What novelties await us on our favorite restaurants’ wine list this season? Who are the up-and-coming winemakers who should definitely be on our “wine radar” if we want to taste some exciting new releases? From which wine bottle does the label of Olivér Csepella smile back at us? What do István Balassa’s Tokaji Furmint and the protagonist of “Back to the Future” have in common? All this was revealed at an event organized by Bortársaság. Report!
First of all, let us clarify one thing: we are neither winemakers nor wine experts. We are just one of the lucky members of the press who had the opportunity to take a peek at one of the most important events of the Hungarian winemaking profession, BORtavasz. Therefore, Terroir notes, tannin content and DOC classification will not be discussed here. We arrived at the event of Bortársaság as amateurs with capital letters, and we threw ourselves into the thick of things with the utmost enthusiasm (reassured by the slogan “All is well, the wine is fine”).
After a two-year forced pause, Hungarian winemakers and gastronomic decision-makers were once again able to rejoice together: the event on the 12th of April was a real celebration, if only because of the unusual choice of venue. Previously, the BORtavasz event (and its sister program in the autumn) was held at the Bortársaság warehouse on Kőérberk Road, where nearly 700 people gathered in 2019. It was evident that they would have to look for a bigger venue.
Hence the choice of the Eiffel Műhelyház, where, in greater comfort and with a touch more elegance—but still with the same intimate atmosphere—Bortársaság could welcome its most important gastronomic partners, who could learn about the new vintages from the winemakers themselves. BORtavasz speaks specifically to the gastronomic scene, those restaurant owners, restaurant managers, chefs and sommeliers who, with the arrival of spring, when preparing the new spring-summer menu, also pay attention to ensuring that not only delicious dishes but also matching wines are brought to their guests’ tables (and it’s also not rare that the head of a gastro business will book certain items for themselves here, which will only be available for tasting in their restaurant).
Walking among the stands, another motto of the Bortársaság rang in our ears: “Wine is our passion”—the simplicity and clarity of the statement is not just an empty phrase, as was demonstrated at the event. We also believe that wine is not just a heavenly drink in a glass but more of a story whose protagonist is the people themselves. With this spirit, we walked from one corner of the hall, from the stand of Frigyes Bott, to the section presenting foreign wines and champagnes (many novelties have been added to Bortársaság’s offer in this category). A few words about trends: sparkling wines remain popular, consumers who prefer the classic line are returning to their usual favorites, and the younger generation is not afraid to experiment; they are happy to sip wines from biodynamic farming and lesser-known wines from emerging wineries.
It would have been an almost impossible mission to interview all the winemakers (nearly sixty!) at BORtavasz, so we let our intuition guide us to the counters.
We first stopped at the stand of Somló winemaker Imre Györgykovács, where we tasted the new Italian Riesling from an unlabelled bottle, followed by the “spry” Tramini. As we found out afterward, the name of the seventy-two-year-old winemaker has been a household name in the industry for decades—he has been working with the Bortársaság since the early nineties, and his wines are known and appreciated in countless places from Gundel to Borkonyha. He produces around 5,000 bottles a year, and Imre still cultivates his half-acre vineyard with his wife, with dedication, love and humility. “Let the grapes be beautiful,” he says, because only from them can you make really good wine.
As we are less familiar with biodynamic wines, we were happy to discover the counter of Dávid Bökő, who is regarded as a “fresh competitor”. Here we tasted an Italian Riesling made without filtration and clarification, with minimal sulfur (so fresh that the bottle was not even labeled). Then we slowed down our steps at the Franz Weninger stand. The characteristic label on the rosé bottle had us completely hooked, and we would have bet that the “culprit” was Olivér Csepella of Halisten Stúdió. Our assumption was correct: the Austrian winemaker Franz’s grandmother, the figure of Rózsa Petsovits (after whom the wine is named), comes to life on the bottle, which holds a harmonious blend of Syrah, Zweigelt and Pinot noir.
At the booth of István Balassa, the Tokaj winemaker, we were faced with more riddles: on the label reads the name Marty McFly—István quickly tells us that the winery’s “heraldic animal” of pure and elegant Furmint was once the duck photographed on the beach of Csopak, and since then everyone has referred to the item as “Duck” (graphic: Vanda Bredács). The white wine, made from the grapes of six different vineyards, will arrive on the shelves in mid-May.
And those who wanted some solid food in the middle of the tasting didn’t have to compromise either: the street food cart of the Macok Bisztró from Eger stationed in the courtyard, as well as the silvery four-wheeler of the Anyukám Mondta, who also brought their gigantic pizza oven. Many times throughout the day, Kreinbacher champagne bottles were turning up and were opened by hand, adding to the already great festive atmosphere. Wow!
Photos: Bortársaság—Géza Talabér