The 22nd reason to come to Hungary
The north-east part of Hungary boasts the most valuable vineyards: we have Tokaj, the wines of the kings, king of the wines here, and another famous wine region, Eger, which is the second most visited destination for wine tourists after Tokaj. But what lies between these two wine regions?
I remember when the neighbour of Chateau Mouton Rothschild poured a wine from a vineyard he later sold to the great neighbour. „This wine costs 15 euros now, but the wines from this very same estate will cost much more soon, because the owner is the big player” – he said. This memory occured to me when Roland Hajdú, winemaker of lesser known Bükk wine region told us that his vineyards are in Bogács, a small village, only 10 kilometres from Eger top producer, Nimród Kovács’s Nyilasmár vineyards. Bükk wine region is one of the largest ones in Hungary, the other end is near Tokaj, again with noble neighbours. So if there are great terroirs here, why is Bükk so unknown? Well, the easiest explanation is that with two limelights in the north-east part of the country, a third one has no place, especially not in the same league. And it is true: Bükk cannot produce noble botrytised sweet wines, like Tokaj, and Bükk cannot produce full bodied, complex red wines, like Eger. What Bükk can produce, is the exciting, elegant white wines with refreshing acidity, and with a perfect expression of the terroir. Lighter bodied, lovely, fruit driven red wines and rosé wines are also made here – from places you would not expect. Let me recommend three of the wines tasted in Bükk.
Hajdú Roland Zenit, 2017
Grape came from Bogács, a village famous for its spa, from a hill called „Dollar Daddy”(after Hungarian immigrants sending money from the USA). The wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel, a unique example of the aromatic Zenit. It shows the potential of the variety: complex, gracious, exciting with flowery and nutty notes on the nose and juicy yellow fruits on the palate. Refreshing acidity, good length.
Gallay Pinot Blanc („Fehérburgundi”)
Roland Borbély, owner of Gallay Winery is a fan of sur lie technique, his wines are successful among the educated winelovers. This stunning, complex white wine was made in limited quantity, he only made 3 barrels. The wine fermented spontaneously and spent 20 months on lees in oak barrels. Very elegant, refined, complex, exciting, creamy, full of tropical fruits and flowery notes. Juicy, lovely, long.
Sándor Zsolt Zweigelt, 2015
Zsolt Sándor has his winery in an incredible place: in a celler above the city of Miskolc, a city which used to be ugly and industrial with negative records regarding criminal statistics. Miskolc has a mountain called Avas, where more than a thousand antic cellars hide, almost all of them are older than 200 years. Zsolt is a fan of Cserszegi Fűszeres, he makes superconcentrated wines of the grape. His Zweigelt is a fruity, exciting red wine, with a lighter body, yet concentrated, a good example of what kind of red wines Bükk is capable of.
The serious, the enthusiastic and the family guy
And now some more about the background of the above described wines. Three men, Roland Hajdú, Roland Borbély and Zsolt Sándor invited a handful of wine writers at the end of August to tell them: yes, Bükk wine region exists and yes, the wines from there are wines for humans. What’s more, the wines are of great quality, and the wine region even has future. All of them are serious, all of them are enthusiastic and all of them are men with a family, but still they have different characteristics, different merits. Roland Hajdú is moderate in hopes and dreams, two feet on earth, while Roland Borbély is full of energy, can’t stop speaking. The third guy, Zsolt is full of smile as well, 3 little kids are running around him, soon there will be four. What they have in common, is the strong vision of their wine region without any selfish motivation. They could have been selfish, their wines have already reached the wine stores of Budapest, some of them are available in chic city centre wine bars. Why do they carry the heavy burden of agitating other, less ambitious winemakers? Because they have realized, that without joining forces, the three of them are not enough to put Bükk in the wine map of Hungary, not speaking about the international map of wine. Hectares under vine are continuously decreasing, disputes about adding Bükk to Eger region have arisen. The only solution is to attract investors, new missioners, other ambitious winemakers who realize the merits of Bükk terroir. We, the handful journalists were convinced on this eventful day about the unique features of this wine region. At the moment the association for Bükk has 14 members, and since the association is open for others to join, the founders expect to grow.
The new Bükk classification system
Two levels will be introduced with strict rules and control, here are just a few of them:
Grapes must come from Bükk wine region, from own or strictly controlled vineyards, sugar level cannot be increased, acidity cannot be modified, enzimes are not allowed, chips are forbidden, alcohol level should be between 11.5 and 14 %, minimum ageing period is 6 months.
Grapes must come from 1st class vineyards of Bükk, from own or rented vineyards with a yield maximum of 1.5 kg / vine. Only typical grapes of Carpathian Basin can be used. Vineyards should be organic or under organic convertion. Manual harvest is a must. Sugar level cannot be increased, acidity cannot be modified, enzimes are not allowed, chips are forbidden, alcohol level should be between 12 and 14 %, minimum ageing period is 6 months in barrel and 6 months in bottle. Maximum sugar level: 4 g/l.