Vintage 2017


In the quitness of this grey winter our new vintage is starting to evolve slowly. Some of our new wines are still fermenting, the airlocks filled with water are clucking according to the tidal rythm. Some others that are after fermentation, racked once or twice are already more developed, their personalities are more recognizable, they are settling nicely, so the date of bottling is coming soon.

Although '17 seems much more easy vintage than '16, it is about extremity again! In winter the cold, in summer the heat brings new records. Of course we do not complain, our cellar is almost full and finally we could harvest Hárslevelű and Furmint from the new vineyard planted in '15.

In January and February chilling cold decimates the diseases that in previous years wintered happily. Often there is around -15 Celsius or more in protected places as well that was not really typical on our submediterranean slopes before. March comes with too fast warming, immediately we find ourselves in a warm, sunny weather like in May with 20 Celsius that allures the vines to develop as fast as they can. The almond trees burst into flower on 13rd, the budding starts on 30th of March.

However the hard winter with its last forces attacks back in the middle of April with strong snow showers and stormy wind that womps the fresh shoots. Needless to say that after the disaster we had last year we eat all of our nails... Yes, on our feet as well! The temperature is permanently floating between 0 and 2 Celsius and above 200 m sea-level the snow covers the fresh leaves so here some part of them were frozen a little. The last night the forecast tells clean sky above Hegymagas that would have been a disaster. Fortunately the clouds disappears till dawn, the temperature keeps around 0 Celsius, so we finally escapes...

After this point the vintage shapes exemplary, the nature is - thanks to the hard winter - ethereal, clean and healthy. Of course we are excepting the general attack of mildew at the end of May. This year is the first when we are able to fight against it in time with very precise timing with the help of the experiment of the previous years. In dawn we can pick a lot of nettle, the girls are making teas of it and horsetail (equisetum) all the time. We mix it to the sprayings, we manage to reduce the necessary copper amount further. Our new team in the vineyard does its job in canopy management very precisely, this year is the first we do everything in time on every plot.

Than our summer is really-really dry and extremely hot! We are lucky, big storms avoids us but we get some hail, mostly in our Bakator plot. Fortunately it does not cause big problem, the rather the drought! We have to water our new plantation of Kéknyelű. The lavender terraces detonate into flowers and attract many of butterflies, bees and other bugs that are very important beings of a biodynamic farm. I think we could make a step further towards extending the biodiversity of our estate.

Because of the hot vintage we start the harvest of Pinot Noir for sparkling base wine very early, on 21st of August. The ripening is so fast so 9 days later we harvest the same plot for red. Although the heat hinders processing the grape a little, I think this is the first time we could run my Pinot Noir image very close that we are chasing since the vintage '13. Our Pinot Blanc that many of the readers know as "Talált szőlő" ("Found grape" in English) is so promising again. Now its acidity is more precise, the residual sugar is less, probably it can be a worthy continuation of vintage '15.

We start picking our first Hárslevelű, the first act is on the 1st of September then we continue after a week. In the middle of September we pick Furmint with suprising high sugar, it seems we do a little bit too late!... This is the first vintage for these new plantations and in this dry weather it seems for this first harvest we cannot expect anything more!

The harvest starts early in our old Riesling vineyard too, on 9th September. The maturity is already perfect, we select only the golden bunches. In the middle of September we harvest our new Riesling plantation as well and the quality of the grape exceeds all expectations!

After this nice period on the third week of September five days, around 110mm of rain mixes our cards! In our new plantations where we work with the soil between the rows the vines are not able to do anything with the wet accumulated in the soil so the skin of the berries starts to crack everywhere. All of our Hárslevelű and Furmint left outside have gone away, we can save some Riesling from our new plantation. Our old Riesling vineyard keeps its balance, the botrytis attacks but it dries beautifully later. This is the first time we harvest the grape for Venus after the other harvests of dry Riesling, on 2nd and 3rd of October.

We have plenty of difficulty still on the side of processing but we manage to make some steps further: we deploy our new vertical hydraulic press, we can avoid using pump for the crushed grapes anytime, at least half of the juices and new wines are racked by gravitation, 60% of the whites are fermented in amphoraes, we check out new extraction experiments and oak barrels. In case of some new wines we let them on the first lees for more time without added sulphites and we bottle our first skin-contact Chenin Pét-Nat experiment as well...

Some weeks ago we visited Uroš Klabjan, natural winegrower in the Slovenian Istria. His words and thoughts, that are absolutely parallel to my philosophy, I recall almost every day. We experiment every year, ideas and inspirations come. From where? We do not really describe... This is the thing that really keeps the flame alive in ourselves. Seeking ways continuously! Trying new ideas, experiments and every effort in order to show the nature, our terroir even cleaner and with even more expression!

What if some day we weak up and we feel that okay, we have already arrived, we already know everything and we make the wines exactly the same way we did last year? At that time for sure we have already started to decay...

István Bencze