Bott Frigyes – Just Enjoy
For those who like natural wines with explosive flavours
Last August, there was a great party halfway between the Botts’ Muzsla vineyard and cellar in Komárom, on the banks of the Danube, in Radvány. That’s where we first saw the inscription ‘Just Enjoy Rosé’, on the T-shirt of Frigyes Bott’s daughter, Zsuzska. Initially, we didn’t really get it, then it turned out that in the ice buckets there were three wines with the same label welcoming the guests: an unfiltered rosé, an opalescent Tramini and a light red – from which nothing was taken or added during vinification. That’s when the Just Enjoy series started, and now, we’ve asked Frigyes about the fresh vintage.
Once you said that the expression artisan was ruined before its real meaning was defined. And it seems as the world is going in that direction. What do you think natural wine is?
I’m searching for the answer to that. The grape is the basic question. I think organic growing is the basis of everything. And in the cellar, it’s about the lowest intervention. If you make wine this way, you can minimise sulphur use – a sulphur level of around 40 is enough. But only if you have perfectly healthy grapes. Then, there is fermentation: it should be spontaneous, in a natural way. We don’t really fine now – owing to the cultivation and the keeping on the lees, it’s not necessary. The wines are perfectly stable even with whole-bunch pressing. Fining is not an enemy, it doesn’t bring anything bad to the wine, yet it can take a lot from the aromas and the flavours. But we are not thinking within the box here either, I really can’t see any golden rules. What I can see, however, is that everything depends on the grapes.
In fact, since when have you been making natural wines?
Our first attempt, the Rare, made from Olaszrizling in amphorae, was in 2016. In 2017, we didn’t even filter or fine the reds. We let go of fining step by step with the whites as well, and we shifted gradually towards this even more natural direction.
As for the result, what’s more important: biodynamic grape growing or the natural vinification?
As I said, the basis of everything is organic growing. Then comes the minimal settling, spontaneous fermentation, followed by keeping the wines on the fermentation lees without racking until bottling. The exceptions here and there only prove the rule. Yet, in order for the wines to stay on the lees for 8-16 months, you really need perfect raw material.
You’re a Hungarian winemaker from the Felvidék (Upper Hungary). Why does a wine from Muzsla have an English name?
That’s a good question. At the beginning, we made the mistake of not having an entry-level wine for the unfiltered wines. With the filtered ones, we had the Granum. For those who were getting to know my wines, we said they should taste Muzsla through that. I think people reach out for the serious unfiltered wines if there is an entry-level wine before those. Or in this case, three wines, which are all truly about enjoyment. They are about letting go of our prejudices. For those people who drink unfiltered wines now, the filtered ones are horrible. And for those, who socialised on mirrory, filtered wines – the unfiltered ones offer an experience like going to church with an atheist! These three wines are unfiltered, but they are composed in such a way that even those people who are just getting to know the subject can enjoy them. Although the red is only made for Hungary, the other two appear in other European countries, thus we needed a name that is understood everywhere. So, hence, the name.
You have filtered biodynamic wines and the unfiltered range, so is this a third category?
Not at all. These are unfiltered and unfined natural wines with a touch of fine lees at the bottom of the bottle. They are for those who are getting to know the subject and for those who like natural wines with explosive flavours.
The larger part of the white is Tramini, with a little Olaszrizling which gives the structure. It was fermented for a week in open vats with – hamburger technology as we call it [see in detail at the end] – from there it went into a basket press, where we pressed it gently, before putting it into used barrels on fine lees. When the Olaszrizling is kept on the skins, it gives incredible substance and structure. If it’s not on the skins, and I agree about this with Béla Hamvas, it easily becomes the table wine of everyday life. I’ve been searching for the form I like the most since 2014, where the stems and the keeping on the skins give so much to it that it becomes a miracle. We give the Tramini that ferments within the berries to it, because with this aromatic variety, the aromas multiply, thanks to the fermentation within the berries. It fermented this way for a week and it became so intense that I almost started liking this variety as well. Their structure is built up separately, we blended them in an equal proportion before bottling.
The rosé is pure Kékfrankos, from below the forest, which is destemmed in bunches by hand, so that the berries don’t get damaged. It stands for a day destemmed in vats, then it is pressed the following day. It was fermented in the cellar’s oldest French barrels, in which it was also aged for 8 months on fine lees. It’s opalescent in the bottle because the settled fine lees add lots of flavours and aromas to it. It’s like spices to food. The palate, the nose and the flavours attack at once, I think there is complete harmony in it now.
Half of the red is Kékfrankos, the other half is Pinot Noir. Here also, the basis is hamburger technology: the whole bunches at the bottom of the vat are trodden on, the middle (if we look at it as the meat in the burger) is untouched whole-bunches, and the top is hand-destemmed, untouched berries. We use minimal maceration during fermentation, we let it work. When we are lucky or the climate is good, a maximum of 1 gram of sugar remains in the berries, and everything ferments out nicely until pressing, this way the wine becomes completely stable at bottling without any intervention.