The complete story – Our own wine by our own hands

While making our own wine, we've been thinking and working together with Gábor Kiss in Villány and we've been reporting back about the work month after month. We experienced that despite all the goodwill and endeavor, it’s nature that dictates when creating wine. It was exactly a year ago that we first pruned with Gábor in Kisharsány, and we can taste the result soon: we’ll bottle the Merlot within a few weeks, while the Franc awaits barrel ageing.


22 colleagues, 47 containers of grapes, 1 cut finger (already healed), 2 delicious wines, 1,300 litres of Merlot, 300 litres of Franc (currently ageing)

1. February 2 – The first meeting with Gábor Kiss

We drew up our plan and defined the style of the wine: a hip, fruity, not too full-bodied red wine with restrained tannins. Gábor recommends Kékfrankos. He's got two plots planted with the variety – we go for the Mandolás vineyard, which brings the nicer crop.

2. February 22 – We prune 2,000 vines of Kékfrankos

Our colleagues in Pécs close the shop to go to work in the vineyard.


3. April 20 – We select the shoots

Pinching out shoots is a form of yield control: we discard the shoots that grew in the wrong places in order to avoid the vines putting their energy into unwanted shoots.

4. April 22 and May 3 – Breaking news: we froze

Crops were hit by frost in several places around the country, including our Kékfrankos vines: for which only a few wet, damp hours with the temperature around freezing point are enough. There's nothing that can be done: the grapes cannot be saved this year. It hits us badly, and just a week earlier we had worked on the vines…

A couple of days later, Gábor Kiss arrives with a new plan: there’s a twin parcel with Merlot and Cabernet Franc right next to one another; identically aged plantations cultivated in the same way. The parcel is located in a higher spot and it wasn’t affected by the freeze. 


5. June 15 and 30 – Vine work with two teams

Vine work runs at full throttle on the two new twin parcels: pruning shoots and side branches, cleaning the stems. We describe the purpose of these jobs in detail in our summer publication. There’s loads of sunshine, the grapes are growing: nature proliferates so much we could go every two weeks.

6. August 3. – Green harvesting…

With the green harvest we discard the clusters that have grown in the wrong places: we thin out the clusters so that there are fewer diseases, and the concentration in the grapes can grow. We come up with the idea that we shouldn’t leave the clusters thrown on the ground and instead make verjus out of it. The verjus, the must of the green harvest, is a great thirst quencher, which is less intrusive than vinegar or lemon juice.    


7. On the same afternoon – … and verjus making

Gábor has never done it but he likes the idea. We work in the crazy heat but we finish by the afternoon and we process the grapes immediately. There’s very little juice in the unripe clusters and the berries are so hard that we use a traditional basket press instead of a pneumatic press. However, an hour later, we make the world’s most delicious lemonade out of them. We’re animated!

8. Mid-September – The verjus kicks off

We’ve found bottles for the verjus and Frigyes Bott offers to provide a manual bottling device. After ageing it, the news hits us that there was minimal sugar in the grapes that started fermenting, so we can’t make verjus out of it. We have to pour away the more than 100 litres of divine raw material. We’re sad. 


9. the very end of September, beginning of October – Delayed harvest dates

Owing to the rainy weather, the harvest is postponed four times. It’s not us being finicky: the water remaining in the grapes that are picked in rainy weather is not good for the grapes – it dilutes the must. The grapes are sweet, the seeds are already not bitter – promising signs for the birth of a good wine.  

10. October 14 – Finally the harvest!

We harvest the Cabernet Franc on a beautiful October day. The Merlot has already been picked by Gábor and his team – they rushed to the vineyard from the village several times in drier moments. We fill 47 cases of grapes, which we put into tanks after destemming. Both the Cabernet Franc and the Merlot has skin contact for 7 to 8 days.


11. November 15 – The result is in the glass: there won’t be any blending

Gábor arrives in Budapest with the Merlot and Cabernet Franc samples. The tasting enchants us and the differences in character between the two wines shows beautifully. The Merlot is mild, smiley and full of raspberry and strawberry notes. The Franc is more restrained, but an even more substantial and tauter wine with longevity – it’s unquestionably going to be the bigger wine. In order to pass on the experience, we decide not to blend. The Merlot is going to be fermented in steel tank and become a fresher red wine. The Franc is put into barrels for a few months and will be bottled later.


12. now – Waiting

Right now both wines are resting in steel tanks with floating lids. As is characteristic of the 2016 vintage, this year the malic acid is higher everywhere so more time is needed for malolactic fermentation (which means that it takes more time for the malic acid to turn into lactic acid) – we’re currently at the end of this process. This happens at the temperature of 16-17 degrees Celcius, while in the meantime Gábor stirs the fine lees at times to speed up the process. 

13. the future – Fining, filtering, bottling

After the malolactic fermentation comes the fining and filtering. Then, after a week of resting, the Merlot is bottled, while the Franc starts ageing in barrels. We’re still pondering over what type of barrel it should be aged in.


The people who (until now) have taken part in making our own wine: Marcell Bács, Pisti Balogh and his sibling, Kata Bodó, Gábor Csorba, Bálint Faragó, Ákos Fehér, Vivien François, Hédi Glokker, Balázs Hagymási, Milán Kovacsevics, Tamás Markó, Zsófi Nika, Vera Pataki, Dóra Polyák, Gergő Sámson, Adrienn Sebők, Kata Szabó, Zsófi Szuhai, Dia Takács, Róbert Tápler, Róbert Vágó, Viki Zsebe