Egerszalok , 3rd week of september . On my way back to Budapest , I spend a day or two in and near Eger , a great city which gave its name to one of Hungary's wine region, the Eger wine region, better known for its Egri Bikaver ( Eger's Bull's Blood ) . I spent the night in a campsite in Feldebro near there , and visited the St Andrea winery the following morning .
I had heard about the estate while attending the Borfalu wine fair in Budapest . Somebody told me : " you should visit the place, the guy there works well and makes many different small cuvees " . Back in the hostel, I had made some research on the internet and found out his phone number, called, and as the man spoke english, I could explain my interest for a visit in the next 10 days , which he welcomed .
The winery lies at the south exit of Egerszalok , a village east of Eger . New facility . As I was looking at the premises , Gyorgy Lorincz arrived and we soon went together in his van to see several of his vineyard plots . He is about 40, soft-spoken and seems an easy-going person . He provides me with lots of information about his vineyard and style of work as we drive to the hills . I try to take notes of his explanations, wich is not very easy when the van shakes on the bumpy tracks . I feel he appreciates my interest in looking at the different plots and varieties and he excuses himself when having to answer calls on his cell . The first plot is on the hills near the road to Verpelet . Small plot of Chardonnay ( 0,3 hectare ) . The climat's name is Kovaszo . The rows are not very close to each other and he says he will maybe plant another row in between . 1 kg of grapes per vine in these Chardonnay rows . In his winery , he makes both blends from different plots and separate small cuvees . He says he began to make wine commercially in 1999 . The new winery was built in 2002 , and staff is 4 people including himself , plus a student from the Budapest University who makes research and experiments in the winemaking process . He shows me then a recently planted (2 years) Kekfrankos plot . Kekfrankos ( Blaufrankisch ) is a Hungarikum (indigenous hungarian grape variety) wich got its name from the Naopleon's soldiers : when in Hungary for one of Napoleon's wars , they loved this red wine made from this variety and frequently asked the locals for it . They had to pay with the blue bills ( french army's special issued money ) for it . 9 shoots per vine, and 4-5 clusters . Further , a few Pinot Noir rows , 2 years old too . He kneels down to look at the grapes . He says he will soon take samples to have the Ph checked . This will decide of the harvest's start . 1 or 2 weeks from now , probably . He says the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay we just saw have been planted immediately after grafting . This was unusual and a bit risky, but it worked, and now he has already grapes on these vines, when elsewhere with the traditional delay, the vines are'nt productive yet . The total surface of his estate is 18,5 hectare, plus 4 hectare worked with associates .
Further, we look at a few Cabernet rows with which he makes rosé . He is thinking twice about keeping this Cabernet and may graft Pinot Noir on it some day . About the soil in general in his vineyards : quite heavy soil with some sort of clay in different layers, some ryolite and also some tuff .
We drive to a Dulo ( hungarian name for a climat ) named "Pipis", along a wooded area . Successively : recently planted Viognier, then older rows of Olaszrizling, then recently planted rows of both Olaszrizling and Pinot Gris . He wants to cut down the remaining older Olaszrizling and have it grow again with a different training system, plus plant an additional row between each row . On the whole , there is a volontarist approach at St Andrea and I feel that he devotes his energy to sow the seeds for a vineyard more fitted for quality wines . A group of workers is manually digging up and combing the ground around
We drive to a last location with rows of Kadarka ( another Hungarikum ), Merlot, Nebbolio ( of which he planted 320 vineroots ) and Csokaszolo, which is also a Hungarikum, a very rare one . He kneels down to taste the Kadarka [ first picture, at the top of the page ] .
Back to the winery now . Pneumatic press (Bucher) for 1 ton , 1,4 ton . Whites and rosés are fermented in barrels, reds 1/2 in cask 1/2 in stainless vats . We walk into the cellar . Nice big tronconic wooden vats on the right ( hungarian oak ) . We look at the underground cellar wich was dug into the underground tuff , before the winery itself was built .
We now go upstairs to taste the wines :
__1 St Andrea Olaszrizling 2004 . Pipis Dulo . Szolati 131/17 (the exact location of the Dulo ) . White wine. He opens this bottle in front of me . Old vines (1972). Late harvest but he says lots of rain diluted the aromas of the wine in this millesime . Matured 6 months in barrels ( 1 & 2 year-old casks) because the wine was lighter this year .
__2 St Andrea Olaszrizling 2003, Pipis Dulo, Szolati 131/17 ( cadastral location) . Another year . More complexity. More minerality . Was awarded against 20 other wines in a contest . Whole clusters pressing . 80% new oak this time . 14° , does not feel like . 2003 was an atypical year . They had to add tartaric acid because the Ph was so high . He says winemakers in Hungary have to counter the image of high-yield wines from when kombinatts were making huge volumes of whites . Olaszrizling is alas associated with this wine productivity of the socialist era .
__3 St Andrea Napbor 2004, Egri cuvée. White . Blend of Chardonnay (50%) Pinot Gris (35%) and Olaszrizling (15%) . Superb aromatic nose . Fermented in barrels , then matured 6 months in cask ( 15% new oak ) . 13° . 1900 Ft (8,4 Euro) . Bottled march 2005 . In about 2 years , he will blend 6 varieties instead of 4 for this wine . 6500 bottles in 2004, 15000 in 2003, this cuvée makes the biggest single volume of the estate .
__4 St Andrea Rosé 2004 . Blend of Cabernet Franc , Kekfrankos (Blaufrankisch) and Cabernet Sauvignon . Fermented in barrels . Usually , he makes bled rosé (saignée) but in 2004 he pressed directly . The rosé wine market is growing in Hungary, where wineries make usually light rosés . In St Andrea, they make rosé wines wich are more intense and aromatic , which also age better . His 2003 rosé was elected top rosé wine among ten others in Denmark .
__5 A bottle without label : Pinot Gris 2004 . Released soon , he will begin to sell it next month . 190 bottles of only... That is a small cuvée ! Will be priced at 2500 Ft (11 Euro) . Harvested less than 1 kg of grapes per vine . 8 months in wood, 50% in 1 year old cask and 50% in new cask . Nice light greenish color . Discreet nose . Good acidity . He says this is the 2nd millesime of this cuvée . The 2003 was so beautiful when he tasted it that he decided to plant more Pinot Gris [ see picture of the young vines where he spoke to the workers ]. He adds that even with the more difficult 2004 millesime he thinks he can make a great wine .
__6 No label . St Andrea Egri Bikaver 2003 . Red . Egri Bikaver means "Bull's Blood from Eger" . The story about the origin of the name says that during the wars against the occupying turkish forces ( and after many defeats ), hungarian soldiers prepared themselves for a battle with drinking lots of this wine , and when the turks saw their excitement and their beards wich had turn red with the wine , they were terrified and thought they had drunk bull's blood . The battle was one of the first to reverse the turkish invasion and that's why this wine is emblematic for hungarians . Not on the market yet . Will be presented next year . Dark colour . Tasteful and chewy . This wine just coats the mouth . Great wine . Merlot (38%) Kekfrankos (39%) Cabernet Franc (13%) Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) . He wants to reduce the C.S. share . His Kadarka and Kek Medoc are too young to be included in the blend . He says he does not want a Bikaver that would be too tannic . He plans also to include in the future some Pinot Noir and Syrah . 14 000 bottles . Alas I can't have a bottle yet , will have to wait next year (if I can find it in France) . About the winemaking techniques , he says there is no fining or filtering usually at St Andrea ( only exceptionally ) . For Pinot Noir , there is just some filtering 2 weeks before bottling .
__8 St Andrea Kekfrankos 2003 , Toberc (Dulo). Red . 482 bottles . Lots of fans wait for this one to be on the market . 14 months in new oak . Tastes differently from ordinary Eger Kekfrankos . Eger KF are usually more rude , have more acidity . Here he looked for both ripeness and acidity . He destemmed_others also destemmed , but they usually move too much the cap , too violently, with too much of extraction .
__9 St Andrea, Kiseged Zweigelt ( I did not write down the year but think it was 2004 ). Kiseged is the Dulo's (climat) name . Zweigelt is an austrian variety , a cross between St Laurent and Kekfrankos . Beautiful nose . Lots of complexity . Powerful wine . The soil on this climat is very poor , with tuff . He has plans for this climat : he would like to replant and graft Pinot Noir there, also with additional rows between the existing ones , to reach a density of 10 000 vines/hectare for a better competition . The bottle price will be about 4000 Ft (17,6 Euro).
__10 St Andrea Egri Merlot 2003 . For everyday consumption . Pleasant to drink . Ripeness was perfect on the Merlot in 2003 .
__11 St Andrea Cabernet Franc 2003 . More tannic . Not his favorite . 14° . There was a good concentration at the harvest . Others around harvest the Cabernet Franc sooner .
__12 St Andrea Egri Bikaver (Bull's Blood) Superior 2003 . Red . Awarded against 44 other Bikavers . Bottle was opened a few days ago , a little bit oxydized , but great . That's also a wine that fills beautifully the mouth . Great Bull's Blood . Will be priced 5800 Ft (25,5 Euro).
Time to leave , the visit was great , thank you Gyorgy .
Driving (fast) on the winding road to Kerecsend and Budapest , where I have to give the rental car back, I listen to Bartok , the hungarian classical radio station , which airs some Wagner orchestral music . The wagnerian momentum pairs beautifully with the mood and the wines I just tasted ...