There are only five kilometers between them, but their styles are tangibly different
Hangyál Pince Pannonhalmi Főapátság
We know that there are dedicated winemakers. But when we called Zsolt Liptai from Pannonhalma and asked him if he could talk to us about Pannonhalma Arch Abbey’s Sauvignon Blanc and he replied that he’s tasting wine in Champagne for a week, well, then we got a bit edgy. “No problem, you should talk to Balázs Hangyál until I get back, his Sauvignon is at least as good as ours.”
We called Balázs. “We can’t meet now, I’m in Südsteiermark [South Styria] with my wife, Kati, for a week, tasting Sauvignon Blanc.” Eventually, we managed to bring the meeting under the roof on the ‘Nyúl Alps’, that is one of the highest points of Sokoró, in the cool Gerhás-tető vineyard that overlooks the abbey and is surrounded by the forest.
Zsolt Liptai, Pannonhalmi Főapátság: I say, without these hardworking ‘brushmaker’ Nyúl people, there would be nothing in this wine region. So, all my respect to these diligent folks like Balázs. Here is the engine of the wine region. The Nyúl people live up here on the hill, they work here and most importantly: they have been drinking wine here for centuries.
Balázs Hangyál, Hangyál Pince: I always tell the story that during the war, even Napoleon let the people in Nyúl grow grapes and make wine. Of course, it was mostly for the French soldiers. Back then it was mainly Olaszrizling, Riesling and Tramini that grew on mixed plantations. That was the past.
Zsolt: It’s not easy working with Sauvignon Blanc – it’s an unruly, tough, bushy grape variety with lots of leaves. It’s an aromatic variety, but it gives more than the other aromatic ones. Its flavours are nice, it can be layered, and if someone pays attention to it, it can have several faces. Balázs and I, we’ve been competing for years to know whose is nicer but the competition has not been decided yet. I think it never will. If I want to simplify it: its New World face exudes lots of aromas but the flavours do not always follow. There’s the French style, which is about place of growth and the soil appears intensively in it, the nose and the palate are elegant and more restrained. What I try to do is fuse these two. And there’s the Slovenian, South Austrian Südsteiermark style: intense and flavoursome with gooseberry and citrus fruit.
Balázs prefers the Slovenian style. His wine must be drunk in the sunshine in large sips. It’s the wine of the spring and the summer. Ours at the abbey is a richer wine for the cooler afternoons and evenings. Even with food, it requires more alongside it. There are only five kilometres between them, but their styles are tangibly different. Even though, if we put their analytical sheets next to each other, in terms of acidity, sugar and alcohol – there would be no difference between them.
Balázs: For me, what’s Sauvignon Blanc is indeed Slovenia. I thought I should bring Slovenian clones to this former estate of the arch abbey, on the top of the Gerhás. Then they set my mind at ease by telling me they’re also planting French clones. Now, I’m doing the same. We harvest the green bunches from one plot in one batch, by hand. We work quickly, age on fine lees, solely in tanks.
Zsolt: Here every parcel has a separate meso-climate, and this variety reacts astonishingly to each one. I put it together as a mosaic. We don’t use barrels either, but at the beginning I enhance the complexity and the layers with a short period of skin contact. It provides lessons even as a wine. As you touch it or move it, it loses the aromas. Last year, I was calming Balázs down, telling him not to pour the wine away – instead that he should leave it alone for two weeks after bottling and that the aromas would come back. And they did. Two weeks ago, it was Balázs who was convincing me not to lose faith, that its layers would come out. And indeed, they did.