We are delighted to introduce you to these fantastic white wines from the historic vineyards of Tokaj in Hungary.
We actually began importing the wines of Attila Homonna – organic pioneer and standard-bearer for dry Hungarian whites – some years ago, having been introduced by our mutual friend Roland Velich of Moric. We now have the opportunity to expand the offering, including wines Attila makes for his great friend and like-minded grower Zoltán Jakab of Jakab Pince.
VINEYARD & CELLAR
The approach to vineyard management is simple in the extreme. Vine and soil protection are kept to a minimum. Cover crop provides a natural habitat for wildlife, such as bees, ladybirds and stag beetles (Homonna’s mascot). Undergrowth and cover crop are cut by scythe and composted (the same fate enjoyed by grape marc). Canopy management is paramount throughout the season, culminating in three passes through the vineyard the week before harvest to ensure perfect condition. Grapes are picked by hand only and usually come in two to three weeks before most begin harvest in the region, as acid drive is a cornerstone of the style of wines.
In the winery the grapes are pressed gently using a horizontal basket press. The musts ferment with indigenous yeasts in a mixture of used Hungarian (Kádár) and Austrian (Stockinger) barrels, as well as stainless steel. Jakab doesn’t use stainless steel and supplements its Austrian and Hungarian oak with barrels from Atelier Centre France. Ageing is also in the same vessels, usually for 11 months. The use of wood is delicate, with the focus on texture as opposed to flavour. Sulphur is used in the smallest doses necessary to protect the wine.
Homonna was established in Erdőbénye in 1999 by Attila Homonna, a pioneering electronic musician-cum-winemaker who has done so much to ignite excitement around dry wines from organically farmed vines in Tokaj. Attila owns 4 hectares of Furmint and Hárslevelű vines near Erdőbénye. These vines grow in the Határi, Rány and Meszes vineyards. He is dedicated to sustainability in all its forms – regenerating old vineyards, supporting local workers and limiting inputs to sulphur, baking powder, citrus oil, chamomile tea and minimal copper.
50% Furmint, 50% Hárslevelű. Mostly a blend of the Meszes-Csáky, Rány and Határi vineyards, which suit Hárslevelű so well. Meszes-Csáky faces south and is quite steep, with white, porous volcanic soil. Half the wine was fermented in Austrian Stockinger barrels (no new oak), the other half in stainless steel. The portions are then swapped for maturation. The warmer than average 2018 vintage gives a rich texture while still showing a racy acid backbone. This wine has a stony, waxy nose with honey, linden, pear and a spicy, pink-grapefruit peel finish.
It was love at first sight. Határi is where it all started. It is the first vineyard Attila discovered in 1999, and it is reputed in Tokaj as an outstanding area. He bought the first parcels here with vines that were over 100 years old, and they have been gradually replanted since. The topsoil here is layered, crumbled rhyolite, with a perlite subsoil. Határi wines have a friendlier feel than those from Rány. It’s all relative, of course, but they tend to be more lush and fruit-driven than mineral in character. The wine is fermented and aged in Stockinger barrels and Hungarian oak, typically between three and six years old.
Édes Hármas is a result of blending three (Hármas means triple) different, increasingly late harvests in 2018: one-third late harvest, one-third Szamorodni and one-third made up of botrytised aszú berries. This season featured an excellent, long and warm ripening season, with great conditions for the development of botrytis. The wine is fermented and aged in a small Kádár barrel. Alcohol 11.5%; RS 114.6g/L; pH 3.65; TA 4.3g/L.
The end result is a concentrated, tropical fruit-driven sweet wine. Flavours of semi-dried apricot, roasted pineapple, passionfruit, peach tatin and grapefruit curd come together to create waves of lush, mouthcoating texture.
Jakab Pince was established in 2007 by Zoltán Jakab, a medical doctor who had been infected by the winemaking bug as a child by watching his late grandfather tending to his small vineyard near Miskolc, a large city about 50km from Tokaj, making a small amount of wine each year for family consumption. Some years later, his father purchased some vines in the Padi-hegy vineyard, which is the base for the winery today.
In 2007, Zoltán Jakab met Attila Homonna, a pioneering electronic musician-cum-winemaker, who by then already had five vintages under his belt in Tokaj. Jakab asked him to vinify his first vintage that year, and since then they have gradually built the winery step by step, purchasing more land and increasing production. Jakab has been organically farmed since day one, and shares with Homonna a simple, natural, holistic approach to winegrowing.
Padi-hegy is the estate’s original vineyard, purchased in 2006. It faces south, rocky and stony with soils of rhyolite tuff, geyserite and limnoquarzite with heavy clay content. It doesn’t really lend itself to sweet wines, and is ideally suited to lean, mineral dry wines. This is 100% Furmint spontaneously fermented and aged in oak barrels. Jakab uses a mix of Stockinger barrels, Hungarian oak and wood from France’s Atelier cooperage.
Rány has a documented history going back to the 13th century, and is in fact the second oldest vineyard of the Tokaj region and enjoys perhaps the loftiest reputation. It has a rocky rhyolite topsoil, only suitable for working by hand. Out of all these Homonna and Jakab vineyards, Rány tends to give wines that are the most austere and mineral. They’re the most structured, are slowest to mature and live longest. This is 80% Furmint and 20% Hárslevelű which is mixed in through the vineyard. Spontaneously fermented and aged in oak barrels.