A Babarcszőlős winery, a Diósviszló vineyard.
The two are so close to each other that the old GAZ (a military jeep) doesn’t even have time to warm up in the short time that it takes to get to the vineyard. This is the western end of the Villány wine region, and to the south of it, almost all the village names include the name of the Drava. The river is close and so is the Croatian border – this is one of the last vineyards in the region. Ákos Ruppert studied to be an engineer, thus the ideology and precision comes from him, while the finer details are cared for by Katus (his wife) and Andris (his brother). We talked to Ákos, and among other things, we learnt why Alice is so important.
We didn’t slow down
Everything worked out well at ours, the grapes are healthy and thriving. We are through blooming, there is still a bit of wetness in the soil, even though there wasn’t as much rain here as in other places. Besides, the wind is blowing constantly, which also works for us against fungal diseases. The grapes are vibrant, they are growing nicely despite this year’s record number of bunches. I have to admit that in this situation we are swimming against the tide. A lot of people have stopped cultivating, they are doing less work among the vines, and are using weed killers instead of hoeing. We, on the other hand, didn’t slow down with the vineyard work, and have been using our reserves, trying to move forward and do the tasks on time. This way, we cause less damage to the plants and it’s easier to protect the bunches.
We’re going step by step
We’re taking larger and larger steps towards sustainable growing: we’ve abandoned the use of herbicides on all our plots, we have started working with a special hack, which has been used on organic estates in Western Europe for decades. In Austria, it is called the Fingerhacke. We have our own version of that hoe, with the fine tuning happening now. It’s like a disk, like a tyre with fingers that loosens the soil under the rows. The machine was developed with the help of Peti Bakonyi, who got it manufactured. I felt that we needed an alternative solution for us, because the surroundings of the vines are changing. Such weeds are appearing that can only be got rid of by moving the soil, as they survive everything else. If we manage to break up the bottom of the rows, after the second or third occasions, it forms a soft soil mixed with weeds. It’s a soil layer that is full of life, and that takes up the wetness and hardly emits it. No one else currently does it around here. We visited Sepp Moser a couple of years ago. It was a formative experience. They practice the same, they cultivate the bottom of the rows, with grass growing between the rows with lots of weeds and plants with different root types. We planted these as well, at ours there is flower cover between the rows for two months, which is full of insects and bees.
The new tractor driver
There are three of us, and as the size of the estate has decreased, we don’t have to sell any more grapes – now we grow all of them for our own wines. And as the 10 hectares of vineyards cannot justify another tractor driver, I took his place. We have some help in the winery from people we’ve often worked with, but we do all of the everyday work by ourselves: fining, pouring-over and filling. Beside it, Andris is in charge of image and packaging – in this he is given a free hand.
The soil is different when it’s full of life
The most important consideration is to have such raw material that can do a bit more than the average: more flavoursome, tastier, free of chemicals and rich in aromas. I’m certain that if the soil is different, if it’s full of life, then the crop will be better too. This is the only way. One has to inject life into the soil from which the plant can be vibrant and can survive the extreme weather from more of its own resources. On the other hand, we wouldn’t rely on nature in the winery, we love to direct things a lot more, ‘to develop products’. So, we only want to incorporate from the eco-friendly ideology those elements that certainly make the outcome better. It’s the direction but not without sense.
The wine style is the most important
Contrary to the original aim of making single-varietal wines, we started developing products with unique character and flavours. Such a wine is Kandúr, whereby it’s not the composition of the wine that is the most important aspect, but rather the wine’s style. Still, out of the single varieties, it’s Cabernet Franc that I can see the future of. It can be good for more than one thing for us, not only for the dense and specially selected big reds. It feels good here, ripens properly and has found its place – and we have quite a lot of it.
We are in a constant cycle of continuous experimentation, but the two major questions are how much oxygen we ferment with and the amount of fine lees we age on. The conclusion so far is that the wine needs a lot more oxygen than what we assumed at the beginning.
Alice in Wonderland
We wanted a unified concept so that we can express the wines’ characters around one theme. Alice is an old tale, which is a good basis because everybody knows it. The best thing about it is that nothing is obvious about it and the whole thing is a bit surreal. It sprang out of Zsolti Unger’s head because there are a lot of hares in our vineyards. We could identify with it immediately, as it’s a bit out of a fairy-tale and it also resembles our own story. Interestingly, there are even more hares in the vineyard since the name came. They possibly know that nobody will hurt them here.