Sike Balázs Pincéje – Badacsony
We got to know Balázs Sike via the Skizo wines and we’ve been working with his wine with their ‘colourful hands’ labels for many years with great success. Good value wines, reliability and precise winemaking are the things that first come to mind when we think about these light (mainly) single-varie
Good value wines, reliability and precise winemaking are the things that first come to mind when we think about these light (mainly) single-varietal wines. A few vintages ago, Balázs started making wines based on place of growth notes, with a different approach, from distinct Badacsony terroirs, with longer ageing. With lots of experimenting and increasing familiarity with the plots, Balázs crafted the wines to become more and more refined, and eventually took them into his name. Human-scale winemaking remains central in Badacsonytördemic, where they make the wines in the old stone building with solar panels, and they harvest the rare varieties from steep parcels, from altogether three hectares.
What are the things that define the current period?
Plots, vineyard work and bottling. We are standing our ground everywhere at the same time, and additionally, in the forest vineyards, there is the protection against wild animals. During periods of serious drought, deer peck at the juicy, fresh buds. The most important point in our life and also the happiest is that the new brand, the Sike Balázs Pincjé (The Balázs Sike Winery) could be set up. This is the fruit of the last 10 years.
How many people are in it? Who deals with what?
I don’t know any other winery in which so few people deal with such a number of bottles. (The new brand and the Skizo wines are made under the same roof.) There are four of us – apart from Réka, three of us work in the cellar – Csilla has been working with us since April, Balázs from the beginning. The grapes are a different matter and for the vineyard work we have outside help. We would like to have as few machines working in the vineyard as possible.
How do you choose the terroirs?
Most of the terroirs are our own but we have lots of requests to cultivate the vineyards nearby. When a vineyard is exciting, we get a sparkle in our eyes. It’s important that my greatest motivation is not ownership. I have a 70-year-old friend who owns one parcel in Csobánc. He arrived on the hill in his 20s, when he purchased the plot. He told me once that with that purchase he only received the right to cultivate the upper layer of the earth’s surface for 50 years, while the vineyard and the culture are a thousand years old. This humble approach also characterises our work. This region is my natural habitat, I feel that it’s about a lot more than simply winemaking. I’ve been cycling on the hill since my childhood, I’ve been to all of it. And yes, there are still plots I’m keeping an eye on.
Why these varieties?
In the case of hill grapes, we step beyond technological winemaking. After the soil and the location, then the most important consideration is the variety. In our initial ideology, the main role was given to the variety – we’ve been dealing with these for 10 years, the Zeus and the Pinot Noir arrived together with the incredible-quality plots, which were simply planted with them. I was certain that the place of growth character would take the wine into the direction we want it to be about.
If someone were to start out around here, what would you recommend them?
My secret favourite is Zeus, I recommended it to a chap who is clearing forest plots on the hill now. Alongside it, there’s Kéknyelű, Olaszrizling and Furmint. I would recommend something from which ageable white wines can be made, and which reflect the soil. But, for example, I’d surely not go in the Riesling direction. They can make it a lot better at other places.
Who do you hang out with?
My great friend is Peti Bakonyi (the Villány winemaker). He’s my ideological partner in crime – our perception of wine is very similar. We don’t have to explain what is important and why to each other. It is like that with Peti. And in the area, I hang out with Áron Papp from Szent György Hill. Whenever we can, we get together on a weekly basis.
The life of a winemaker is difficult for the reason that in one subject, if you’re lucky you have the maximum of 30 chances to try something out. One has to be focused. In plant protection, we minimalize the chemical load in dry years, and with every step, we get closer to organic cultivation. It is especially important on hill-grown wines. It’s necessary because of the longer maceration and spontaneous fermentation. I’m constantly occupied by the questions of fermentation, malolactic fermentation and skin contact. I’ve learnt that a wine is not just about intense aromas. It’s a thing I was not willing to accept when I was young, but since then, I’ve moved on it fairly well. To make these wines work, one has to chill out and get spiritual.
If we only taste one wine from you, which one would be it?
It would be the 2018 Kéknyelű or the Zeus.
What’s your outlook for the future?
I would like to further strengthen the team, so that there’s more time and energy for those details we’ve talked about. Special terriors, targeted grape growing and winemaking actions. We’d also like to convey the atmosphere that defines us even more. We are creating a tasting room in the 200-year-old, vaulted building. Outside, the terrace is slightly more bustling, it’s usually a station for bike tours. Under the vaults, people will be able to spend more time with the wines. They’ll have the chance to concentrate on the flavours, aromas, to chat to the person next to them or give themselves some time. The main point of wine consumption is exactly that opening a bottle of Kéknyelű can be an event in itself. It only works if the garnish is also provided.