Two more points for Tokaj

The year started with two stunning pieces of news in connection with two Tokaj wines, on top of that both are linked to one winemaker – to László Szilágy, owner of the Gizella Winery. Apart from the fact that we sell László’s wines, he’s also a friend of ours, yet he can still surprise us. The previous time he did this was when he made beer in Tokaj barrels (with István Balassa and the Monyo brewery), and now, with these two pieces of news:

 

The UK’s Decanter magazine selected his 2016 Gizella Barát Hárslevelű among the 75 most exciting wines of 2017. At the beginning of February, the winery’s long anticipated first sweet Szamorodni was released and we think it’s incredibly good. If you only drink one sweet Szamorodni in your life, this should be it, said one of our colleagues after tasting it! But let’s allow him to speak about them by himself.

The most exciting Hungarian wine

“The place on the Decanter list started with participation at the London Wine Fair in May. The Hungarian Tourism Agency had one stand there, set up in a way that winemakers could also join in. I decided at once that I’d like to take part in the challenge. Of course, I wouldn’t have participated in it by myself as it’s expensive. At the 100 square-metre stand, I had my own booth and they also organised several tastings for which my wines were selected. It was a great experience and very educational.

On occasions like this, at a big wine fair, we also better understand how useful, for example, it is that the Tokaj dry wines have their own bottle that is similar to the sweet one – how helpful that is for their recognition and identification. It was a good feeling to be Hungarian there. A dry Tokaj tasting that one of my Furmints took part in was oversubscribed four times! Lots of renowned wine experts held masterclasses, such as John Szabo MS, author of the book on volcanic wine, or Ronn Wiegand MW & MS, who started the aszú tasting this way: “I’m the first person in the world who got the Master Sommelier and the Master of Wine qualifications and I’m here now to talk about the world’s most complex wine…” There was a bit of a silence after that.

Caroline Gilby MW, expert on central and southern European wines, who often visits Hungary, selected the Barát Hárslevelű for the tasting of white wines that was called ‘Travelling through Terroirs’, and she was also the one who recommended it to Decanter. A small amount of it got into the UK but the whole world didn’t make a beeline for it. That was fortunate because there isn’t too much of it. A British importer, who wanted to sell it, told me that it will be in the magazine. As the sole Hungarian wine, it’s the 35th on the list of the most exciting wines. I think it’s the balance of minerality and fruit that provide its exciting quality, as well as the fact that while it’s a pleasure to drink, it also has depth and substance. The reason I like the Barát vineyard is that it firmly delivers tropical fruitiness, which is due to its good location, besides the soil. It’s very reliable, even in weaker vintages. This vineyard has saved us on more than one occasion. Economical, it isn’t, as the rows are wide and the number of vines are low, but we should not talk about that now. The 2015 Barát Hárslevelű came in first place in the Hungarian TOP 100, the 2016 got into the most exciting 75… The fact that people got to know this wine abroad is thanks to the lucky series of events,” says Laci. We must add that it wasn’t evaluated so positively out of luck.

 

 

"What motivated me is to keep the fruit flavours"

“The Szamorodni also requires several components and good timing. I’ve been hugely occupied by sweet wines, for a couple of years, I made a late harvest wine called Látomás Cuvée and I also had aszús, such as Dénes in 2013. Then as I progressed in my oenological realisations, I understood how I could make more and more concentrated wines, as well as what circumstances that requires. Sweet wine involves a great risk as the grapes have to be kept out in the vineyard for 3-4 weeks longer… then owing to the low alcohol, it has to spend a summer in the cellar in order to avoid re-fermentation.

What I’ve conjured up is impossible to implement with 60-80 grams of sugar. In 2014, it got difficult, but in 2015 I could make it in accordance with my concept. Then, in 2016, I could make one barrel that was really beautiful. Originally, I meant it for a late harvest wine, not for a Szamorodni. A Polish blogger, Wojciech Bońkowski, called my attention during tasting it to the fact that with this concept, it might be a Szamorodni as well, as it matches the new rules of article description.* I didn’t believe him at first, I told him that I must know the Hungarian regulations better than him. But he was right! So after six months of barrel ageing, it was bottled as a Szamorodni. I really wanted to do it – it feels great that alongside my dry wine, I have a noble sweet wine as well. I wish to make it this way every year and it will surely be made in 2017. I wished to create a contemporary, modern flavour experience with this wine. To achieve that in accordance with its qualities, I was able to make a concentrated, natural sweet wine in which the alcohol and the ageing time doesn’t go against the fruitiness, and the fruit flavours can remain alongside the minerality. That’s what motivated me, and that’s what made it a real Gizella wine that is characteristic of the winery.”

 

*Sweet Szamorodnis have to spend at least six months in wooden barrels before bottling and should be put on the market the second January following the harvest, at the earliest.