The Kreinbachers and still wine

Everything is a question of time


The first thing that springs to mind when hearing the Kreinbacher name is traditional method sparkling wine, although everything started with still wine back in 2003, and even today they bottle and sell more still wine than sparkling wine. Ever since they started making sparkling wine, the winery has shifted gears. Somehow there is less mention of their still wines, even though there’s plenty to talk about. We recently visited Somló in connection with the new wines and talked to winemaker György Várszegi and sales/marketing director Zoltán Prisztavok.

Why Somló?

“Two wine regions originally came under consideration in Hungary to answer the dreams of József Kreinbacher: Tokaj-Hegyalja and Somló. The dominance of white wine and the volcanic soil was a serious factor, but Somló also meant a bigger challenge and the owner is from [nearby] Szombathely, while the distinctive character was important, too. Although, the winery started in 2003, the real breakthrough came somewhat later,” explained Zoltán Prisztavok.


The Kreinbacher-style…

“You can find as many high-alcohol, heavy and full-bodied wines in Somló as you wish, but if you long for a pure, flavoursome and elegant Somló which you feel like drinking a couple of glasses of… well, that’s not easy! When I was first employed by the company, at the beginning of 2011, the professional director of the estate, Norbert Bodorkós, and myself agreed that we wanted to make such wines in the same way as many people in Burgundy do. We soon processed the 2011 harvest in the ultra-modern new winery that helped to achieve the style we put in front of ourselves,” recalls György Várszegi.



We outgrew the hill
Somló is the most fragmented wine region in Hungary, in which there are no larger contiguous plots. When there was still an active mining life in the region, the colliers enjoyed buying land on the hill where they came to rest during weekends and grow grapes as a hobby. Anyone who would like to buy a parcel on the hill has to proceed meter by metre and agree with the owners. “Currently we cultivate on 43 hectares, which consists of more than 200 tiny parcels. The warmer, higher than mid-hill, south- or southeast-facing sites are ideal for our still wines, while the cooler, eastern or northern plots are suitable for the sparkling wine grapes. One-third of our grapes (33%) are Furmint, 21% are Olaszrizling, 18% Juhfark, and the rest are Syrah, Hárslevelű, Tramini and Chardonnay,” lists Zoltán Prisztakov. “But we’ve outgrown the hill and that’s what causes the most headaches. We make our still wines exclusively from our own grapes but for the base wine of the sparklers, we have to step out of the wine region.”


Organic cultivation, gentle methods

-- Wooden posts instead of a metal support system

“We cultivate 100% of our plots organically. We don’t use insecticides or pesticides, we work with copper and sulphur and we only use the minimal necessary amount even of those. With this gentle method, even in a harder year, we can protect the state of the grapes in the same way as if we were using stronger chemicals. Biodynamic grape growing is not yet a goal, but the use of natural and gentle methods certainly is. One element is completely omitting the metal support system. This is because galvanized steel in the long run behaves the same way in the acid-rich rocks as a galvanic cell: as the soil slowly dissolves it, metal soaks into the soil.” – György Várszegi. 



2016 – elegant, cooler character wines

“2015 was characterised by gradual ripening, a warm summer and the quantity worked out well, too. We should have had more of it! In 2016, we didn’t have an easy job. Owing to the intense hail that arrived at the end of July, we lost 50% of the crop in one single day. As the hail damaged the leaves, the plants started bearing new leafage, and a slower ripening started. This resulted in low alcohol and good acids. Due to this, our 2016 wines have a more elegant, cooler character. We have our good plots, the necessary technological background, but the winery is young, as well as most of our vines. With time, we are going to be less exposed to the impact of the weather and as the roots creep deeper and deeper our wines will become richer in detail.” – György Várszegi.


Burgundy’s sophisticated wines are in front of our eyes

“We are thinking in terms of the long run. Our owner, József Kreinbacher, means the estate for his grandchildren and for their grandchildren. If we look at the famous Burgundy examples, we can see that the time behind us is not yet a factor. We even age our sparkling wines for a minimum 18 months but there are some that we age for 60. Here, everything is a question of time. As József is a great fan of sparkling and still wine, he is familiar with the subject, he keeps appearing with something under his arm which is usually a Champagne or a white Burgundy. Whatever he opens, he also shows it to us. We taste together, think together and this way we understand the styles and aims that are put in front of us, in still and sparkling wine alike. Burgundy’s sophisticated wines are in front of our eyes as a direction. The example we are set is very inspiring. We wish to make wines in a similar spirit in the Somló place of growth, based on local varieties.” – Zoltán Prisztavok.