard and the cellar ourselves for which one needs finances even if, as Miki puts it, Villány is a wine region where only Lexus grows”. Since 2011 Gábor has been fermenting spontaneously and changed to bio cultivation. They both make their wines in the most natural way, by their own hands. They don’t see an enemy in technology but an opportunity, and they put cleanliness and awareness above everything. “I’ve changed a lot in the last few years, mainly regarding my taste. Today I soak on the skins for a lot shorter time than I used to, because I’d like to enjoy my wines earlier. While some of my more tannic, fuller-bodied 2003 wines are just getting into the really enjoyable stage now, the 2011 wines are already providing me with loads of pleasure.”