“To minimalise everything that standardises” – Frigyes Bott 2016

When we arrived in the Garam Valley, a tea made from field horsetail and nettle was simmering in a huge pot next to the grapevines. They spray some 300-400 litres of it on the vines on a weekly basis. Alongside the horsetail and nettle, they also add anise, mugwort and osier to it. Different green and medicinal herbs grow between the rows of vines, and the orchard on Muzsla’s Öreghegy exudes friendly tranquillity and joviality, the same way as its owner Frigyes Bott does.

Frigyes has always been interested in making organic wine. He has been making his wines in a close-to-nature approach since the very beginning, and since last year, all his wines have been made biodynamically. It requires a lot more work and attention, and compared to the conventional approach, one also has to invest a lot more financially into biodynamic grape growing and winemaking.

“We seek to create harmony and balance between the grapevines and the soil, to have unity in everything; the grapes should not suffer. Regarding work in the vineyard, we also keep an eye on the lunar calendar. Everything has the same aim: to make the wine as pure as possible,” he says.

 

Oenology exchange and inspiration

 

The Botts also dedicate a lot of time and energy to travelling for learning and tasting, primarily to other European wine regions with similar characteristics. Currently, Burgundy is their absolute favourite, mainly for its vibe and style. Frigyes Jnr. is currently helping out, and is also working at the winery of Michael Andert, a famous Austrian biodynamic winemaker. They agreed that Frigyes Jnr. is not to be paid, but instead the Austrian winemaker comes to Muzsla to consult and help with the local biodynamic cultivation.

“He is a very authentic person, he practices what he preaches, along with his own winery and vines, he grows his vegetables and fruit, looks after the animals, and his whole lifestyle is ‘biodynamic’,” says Frigyes. “He doesn’t hide any secrets, but it would be impossible to copy him.

Alphonse Mellone from Sancerrre is also a huge hero, but he cannot be copied either. For one thing, the winery has been working with the same variety for 500 years. Still, it’s not just his vineyard that is an example, but also what his guesthouse looks like, the way they cook…. Biodynamic cultivation somewhat resembles homeopathy, and there is not one single recipe stating the what, why and how. We have to understand the same in the vineyard: what the given variety and its crop requires in a given place and year. There are a lot of things one can learn from. For example, Roger Scruton’s I Drink Therefore I Am book had a huge impact on me. A guest of mine recommended it to me, as it came to his mind when he was tasting my wine. Well, I thought, judging by the title – they treat the subject pretty simply… But I remembered it, got hold of it, and it was a great read. Its philosophical approach is close to me. Wine and sacredness are not far from each other.”

 

A vintage teaching us patience

 

“2016 was a balanced, good year. Not a ‘Good Friday’ vintage but we always try to make the best possible wine from the given circumstances, and this time we had the opportunity to do so. It was also an informative year, the harvest was really prolonged as the grapes didn’t ripen at the same time. But every vintage teaches us something new, like how patient we are.

Vinculum was again made from Juhfark in the 2016 vintage, the same way as last year, but it’s different. It’s is still young and will change a bit. It has green herbs on the nose and on the palate due to the undergrowth. I didn’t want it to have orange wine character, but there’s lots of valuable material in the skins. I tried to minimalise everything that standardizes a wine in the making of it. Vinculum will always remain a wine speciality and it even splits the opinions of wine experts.

 

 

2016 is also the first vintage of my amphora-made Olaszrizling, Rare. It reads only A151 on the neck of the bottle, which means it was in the amphora for 151 days. When I first tasted it, I was disappointed at how pure and fruity it was – I didn’t feel what the amphora had added. Then I stirred it on the lees and I understood it. That’s why it has a crown cap and that’s why it’s also written on the label in inverted letters, because even the opening of it is special. You should turn the bottle upside-down. The idea was mine, and my son gave its name. When you turn it upside-down, the lees stir up, which is when the flavours really explode. We played around a lot with it, but I enjoyed every moment. Tasting it isn’t just good when it’s cooled and you can play with the serving temperature. It’s a bit like craft beer; it’s elegant and rich in flavour at the same time. You don’t have to explain it, yet you have to be open to it. There’ll be more of it next year, beside the current two. I’ll make another two large amphorae of it.”