Veszprémi Érseki Pincészet
Glory, international varieties, sacred colours
Veszprém is one of Hungary’s 12 Roman Catholic dioceses. It was founded by St. Stephen, as the first bishopric of Hungary. It envelops Lake Balaton from the north, its centre and heart is the castle of Veszprém, and its vineyard has been the same two-hectare grove in Mindszentkálla for 750 years. Until the 1990s, this ancient vineyard almost exclusively supplied the country with mass market wine. Now, they’ve started working on creating a new level of quality, from a well-known wine estate in this special place, with new players and goals, among the hills of the Káli basin.
At the edge of Mindszentkálla, the narrow path that leads up to the archdiocese's vineyard starts at an old stone cross. The history of the four-hectare estate dates back to 1277, when it became part of the then bishopric as a result of an estate exchange. It’s almost unreal, but true that these vineyards have belonged to the Archdiocese of Veszprém (its legal predecessor is the Bishopric of Veszprém) for the past 750 years. Following nationalization, for example, it only depended on the ingenuity of the chief accountant that the vineyard could remain part of the bishopric: the people responsible were blackmailed with a carload of wood, according to the legend.
The old nickname of the most spectacular part of the estate is Püspökdomb. Standing at the top, you can see the mesas around the basin from an unusual angle, and in clear weather you can see all the way to Szigliget. Descending the hillside, twinkling volcanic glass, basalt, tuff, andesite and limestone pieces emerge from the ground. In the last couple of decades, nature reclaimed the southern side of the hill, which had been planted around.
After several months of earthwork and weeding, the old terraces emerged from under the wild acacia trees. The dry-laid stone walls may have been built sometime in the 14th century. It can almost be stated as a rule that plots with such a long history are also among the best of the given region. Regardless of the winemaking style, the wines from here capture vibrant minerality, and a distinctive structure with warm, full and ripe flavours.
An ecclesiastical background, an exceptional location, thorough local knowledge and long-term planning – Antal Benesch started building on the best possible foundations when in March 2021 he was asked to lead and sort out the estate, which from that point on was not just meant for local and ceremonial consumption, but was based on modern and precise winemaking, with unique and selected wines. His experiences in Pannonhalma and on Szent György Hill are complemented by the approach and precision he found in Marlborough. The focus is on the fruit being picked at the right time and on explosive flavours. In addition to the invitation of Archbishop György Udvardy, the fact that the estate was built on the two white varieties which he likes to work more with than anything else, also weighed heavily on his decision. The two varieties are Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.
Textbook and pure flavours
The least in the way of nostalgic feelings and long-standing methods was put into winemaking. While the vineyards have a centuries-old history, the winemaking concept is fresh, up-to-date and precise. Similar to the New World standard, the top of the curve in these wines is provided by the fresh fruit and varietal notes. They have textbook, pure flavours from peach to citrus, and are balanced between acidity, sugar and density. The twist is the deeply impacting and vibrating volcanic note that is present in every wine, as the essence of the place of growth.
Four wines of the archdiocese are now appearing in the Bortársaság selection. The labels and the image are linked to the sacred life of Veszprém, to the Archdiocese of Veszprém, with colours, shapes and Latin expressions. The baroque putti of the estate wines (Vesprim Infula - bishop's mitre) and the female and male figures of the varietal wines (Mandorla - glory) have always been on the walls of the Archbishop's Palace.
Vesprim Infula Blanc 2022
The white estate wine of the Archdiocese of Veszprém was made from the winery’s typical varieties, blended from two plots with different characters. Half of it is Riesling, supplemented by 30% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Olaszrizling. While in Mindszentkálla, besides the volcanic basalt and rhyolite, it’s the limestone that defines the wines. In Felsőörs, it’s the much less stony, more fertile soil that is high in clay, which added a rounder, juicier character to the wine. They manually harvested the three varieties from both plots, which was followed by temperature-controlled fermentation, then three months of ageing, also in the tank, on fine lees. The aromas of stone fruits, such as peach and yellow apple, could already be felt during the bottling in April, and it’s still there in the wine. The label of the sacramental wine of the Archdiocese of Veszprém was inspired by the motifs of the banquet hall of the archbishop's palace.
Vesprim Infula Rouge 2021
The red estate wine of the Archdiocese of Veszprém from the area of Mindszentkálla, which has been cultivated by the diocese for 750 years. The two varieties (Kékfrankos and Cabernet Sauvignon) were harvested from a total of one hectare, some of the manually-picked fruit went into the fermentation tanks destemmed and some in whole bunches. Pressing was followed by 11 months of ageing in oak – half in Hungarian and half in French barrels. The estate's first red is a strong entry-level wine, which is rich and pronounced, with the precision typical of New World wines, and aromas of marzipan, cherries, blackberries and tobacco. Ripe plums and cherries on the palate. The labels of the Vesprim Infula wines were inspired by the motifs of the banquet hall of the archbishop's palace.
It's a small batch, of which a total of 1,500 bottles were made.
Mandorla Sauvignon Blanc 2022
The flavours of New World and Old World style Sauvignons are mixed in the best proportion at the Archdiocese of Veszprém. The base was harvested from a plot of 1.5 hectares in total, from the vineyard that has been cultivated by the archdiocese continuously for 750 years. The two harvest dates were followed by two separate fermentation technologies and ageing processes. The Sauvignon picked at the beginning of September was reductively fermented in temperature-controlled tanks after brief skin contact, making this the part acidity-led. Meanwhile, the must pressed from the much riper grapes, picked in mid-September, was fermented and rounded out under the constant stirring of the lees. The two base wines were blended after 4 months of ageing and then bottled in April. The female figures of the Mandorla labels were inspired by the motifs of the ceremonial dining room of the archbishop's palace.
Mandorla Rajnai Rizling 2022
The base material for the estate's most glorious wine was selected from three hectares in the Mindszentkálla area, which have been under the continuous cultivation of the archdiocese for 750 years. Textbook Riesling notes, apricot, honey, then peach on the palate, with a subtly salty, brightly acidic character. Following the manual harvest, the must was placed in temperature-controlled tanks, then after fermentation, half of the batch was aged without stirring, while the other half matured with continuous stirring of the lees. The female figures of the Mandorla labels were inspired by the motifs of the banquet hall of the archbishop's palace.
Our shared story continues with more wines.