Where we had wine – 2014

This year we once again visited several great winemakers and even though we can’t give an account of all our journeys, we’d like to share the best memories with you.  

Janka Szabó and Lajos Pászthy


The tale about the head of the family


Ever since Matua, the first* Sauvignon Blanc planted in New Zealand, debuted in our summer selection, we could hardly wait for the arrival of Gandalf the Grey (at dawn) from the East, more precisely from New Zealand, accompanied by a good Pinot Noir. When it arrived, we were among the first to jump on it. We were not disappointed. One might call us biased but we love the Matuas, in which the winery’s philosophy and history plays a significant role. Matua means head of the family, or parent in the Maori language. The founders are two siblings who have placed real emphasis on nurturing the New Zealand traditions right from the start. We also love Matua because it’s harvested from a place where we would love to get to at least once. At least twice a year, a dead serious vow is made to realise this but next year it really has to happen. If we have to choose whether we are into Cabernet or Pinot, today we would without doubt say that we are more into Pinot Noir, even though Lajos is more of a Kadarka type, only people have not discovered it in that part of the world. We love tasting Pinots no matter what part of the world they come from because Pinot can show so many faces that we cannot get enough of. This is the polar opposite of a Burgundy Pinot Noir: exciting, slightly oaky, with chocolate and of course no shortage of fruit. Caution! We were given two bottles for tasting and the first one simply disappeared before we could write a single line about it. Well, that’s how nice it is.


* Why the first? The estate was the first to plant Sauvignon Blanc grapes in New Zealand, in 1969, from which the first wine was born in 1974. Since then, the country and the grape variety have become an inseparable.





Miklós Félix


Fine tuning


2014 for me was the year of fine tuning. I found the love of my life and I proposed to her. She said yes and it has changed my life completely. Before, there were loads of parties, lots of music, wine and whatever. These days the evening parties start in the afternoon and what matters is not how many bottles slip down. The emphasis has shifted to the finer things in life. That the food we eat should match the wine, that the wine should bring experiences and memories. We’re fine tuning. Christmas is coming. I love the preparations and the time spent together: I’m in charge of the food and the wine that is put on the table. I can get so carried away that family members call me “gastronaut” at this time of the year. I encountered two wines at our regular Tuesday tasting that really grabbed me before the holidays. There is always great excitement at those tastings because as Forest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Sometimes one gets hit by the “why didn’t I know about this wine before now?” feeling that everybody is essentially waiting for. It was there when tasting Alvaro Palacios’ La Montesa: Grenache, Tempranillo* and Carignan, leather, walnut on the nose, it recalls nice ászok barrel ageing. Astonishing palate, scrumptious strawberry jam and incredible hibiscus and tobacco. Owing to half an hour of decanting, it becomes even more perfect. The other wine was Thelmo Rodriguez’s Gazur. Made from 100% Tempranillo grapes, first fermented in concrete vat then steel tank. Vigorous, with a purple colour, fruity aromas, followed by juicy cherry and plum jam on the palate. Rich and dense. After such a wine experience, we are sure to spend our honeymoon in Spain.


* Tempranillo:

The most well-known Spanish red wine grape that is prominent in the Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions. A thick-skinned, deep coloured grape that produces rich wine and is also known as Tinto Fino and Tinta Roiz.




Barna Ruprecht


He's not a tüke*, but he's cool


Young grape grower and winemaker Gábor Kiss, who hails from Transylvania, has been enriching our Villány selection for more than two years along with his contemporary and good friend, Miklós Tamás Rácz. Gábor currently cultivates 10 hectares of the Bocor, Hajdús and Gesztenyés vineyards. From pruning to bottling, he does everything himself; organically, naturally and spontaneously. His typical grape varieties are Kékfrankos, Portugieser, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Me and my colleague, Gergő, recently opened a bottle of Kiss Gábor 364 to accompany home studio work. I couldn’t have imagined anything better for the occasion. This is truly a wine that can be drunk 364 days a year. And now there are two others for the remaining one day – or the other way around. Even the nose of Gábor Kiss’ 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon is very promising, and the palate is simply striking. Honest, clean Cabernet, richness, tightness, linear with a touch of cassis. The nr 52 wine: Kékfrankos, Kadarka, Pinot, spiced up with a pinch of Csókaszőlő. An almost chewable, very exciting wine that’s full of youthful energy and a touch of curry. Good proportions, special spices.


* Who is a “tüke”?

The term “tüke” is used for people who have been living and producing grapes in Pécs for at least three generations. Its opposite is called a “gyüttment” (“a come-and-go” person) in Pécs. When we taste with Miklós and Gábor the “tüke” contra “gyüttment” opposition often pops up in the same way as the imagined or real differences between Diósviszló and Kisharsány.




Gábor Csorba and Csongor Csűrös


The very big Nagy-Eged


What happened was that at one of our November tasting events, both the György Lőrinczs were present and were offering the St. Andrea wines with a great deal of love. At the end of the flight of wines, they brought a special red as a surprise. It was the 2011 Nagy-Eged* Bikavér Superior which is the new flagship red wine of the winery. There were 90 people present at the event and due to a misunderstanding, there were only three bottles to share around. It wasn’t an easy task to do so, but somehow all the guests could get a taste. Of course, we couldn’t but that wasn’t a problem. No good deed goes unpunished – or so the saying goes – and the very next day, the same wine accompanied by Mária, the other top St. Andrea wine harvested from the plot under the Virgin Mary statue on Nagy-Eged hill, was waiting for us in the Lánchíd store’s office. The terraced, limestone hill overlooking the city is an exceptional place, which is where the highest prestige wines of the cellar come from in the Lőrinczs’ minds. During the tasting, we shared the two wines fairly: the Furmint and Chardonnay blend Mária was Csongor’s favourite, while Gábor rather spent more time with the Nagy-Eged Bikavér.


* The Nagy-Eged hill:

The 535-meter high hill has exceptional qualities; this is the only limestone peak in the Bükk’s range of volcanic hills. Following in Tibor Gál’s footsteps, László Bukolyi and György Lőrincz have continued the work started in the 13th century – by today, grapes are growing once again on the terraces of the highest situated vineyards in the country. 




Gergely Sámson and Kristóf Alkonyi 


Tokaj – not dry at all


Gergő: We went to Tokaj again in November, preparing for the annual 2013 overview*.

Over the course of three days: more than a hundred wines, piles of notes, a brisk schedule, talks that we could have continued till dawn. With András Bacsó: clone selection experiments in Petrács and barrel experiments in three sizes. At the Sauskas’: tighter acidity, easier drinkability. In the Gigerli: a friendly chat with Attila Homonna, who’s not a bad chef either. Amazing scenery on the Farkas at Stéphanie Bereczs’, plus loess, bee-eaters and carefree laughter. Outstanding wines with Laci Szilágyi, Pisti Balassa and the tropical fruit with quartz, andesite and rhyolite – two good friends with two different views. A new guesthouse with Saci Bárdos and a cosy feeling of home.  At Zoltán Demeter’s, a leather sofa in the production area, crystal clear thinking and pristinely pure wines. At István Szepsy’s: minerals on the porch and in the glass, residual sugar, new love and aszú catharsis from the barrel.  Collective work, organic cultivation, Racka sheep. Tokaj expert Laci Alkonyi chatted to us over lunch. His son, Kristóf is one of our colleagues at MOM Park and we often hear about Tokaj from him as well, as it’s “in his blood”.

Kristóf: Thanks to my father, I’ve been going to Tokaj-Hegyalja since I was a child. True, it took some time to fully understand my father’s enthusiasm for the wine region. The word Tokaj conjures up a lot of nice memories. I think had I arrived to the world of wine without any background, my favourite would still have been Tokaj. That’s because it stands out. Excellent quality wine is not enough for a wine region to be exciting for the world. It has to be distinctive and it has to have a story and surroundings that evoke the depths and heights.


* Tokaj 2013:

Our annual overview will come out in February and until then we’re introducing some of the favourite wines we stumbled upon on our Tokaj journey.




Tamás Markó


From the Ambrus


Tasting Ambrus’ wines brings some of the most exciting moments. When he first placed Badacsony Olaszrizling on the summit of the hill, we could feel that something was about to happen. Learning more about the wines and Ambrus’ views and goals, I was curious to see how far they could be realised. It’s not solely about a wine, but also about the experience itself, and it feels really good to offer it to a customer. Then, on a nice day in May, I was able to listen to the scientist that is Ambrus as well: he showed me Badacsony purely from the perspective of biology and numbers. It was the first time I heard about the heat summation method*, which immediately brings Badacsony and Tuscany closer to each other, or that fermentation has no time limit. I also learnt that must put into smaller fermenting vessels gives off less heat. Ambrus conveys and creates value both at the university where he teaches and in the cellar, which is not a small job. In 2013, his colourful wines are full of ambience and experience – one simply must try them all. The current two had no precedent and might not have a continuation either. It was a one-off story, because in two pots the magic started forming especially well. Ambrus bottled them to show what a hidden vineyard on Badacsony Hill can do.


* heat summation method:

During the ripening stage of the growing phase of the grape, the sum of the average daily temperature exceeds 10°C. Thus, if the average temperature is 15°C, then only 5°C makes it into the sum. If the daily average temperature is under 10°C, then no sum can be added for that day. 




Anikó Kurunczi


Sparklers from Tokaj to Champagne


For me sparkling wine is like air. I love still wine, too, but when it’s bubbly, it enchants me entirely. When the aromas of champagne hit me, love kicks in. It always puts a smile on my face with its lovely notes. Whether it be the aromas of brioche, sweet bread, bread crusts, toast or freshly baked cakes. Yum… That’s not to mention the intricate secrets of the different champagne houses hidden behind these notes, from which we immediately know whether we’re tasting the orange label Clicquot or a Billecart. I like the roasted nut and almond notes of Pol Roger, and Dom Perignon’s endless length, as well as the chiselled and uncountable layers of Krug. They are all colourful and elegant simultaneously. When we think of a traditional method champagne, a good crémant or a really nice cava, our minds immediately conjure up a perfect string of pearls made up by the bubbles*. Vintage champagne is sparkling golden grandeur in our glasses, with characteristic dried fruit, honey and walnut notes on the nose, and has an indescribably long spectrum on the palate. We can also imagine a tight Blanc de Blancs in which the Chardonnay rounds out nicely showing its own and the terroir’s distinctive features. When we taste a rosé sparkling wine – even from Tokaj – with the longer maceration of Pinot Noir we can even enjoy the colour in our glasses. The world of sparkling wines is great and mysterious.


* How do the bubbles get into the sparkling wines?

The string of pearls in the glass is the natural carbon-dioxide which comes into being during the second fermentation of the base wine in the bottle with the help of adding Liqueur de Tirage (a mix of yeast and sugar) to it.




Alexandra Dobrovits and Ádám Wágner


Pure fruit, pure passion


How lucky it is to have sure things in life. The gates of Tokaj, the slopes of the Zemplén are beautiful – that’s for sure. The Gönc apricot* is as sweet as honey – we know that as well. And by now, we also know that the Bestillo Pálinkaház distillery makes excellent pálinka out of it.  The Gönc apricot has been grown in the region since ancient times, and quality fruit brandy distilling also has serious traditions around here. That’s how Gönc apricot brandy could become a beverage protected as a geographical indication of the European Union. In the middle of the summer, in the court of the Bestillo Pálincaház, everything is about the apricot. In Boldogkőváralja, when the apricot harvest approaches, the tension grows in anticipation because the harvest means the preparation of jam and brandy from which we could get a taste at the Gönci Barack Vigasság. Here, the little ones were given apricot jam and cordial, the big ones apricot brandy, among other tasty food and drinks. Our hosts set the standards high regarding music, gastronomy and artisanal products, putting the emphasis on real quality and value. Stepping foot inside the distillery, which is now also a visitor centre, an intensive apricot aroma welcomes the guests. After checking out the distillery, we had the opportunity to taste Bestillo’s repertoire. From the incredibly exciting marzipany Mahaleb cherry to the seductively perfumed raspberry to the classic Gönc apricot, the pálinkas all exude the flavours and aromas of the given fruit. We learnt that all the fruit that serves as the raw material for the fruit brandies arrives from a maximum 30-kilometre radius, thus guaranteeing the outstanding quality and distinctiveness.


* The Gönc apricot: protected as a geographical indication, the Hungarian Gönc apricot grows on the picturesque hillside around the village of Gönc. It’s incredibly flavoursome with honey-like sweetness, but it’s tricky to transport. It reveals its best qualities as the treasure of local distillers and jam makers.




Márton Nyerges


Before the annual overview 


I went to Burgundy for the first time four years ago with my colleagues. Since then we could taste three completely different vintages and were able to learn a lot about the terroir through the wines. However, the most important aspect for me was that we had the opportunity to meet some winemakers who do their job professionally, wholeheartedly and, despite their reputation, still remained very easy-going and friendly. Wines of the newer and newer vintages bear the prints of their makers so strongly that I will never forget Thibault’s saying “that’s all” about the simplicity of winemaking and the other nice moments. The new vintage of 2012 has arrived and the adventure has begun. The first six months of the year were characterised by cold conditions, with lots of rain and hail in Burgundy. There were heavy losses. During the cool summer, sugar levels didn’t want to rise and the grapes developed slowly. Then a miracle occurred, and a perfect August and September followed. All the grapes that remained ripened beautifully. The average quantity of the crop was only 60% to 70% of the usual year. Thibault Liger-Belair mentioned that 2012 was also an abnormal year in the cellar. The yeasts used up one and a half times the usual quantity of sugar to produce the alcohol. The Hautes-Cotes de Nuits and Clos de Prieuré are again of premium quality with their fruit, delicate minerality and undergrowth notes. Étienne de Montille at the Château de Puligny-Montrachet switched to organic grape growing in 2012 and luckily the Chardonnay plot in the castle’s grounds survived the hail and they were able to bottle a pale yellow, tasty and delicious Burgundy with zesty acidity. Their Clos Du Château is vibrant and fruity with a touch of minerality. While we’re on the subject of organic growing: one of the oddballs of the wine region, Philippe Pacalet, as per usual didn’t use any chemicals or sulphur and bottled his wines by hand, subordinating everything to naturalness and the terroir. The Nuits-Saint-Georges Villages, harvested from two plots from 45-year-old vines, is a tightly structured wine with savoury minerality, delicious red berry fruit, a touch of leather and vibrant acidity. It changes a lot during tasting and it’s worth opening when we have an hour or two to devote to it. We tasted the wines of David Croix, considered as one of the most talented winemakers of his generation, with great awe during our trip. He presides over a modern cellar, cleanliness, order and delicious wine. One of my great favourites is Beaune 1er cru* Les Cents Vignes, which if the expression is applicable, is possibly the best value 1er cru. Its 2011 brother is in tip-top shape and it was a great experience to taste it alongside its 2012 partner. A deeper colour with loads of cherry and spice on the nose, subtle oak and a sour cherry finish. Fresh, crispy, with round tannins. A must have.


* Premier cru (or 1er cru): it currently applies to 585 exceptionally unique vineyard plots, which typically lie on the highest locations of the limestone hills of the Burgundy wine region, above the highest ranking Grand Cru plots. 




Tibor Pihelevisc and Márton Márton


Gold standard


We tasted the two new Sandahl wines on a Friday afternoon in autumn. We sat down to re-taste them after closing time in the store room of the Ráday shop and we immediately understood that the right time to taste rich Badacsony wines isn’t during the hustle and bustle of the afternoon. Owing to this small mistake on our part, the first discreet bottles had opened up nicely by the evening to reveal their depth and special layers. Two exceptional Rieslings tuned to the German spätlese style* : their seriousness lies in the fact that despite their incredibly full roundness, they nevertheless remain elegant.


* The spätlese style: late harvested with high sugar content, usually off-dry, semi-sweet or sweet Riesling. A classic German style which, depending on the wine region wine, is fermented from a must degree of 76-90 Öchsle. 




Péter Nagyváradi


Among top wine


Precision, clear-cut character, international quality. These adjectives spring to my mind on hearing the name Sauska. For a few months from spring I had the opportunity to take an insider’s look into the buzzing winery. The Villány cellar was astonishing, even at first sight. I helped out in the cellar where, under the direction of László Latorczai and Ildikó Markó, my number one task was to prepare the wines awaiting bottling. I could see at first hand what gruesome work the pre-bottling stage is. The life of the wine is accompanied all the way by spotless cleanliness and careful analytical work, thus guaranteeing the quality. I also spent a lot of time in the vineyards, where I could follow the work phases from bud burst to the harvest and the development of this year’s crop. The work among the rows of grapes is also of a high standard and meticulously planned. In Tokaj, I also had the opportunity to look behind the scenes and taste. Gábor Rakaczki, the chief winemaker of the Sauska Tokaj winery, introduced me to the world of Tokaj wine and the new sparkling wines*. These few months provided huge experience for me and I managed to form such a comprehensive picture of the Sauska wines and Hungarian winemaking, which proves how precious the wine regions, wines and experts we have are.


* Tokaj sparkling wine: two new sparkling wines are debuting from the Sauskas’ Tokaj winery: the traditional method white and rosé, which were bottled in the non-vintage form.