“Every wine has its established résumé” – a conversation with Ági Heimann
The Heimann estate has been built up by the family for almost 30 years and is currently led by Zoltán and Ági, and their elder son, Zoltán jnr. Earlier, Ági was in charge of winemaking but when their son returned home from his internship as a graduated winemaker, they reassigned the tasks.
Since then, she has been working in a more general role, overviewing everything from the intricate details of winemaking to hospitality. We talked to her about the current tendencies in winemaking, the real Heimann style and also about the story of the new Agnus and the Franciscus.
I noticed a quote on your website, which is attributed to you, and states that winemaking is a genuinely creative job. It’s as if two extremes in winemaking exist: precise engineering and a more laid-back, artistic attitude. Where do you place the winery on that scale?
Exactly in the middle, but this doesn’t just manifest itself in the wines but also in any decision making or company matter. Behind the winery, there is serious science, whereby minutely dismantled microbiological processes are analysed. It can be said that we use food industry science to some extent, but for us it has always been important that it does not lead the winemaking.Obviously, we can’t avoid using machines and modern technology, but too much of a technical approach makes the wines uniform, or at least sets a standard. What we feel is that we need more or something else. We need such character that doesn’t always fit into certain parameters but that’s exactly what it makes it exciting. This duality also characterises our everyday lives: we don’t want to go in the direction of something too extreme, but the wines should be enjoyable and unique. These borders are mostly pushed by my son the most now, while I try to hold him back. There’s always balance-seeking among the three of us.
This balance that comes from within possibly gets into the wines as well. Do you think the key to it is the family?
The family-run business matches my personality a lot, because I can work with those who I trust and love the most. And it’s a pretty rare thing. I don’t want to construe too much into it, but this background surely appears in front of other people. We get a lot of feedback that implies we show the same thing in wine as who we are.
It’s no secret that the apropos of our conversation is that you have two new wines coming out in March. The first thing I noticed is that a lot of your wines seem to make some kind of reference to the family’s history…
Every wine has its settled résumé. They’re usually connected to such family members who used to work or are working with wine. Agnus is of course my name but it’s more complex than that. The first time we made such a Merlot selection was in 2009, when it was a perfect year for Merlot – it’s rare to see such beautiful and healthy grapes. It was an outstanding vintage, so we felt that we should have a nice selection from it. We released the Agnus from four barrels of 1,500 bottles and it said on the label: Agnus Dei Dona Nobis Pacem.
Which comes from a church song, right?
Yes, I have sung it several times at the Catholic mass, and these Agnus Dei codas always brought some kind of relief. I almost get goosebumps when I recall some of them. That’s what the Agnus is like for me. Merlot is not a loud variety, or at least not on Szekszárd’s loess and it’s generally regarded as a lovely, round, velvety, tamer type of wine along with its several layers. A wine like this surely brings positive feelings at the end of the day.
And what about the Franciscus? I suspect that the Christian name has some kind of significance here as well.
It can be approached from two sides. From one side, there have been a number of men called Ferenc in the Heimann family, and for seven generations Ferenc was the number one name for the men. So, this is a sort of honouring of our ancestors. The other side is that the wine has two components: besides the Cabernet Franc, there’s also Sagrantino in it. Sagrantino is a very special variety that is unknown in Hungary. It was also unknown to us, and we had to work out what we can do with it. We visited Montefalco, a very small wine region in Umbria, where Sagrantino is grown on a couple of hundred hectares. That’s when we learnt that this place is really close to Assisi, which is the birthplace of Saint Francis.
Compared to the tranquil silkiness of the Agnus, is the Franciscus zestier?
It’s a special wine that’s hard to taste – a real intense experience. It’s possibly one of our most ageable wines, it can go through lovely changes during the years. It rewards ageing. Sagrantino has loads of tannins, it’s almost unenjoyable as a grape, and that’s why we try to be gentle with it. We thought a lot about ageing and it was evident that we should put such concentrated and nice wines into small barrels, but today we rather age it in 10-hectolitre barrels. Micro-oxidation would do it good, but we don’t want to burden it with oak yet. It’s worth giving it some time, as it keeps revealing its newer and newer aspects. Whoever can, should put some bottles of it away, as it can bring joy later on as well.
Bortársaság has been representing the Heimann Family Estate for 25 years.