This also makes it a festive for us

This year, once again, we asked 14 winemakers about the wine, traditional method sparkling wine or spirits they enjoy during the festive season. This isn’t a Top List, it’s more to learn what varieties, wine regions, styles and colleagues are the closest to them. This year, the most exciting outcome was probably that a surprising amount of them chose traditional method sparkling wine.



“We love traditional method sparkling wine. We often taste them at home or with our friends. And we don’t just connect with Carassia Blanc de Blancs for its flavours but also because we are proud that, with the assistance of the Pannonhalma Abbey, such a serious sparkling wine estate could be created in Transylvania – because our family comes from there. The reason why our maternal grandmother never travelled was that she came from Hadikfalva to Zomba by horse carriage. She kept on saying that that much travelling was enough for her for life. However, she always told me to travel, which I did and that’s how I could learn about traditional method sparkling wine, which is how we got into them. We open them when we celebrate something and our father makes us celebrate every little thing, so the cork pops very often at ours. In the summer, we often had Carassia’s Chardonnay sparkling wine with Csabi, our neighbour, Janó Németh, and Feri Takler. We very highly regard it, and recommend it with love.”    





“Philippe Pacalet makes his wines in a perfectly unique style. And that’s what I love. We work and think the same way: he makes Pinot Noir without or only with minimal sulphur in Burgundy – the same way as we do it here, in Balf. He only uses a little at the time of bottling. It’s great to see that we are on the same journey, and that despite biodynamic grape growing, natural winemaking and the omitting of sulphur, such natural wines can be made which we enjoy opening even on festive days. On top of that, during the holidays we have time for a breather, to give the wine time and space, to take out our nicest glasses and enjoy the exciting flavours provided by natural winemaking. I hope more and more people will follow us on this road.”





“I was given a bottle of Krug Grand Cuvée as a gift in 2008. I sipped it all day, on that classic Hungarian ‘sparkling wine’ day. Its structure and its vinous quality made me think. I was possessed by a sort of curiosity and desire for creation, and also the wish to repeat the experience. The consequence was that after the harvest of 2009, I made a sparkling base wine from the grapes in my Új-hegy vineyard in Rátka. Ottó Légli and myself even travelled to Reims to get to know the birthplace of the Krug selection. The presentation changed our attitude to sparkling wine for good.”  





“We’ve known each other for more than 30 years. Back then, he was only dreaming about making his own wine one day, with bright eyes. And just like with all his other plans, he made it come true as well. I remember when, with huge energy and stamina, Krisztián Sauska first started building up his Villány, then his Tokaj cellar; he always turned to wine with utmost humbleness. My favourite wine is the Sauvignon Blanc. I can recall perfectly well when and where I tasted the first, the 2010 Sauska Sauvignon Blanc. I approached it with the same scepticism as those who asked “Red wine? In Etyek?” Who would have guessed that this variety can perform such miracles in Tokaj! Gábor Rakaczki conjured up such a wine on the basalt soil whose flavour will stay in my memory for ever. At Christmas, alongside the inevitable salmon, we’re sure to open one. Only the vintage has changed.”   





“Every year, on two or three occasions, we visit an important wine region. That’s the foundation. Now, it’s going to be Austria-Sopron next week, with Schindler, Ráspi, Enikő Luka, among others. We often return to the places we really like, bring some wines back, and constantly taste and cross-taste those. A relatively fresh experience is that we tasted the nicest vineyards alongside the River Rhine together. The place where we were both staggered was the Dr. von Bassermann-Jordan estate. Tradition, single-vineyard selection, exemplary structure. They haven’t made a change on the label for 170 years, and we are thinking about refreshing ours. They served the lesson up for us, in that we have to make a good one. The grape growing and winemaking that characterises the Bassermann-Jordan estate is exemplary. We are trying to grow up to it.”     





“My friendship with Eger, Gyuri Lőrincz and Bikavér has a long history. I love them all. I’m not revealing a secret by telling you that my favourites are mineral wines born from volcanic soil and as the family often drinks red wine, Eger is the closest to us. Mostly Gyuri’s wines; the Pinot Noir or the Bikavér. I can’t stand too much tannin, I prefer the company of more elegant yet substantial wines. On top of that, if I’m not mistaken, Merengő has an anniversary: it was 15 years ago when the name and the idea was hatched at the Lőrinczs’ cellar. The currently available 2013 is their 10th vintage. That’s also a big thing.”  





“Furmint, Hárs and Juhfark together are a wonder. I like all three grapes, which is why I like them together in Super Granum. Blending the three grapes together is a very interesting exercise, leading to a dense and exciting wine of serious structure. We are friends with Frici: from the beginning he has come to taste at our place and we also go to Muzsla when we can. He’s a really open-minded, progressive, impulsively constructive winemaker, and also a very likeable person, with whom every conversation is deep and I enjoy every minute.” 





“Recently, it’s mainly been volcanic wines and volcanic terroir that occupies me. I love special places of growth, Hárslevelű and the wines of ‘Sztefi’. So if I have to name one wine, it would be the Kikelet Lónyai Hárslevelű from Stéphanie and Zsolt Berecz. Professionally and personally they are at top of their game for me. We’ve been tasting lots of volcanic wines, we have even set up an association with lots of exciting winemakers and wines and we carry out great discussions and tastings. We are trying to get to know each others’ work, for example to define what the variety that Stéphanie in a French way just calls ‘Árslevelű’ on Tarcal’s dacite subsoil. The message is straightforward in the Lónyai Hárslevelű: with its long, linear acid structure, layers, pristine purity, slightly mineral fruitiness – it’s a real volcanic wine for me.”





“As you know, I’m not a very serious person – I’ve not thought too much about the question. I’d recommend the two wines that first sprang to mind, the ones that have given me great experiences lately. If I open a really good red wine with my friends, it must be a Chilean Montes Folly. If it’s Hungarian, then it’s the Sauskas’ Cuvée 5. The Folly is 100% Syrah, aged in French barrels, and despite being a New World wine, it has incredible elegance. Steep hillsides, ripe grapes, rich, nice structure. I just love it.” 





“I would say the Enigma from Gábor Kiss, because that Gábor is a top bloke. I’ve known him for ages, from the first Etyek Pincefesztivál. It was the very beginning of everything. Last time with the family, we had the 2015 Enigma but I also like his ‘every day’ wines, the 364s. When Christmas comes, one doesn’t choose a wine in an objective way. We drink the wine made by those who we like. We have an Italianate huge family with lots of kids, and everybody is trying to grab the armchair – whoever sits on it first has it. And if the celebration runs the Italian way, it has to be red wine. On top of that, because there is a lot of damage done by game animals, the local hunting society pay their debt in flesh. For the Christmas game dishes, a big Merlot like the Enigma is perfect.” 





“I really love Hárslevelű. At the moment I can’t even see any non-local white grape varieties that give nice grapes and flavoursome wines everywhere. People should work with it in a lot of other places. I have a friend, Ádám Molnár, who at Bardon in Erdőbénye deals with this variety in such a way that it shows its most beautiful aspects for me. We’ve been friends for a couple of years, but not for as long as we could have been: he is a fellow countryman, he lives in Eger but makes wine in Tokaj, but as we also learnt, we went to the same school, and we both worked in New Zealand. We just didn’t happen to bump into each other anywhere. However, since we did, I’m on the best of terms with him and with his Hárslevelű. That’s what we are going to open at Christmas.”





“Christmas for us is a holiday that we always celebrate in a small family circle. Katus cooks something special, surprises me with it, not the kids because they are with her all through the preparations helping her. The last time, my son Gergő made the pudding. For Katus’ birthday, my brother András brought along a bottle of Kreinbacher Rosé sparkling wine. I loved its nice, restrained elegance, and the harmony between fruit and maturity. It’s incredible what fine lees can do. We also seek the balance of this in our wines and this kind of sparkling wine experience strengthens the conviction that we shall follow on this road.”





“Exciting volcanic smokiness and minerality. The reason why I chose this wine is because they also base their sparkling winemaking on a local variety. We Tokaj winemakers are experimenting with a similar thing: our wine region starts from Furmint and Hárslevelű when we deal with traditional method sparkling wine. Of course, the topsoil is different in Sicily, there it’s lava sand, while here it’s a more mature, clayish, deeper soil, but the idea is the same. I often found parallels between the sparkling wines of Planeta and our estate: local varieties, local flavours, a family winery where traditional method sparkling winemaking started recently. And my personal connection is that I love hills and travelling. The mountain tops of Italy are my most favoured destinations, and Etna is the next hill I have to climb in next year.”



ZOLTÁN PRISZTAVOK Kreinbacher Birtok


“It would be strange if I recommended anything else for the holidays: of course it’s got to be a traditional method sparkling wine. And if it’s a traditional method sparkling wine, then it’s Ottó Légli’s. We like him as a winemaker, we like his sparkling wine, and the way he’s dealt with the whole bubble culture since the beginning. Slowly, the possibility of disgorging more mature, aged wines is coming along for us. We’re experimenting with it as well, and the first vintage traditional method sparkling wines of the Sauskas from Tokaj are being made, also Ottó Léglis’ from Balaton. More and more serious quality is being created. The Léglis’ 48-month sparkling wine is being made, we are sure to open one bottle of that as well. My partner deals with caviar, I deal with traditional method sparkling wine. It’s not even a question what the festive menu will be like at ours.”