BORTÁRSASÁG PROUDLY PRESENTS: SAULI KADARKA
Produced and bottled by János Márkvárt Jr
Kadarka runs through my veins, I grew up here, I know every ravine, vineyard and field. I’ve been working since I was a child, I go out at dawn, I rest at home at noon and I finish among the vineyards in the evening. I’m a winemaker, a grape grower, a farmer from Szekszárd.
János Márkvárt Jr introduced himself to us with these few sentences many years ago, when we tasted his first wines. Since then, we’ve been visiting him every few months in the Gyűszű Valley. We know his words by now, we’ve seen him expand his cellar dug into the loess of Szekszárd with a pickaxe. We’ve raced past him several times in the gorges of Szekszárd, and one of these vineyard tours became at least as legendary as his fresh and light Kadarka, which is a real thirst quencher in the heat, and at the same time has character in all its aspects.
Not so many people know that, in terms of proportional share, János Márkvárt Jr is among most dedicated Kadarka producers in Szekszárd: while the variety grows only on a total of 100 hectares of the 2,100 hectares of the wine region, it grows on more than the quarter of Jani's small estate. What’s more – and here we arrive at the point – some of these vines are old, planted nearly a century ago, and as Márkvárt J. puts it,
the old roots can’t go wrong
In 2021, our usual visit to the wine region happened in the first week of September, and now for the first time, almost 100 of us gathered from Bortársaság, starting at the Heimanns. On the way there, a few of us decided to stop at Jani's ‘Sauli’. One of us was curious about the old-vine Kadarka, which until then we’d only seen during the year, without bunches and with less foliage. We wanted to know what it was like in the weeks before the harvest. Getting out of the car, we started wondering: how much such a parcel could possibly be worth? Sauli could be to Szekszárd like what L’Ermita is to Priorat or Las Beatas to Rioja. (Alvaro Palacios and Telmo Rodriguez created new categories in the two Spanish wine regions with these two vineyards.) The legend is right in front of our eyes. In this case, in the northern end of Szekszárd, in the Saul Valley (which locals just call Sauli), situated in a 0.41 hectare ‘garden’ where old Kadarka vines are planted among pear and apple trees.
There’s no stopping Jani, as he dashes ahead, and in the meantime half-sentences worth of gold leave his mouth: “Look at this vine, it has been yielding steadily for at least 80 years, but it might even be 100 years old. One thing for certain is that people were already drinking wine made from it during the Second World War.” Looking at the satellite image (46.364897, 18.688872), it’s also clear that they used a different system at the time of planting. Instead of rows, the vines were planted close to each other, with traditional drainage ditches left between them every 20 metres, dividing the grove into strips of land, and in places fruit trees provided shade for the workers.
For years, there has been no hoeing among the cane-pruned, bush-trained vines, the natural weed flora blooms in the spring and covers the loess soil in the summer. The plant protection is organic, the vineyard work is passionate, slow and patient. We got back into the car hugely inspired – the estate of János Márkvárt Jr had reached a new level in our eyes, and the question was how to tell the story of what we saw in Sauli. By the time we got to the Heimanns, the outline of a new wine had formed in our heads.
A few days later, Jani and ourselves agreed that he would do it differently in 2021: he would not make a “one-summer” Kadarka from the Sauli's crop, but go back to the traditional techniques of slow winemaking. That is to wait patiently, to ferment spontaneously, to bottle unfiltered from a good barrel.
The harvest took place on September 22.
I haven't picked such beautiful Kadarka grapes since 2013
Jani messaged us. The destemmed berries were put into open vats together with a few whole bunches, whereby fermentation started spontaneously. Following the three weeks of maceration, the pale free-run juice was poured into the lengthily-aged, light-toasted barrels with thick staves, which we chose specifically for this wine together with András Kalydy, the head of Kádár Hungary. Malolactic fermentation was carried out in them, then the completely filled barrels stood motionless for a while in the cellar. We went to taste them every month or every two months, and the spices of the rosehip and the Kadarka sometimes appeared stronger, then weaker at other times, and in the meantime the oaky notes of the barrel continuously became integrated with the flavours of the wine. Ageing ran a good course, everything went according to plan, the wine was taken out of the barrels after exactly one year, and within days the new vintage was put into them. We filled the blend of the two barrels into Szekszárd bottles without filtering and fining. To date, the Sauli showed its best form on that day: apricot, orange oil and pepperiness, the palate opening lightly, then finishing taut and ripe, with new flavours from Szekszárd.
We already started working on the packaging while it was ageing. Graphic designer Marcell Kazsik’s label also marked the most important element of the estate's new image – the seal of János Márkvárt Jr, which is pressed into the red wax.
1,300 bottles have been made.