Zoltán Demeter of Tokaj presented his 2009 vintage to an audience of sommeliers, writers, merchants and enthusiasts in the old Festetics Palace, now the Andrássy University, in Budapest. The wines showcased the entire range of the 2009 vintage regardless whether available on the market or not yet. It needs to be noted that the majority of the wines were dry as opposed to aszú or other sweet categories, which Tokaj is famed for. An indication of the important role that dry wines carved for themselves.
The tasting sheet indicated all the technical details one would expect to have, but cannot always take for granted in Hungary. Zoltán commented that the technical details were like the notes for a composer: they help to understand what is going in the orchestra. These details enable him to understand the intricacies of his art.
As a backgrounder to Zoltán Demeter – he had spent some time in the USA, then a year’s stint in France before returning to Hungary to take over from his father and build up his own vineyard. This was the time when, for example, he decided to change the pruning regime to spur pruning in order to control the yield more efficiently or to do site selection wines to celebrate the quality of particular vineyards.
Zoltán dwelt slightly longer on more philosophical aspects of wine production in the Tokaj, in particular the unfulfilled potential of the region in producing diverse styles of wines. He identified the lack of belief as the most serious issue in the production of a wider range of styles and the fact that grape was still an undervalued produce: one kilo selling for 40-60 Forints [20p] or a litre of wine for 200 Forints [70p]. Zoltán believes that as long as vineyard work continues to be regarded as a moonlighting job, there is no chance to change perceptions, quality and thus the regard of the final product. The continuity of business and the focus on high quality would ensure that producers concentrate on generating repeat business, that is, better engagement with the customer and/or consumer. [editor’s note – I would add that there are quite a few quality conscious producers, e.g. Disznókő, Patricius, Pendits, Királyudvar, Royal Tokaji, etc]
It was in 2009 that Zoltán started to use Vino-Lok, the glass stopper, on his wines in order to support his reductive wine making philosophy. This thought is in line with his other belief of showcasing great terroir in its purity. As he concluded, it was the responsibility of the contemporaneous winemaking community to make consumers learn the crus of Tokaj to the same extent as those of Burgundy. This should be achieved through offering great wines on the market.
Pezsgő (Sparkling) 2009 (Furmint)
It is the first sparkling produced at his domain and also a new comer to Tokaj. Two or three years ago Zoltán was asked if he had had interest in sparkling. Being an open-minded person, he said ‘yes’ straight away.
Zoltán believes that there is an opportunity for sparkling revolution, as currently there is very low interest in this category from both the producer and consumer perspectives in Hungary. It is time to revitalise the category, which he believes had been flourishing some 150 years before.
Also, Zoltán explained his philosophy of why sparkling could be drunk before noon. As it is not a still wine, it would not hint at signs of alcoholism.
The wine tasted had not been disgorged, it was taken off the lees in the morning of the tasting.
Light lemon, quite large bubbles, some viscosity on the rim. Medium intense with ripe fruits of apples, pear, lemon zest and acacia. Quite a bit of honeydew. Off-dry with medium fine mousse, medium concentration, ripe fruits, lemon zest and tiny yeasty character, but no autolytic at all. Medium finish. 15.1
Birtokbor (Estate Wine) Dry 2009 (Furmint)
Birtokbor is meant to open the doors for consumer, in both dry and sweet categories.
Light lemon, with thin watery rim. Medium intense nose, very gentle acacia under chalky, mineral, quince and floral tones. Off-dry, fresh, silky and broad fruits with fleshy apples, quince and generous minerality. Rounded mouth-feel, good structure and medium finish. 15.4
Veres 2009 (Furmint)
Pronounced lemon. Medium intense, pure and lean nose with honeydew, acacia and lemon zest. Dry, fresh and rich in minerals. Lemon, acacia and camomile, good concentration, medium finish. Very lively. 16
Kakas 2009 (Furmint)
Light lemon with watery rim. Restrained, but very pure nose with rose petals, acacia and chalky notes. Dry, extremely fresh, exuberant minerals surrounded with limes, lemon and acacia. Very good concentration, yet retains a delicate elegance. Long finish. 17.2
Boda 2009 (Furmint)
Pronounced lemon, tiny water rim. Medium intense, quince, pears and acacia. Dry, fresh, highly extracted white stone-fruits, chalky with velvety acacia of wood. Quite fleshy on the back-palate, medium concentration and highly intense, long finish. 16.2
Lapis 2009 (Furmint)
Bright lemon with thin watery rim. Highly intense nose with floral tones of rose petals and camomile, along with honeydew and acacia. Dry, fresh, velvety texture with acacia and quince. Broad and fleshy fruitiness, less concentrated, quite intense, medium finish. 16.4
Szerelmi 2009 (Hárslevelű)
Lemon, pale white gold. Medium intense nose, vibrant aromatics of rose petals, lilies, white grapefruit, lemon zest and acacia. Dry, fresh, plenty of acacia from wood, chalky and pears. Quite tight body, velvety structure and white peppery finish, long. 16.6
Zoltán had got the cuttings from Imre Kalló in Eger to propagate GV in Tokaj so that they would be able to compare the ‘same’ fruit from different regions.
Pronounced lemon with generous viscosity. Medium intense, gooseberry, white pepper and quince. Hint of smokiness. Very light sweetness, quite a bit of acacia from wood, creamy and rounded. Alcohol a bit too high, the fruit does not carry it sufficiently. Medium finish. 15.5
Cabernet Franc 2009
30 days of maceration, basket pressed.
Medium ruby, quite viscous. Highly intense nose, tarry, graphite, meaty and sour cherries. Dry, fresh, high alcohol and very ripe medium-grained tannins along with smoky bacon, sour cherry and tons of cloves. Savoury and sweet of ripe fruit. A minty long finish. 16.1
Birtokbor édes (sweet estate wine) 2009 (Kövérszőlő, Sárgamuskotályos, Hárslevelű, Bátai, Góhér)
Light golden with a bit of watery rim. Highly fragrant nose with medium intensity of rose petals, lilies, honeydew, honey and a hint of acacia. Sweet, fresh, medium concentration on the palate; quince, pear and rose petals. Medium concentration and finish. 15.7
Főbor 2009 (Furmint, Hárslevelű)
Light gold with tiny watery rim. Subdued honeysuckle nose with acacia and camomile. Sweet, fresh, honey, peach and honeydew. Medium concentration, creamy texture and medium finish. 16
Aszú 2009 (Furmint, Hárslevelű)
Medium golden with tiny lemon rim. Medium intense nose, tiny orange peel, peach, pineapple and a very low level of botrytis. Tiny bit of cardboard. Sweet, fresh, but luscious and fleshy peach, melon and some pineapples. Botrytis is low in intensity and very restrained. Medium concentration, honeysuckle domination and medium finish. 15.8