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Electric Etyek is Expecting You

Drinks

Áron Szövényi in his Anonym Pince.

Photo by Or Szűcs.

With terraces now reopened to all, wineries across the land are welcoming guests once again. To get a fix of vines, and ones which make some rather fine wines, the charming, sleepy town of Etyek, just some 30 km west of the capital and with 30 plus wine cellars, is the ideal day trip from the capital.

There’s usually a strong breeze blowing in Etyek (sometimes nicknamed the “Etyek hurricane” by winemakers). Add in the white calcareous soil (mixed with loess and chernozem), and the conditions are ripe for making mainly white wines with tongue-tingling, almost buzzing acidity, and fresh aromas.

Electric acidity is the essence of Etyek; several producers are channeling it nicely to make vibrant whites, tense traditional method sparklers, as well as bubbly from other methods, and the occasional impressive Pinot Noir.

In a new development, 10 producers are teaming up to focus on sparkling wines through the Etyeki Pezsgő Eredetvédelmi Egyesület, a kind of wine club for winemakers to share ideas and promote excellence.

Etyeki kúria opened up the terrace at its winery on Öreghegy on April 24, restricting its usual capacity to provide extra security from the virus for its guests. It now ensures a distance of three meters between tables, reduced from 14 to 11 (each sitting four people), and three stools at the bar instead of the regular eight.

“When we opened up on April 24, a huge crowd turned up, but we decided not to give tables to everyone immediately as we want to provide a safe environment, and the guests appreciated this,” said Szabolcs Szerepi, Etyeki kúria’s development director. “We gave a chance to everyone to enjoy themselves on our terrace; however, some of them had to wait a bit.”

Szerepi added that the winery has also decided to have five waiters/sommeliers serving on its wine terrace, compared to the usual three, to give guests prompt and extra personal service and provide new staff with experience.

Despite now being permitted to receive guests who hold vaccination certificates indoors, Etyeki kúria has decided to keep its indoor wine bar closed for the time being, other than for short visits to buy wine and other products to take away.

Some of the Etyeki kúria offerings.

Full Opening

Szerepi expects a full opening around the middle of June when the winery also plans to serving warm dishes. It has previously worked with restaurant partners to cater to guests and is currently serving cold platters at weekends.

Etyeki kúria, once a bijou cellar, now has a state-of-the-art winery on Báthori utca, produces 250,000 bottles per year, and employs 25 people. It has long been known for its outstanding, reductively-made Sauvignon Blanc (the 2019 vintage costs HUF 2,390 from Bortársaság), which strikes a lovely balance between aromatic intensity and crispy elegance on the palate. This wine is ideal for pairing with the asparagus that is beginning to hit the market stalls.

The winery also has a sparkling Sauvignon Blanc (HUF 3,490 from Bortársaság, HUF 3,500 from the winery). This is made using the Asti method, whereby the carbon dioxide from the fermentation in a stainless steel tank is retained and the wine chilled to stop the fermentation, with 10.5 grams per liter of residual sugar remaining.

This balances the wine’s naturally high acidity but is low enough to officially keep it in the Brut category, where it also belongs taste-wise. It was aged on fine lees for two months, which gives it an extra bit of mouthfeel.

This varietally pure wine oozes pure green pepper and gooseberry notes and claimed 39th position in the Winelovers 100 legjobb Magyar Bor (100 best Hungarian wines). That’s impressive, especially given that the first 18 wines were all botrytized sweet wines from Tokaj, as were many more that finished behind the Etyeki kúria offering.

The Project

When visiting this winery, be sure to check out its MSP series of wines. MSP stands for the Merész Sándor Projekt, which gives Etyeki kúria’s talented winemaker the chance to let his creative juices run wild, quite literally in the case of MSP Wild Fermented Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (HUF 2,950).

The range also emphasizes indigenous Hungarian grape varieties, as in MSP Kira 2018, which is 100% Királyleánka (currently on sale for HUF 2,990 for two bottles). The wine was given one night of skin contact and has spicy, creamy apricot notes; and MSP Zenit 2019, a pure expression of the grape with an airy floral and herbal character.

The MSP wines, which have good concentration and complexity and include an orange wine, are now being kept back for serving and sale exclusively at the winery.

Etyeki kúria makes what is also perhaps the best Pinot Noir in the country. The 2016 Pinot Noir Selection (HUF 7,200 from the winery) came from various clones from Etyek’s Nagy Látóhegy vineyard and was aged for 10 months in new 300-liter French and Austrian barrels. It has a lovely combination of earthiness and fruitiness and will get even better with age.

Anonym Pince’s Áron Szövényi also works with Pinot Noir. While he admits that, with just one clone to vinify from, his wine doesn’t reach the same complexity as that from Etyeki kúria, I really liked the spicy, earthy, and ethereal ‘Életjel’ 2017 (HUF 4,200 from the winery).

I was sorry to hear that, facing a lack of demand for Pinot Noir, he’s decided not to make red wine from grapes every vintage. Szövényi also makes a complex traditional method sparkling wine, Összhang Brut (HUF 5,800 from the winery). A blend of 85% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Noir from the 2014 and 2015 vintages and made from three base wines, it spent a year in oak, followed by two years of bottle aging on the lees for the secondary fermentation.

It has nice creaminess from the oak and the interaction with the lees, which also gives a nice touch of brioche, but it still has plenty of primary fruit. It is pleasantly and thirst-quenchingly dry.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of  May 7, 2021.

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