Making Magyar Malbec and Much More

Drinks

While the Petrányi name is relatively well-known in Hungary due to its association with U.S. automobiles (the Ford Petrányi dealership has existed for 30 years), the family has also been seriously involved in wine for asignificant amount of time.

The Csopak-based Petrányi Pince, established by István and Piroska Petrányi, celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2021. With the celebrations to mark two decades of wine-making postponed due to COVID, the 20+1 anniversary press event gave a chance to catch up with happenings at this beautifully located winery on Szita-hegy, which overlooks Lake Balaton, with its vines running down the hill towards Central Europe’s largest lake.

Olaszrizling is the critical grape here. From the 2021 vintage, Petrányi put out its entry-level Olaszrizling from bought-in grapes and a more concentrated Hegybor.

“The idea was to make a light, easy-drinking style in tanks and acacia barrels,” says Petrányi’s winemaker Ambrus Bakó of the former, which has already pretty much sold out.

Bakó used to be the chief winemaker at Villa Sandahl in Badacsony, where he also made his own excitingly edgy wines. He has dropped his side project but is busier than ever as he is also a winemaker at Unger Bormanufaktúra in the Kőszeg Protected Designation ofOrigin (PDO).

“I just want to make wine and not have to sell it,” Bakó explains. He is also working for two new Badascony cellars, which will be launched on the market soon, as well as one in the Pécs wine region.

Csopak’s Permian sandstone and limestone soils, twinned with the moderating effect of the lake, give such complex and layered white wines that they do not necessarily need propping up by oak, as they can stand alone. Accordingly, Petrányi’s Hegybor 2021 was solely vinified in the tank, something held in common with other local winemakers. It costs HUF 4,690 from petranyipince.hu.

Petrányi also releases several reds, including a spontaneously-fermented, refined spice bomb of a Syrah from 2019 (also HUF 4,690 from its webshop), reviewed in this column in the September 22 edition.

Planting Malbec

While many winemakers across Hungary make Syrah, Petrányi is one of the few to plant Malbec, another French grape, although it has just five rows of it. In France, the grape is most closely associated with Cahors, in the southwest of the country, from where it originates and goes by the names of Côt and Auxerrois. However, Malbec has made a more prominent name for itself in Argentina, particularly Mendoza.

The grape exudes a deep purple color, violet and black fruit aromas, and inky tannins. Petrányi’s Malbec, Ében 2020, is juicy, fruity and balanced with smooth tannins and is set to be released soon. Malbec was grafted onto existing rootstock in 2019, andthis is the virgin vintage. It was spontaneously fermented, unfiltered and unfined, and aged for 13 months in small French oak barrels.

Down in Szekszárd, the Mészáros Pál label has also moved into making Malbec, planting the grape in 2007 after its eponymous owner learned all about the wine on a trip to Argentina. He had to wait until 2016 before the grape’s name could be used on the label. Mészaros Pál Grandiózus Malbec 2019 (HUF 4,650 from Pannonborbolt.hu) is perfumed and plummy, with a creamy, smooth, round, and full-bodied palate with blueberry and black cherry notes. It’s striking how varietally pure it is, yet nothing sticks out, and it can be more balanced than many Mendoza Malbecs.

Bodri Pincészet is another Szekszárd winery that puts out a single-varietal Malbec, and winemaker Péter Úrbán finds it ideal for making a medium-bodied offering. This is a winery associated with big, bold, full-bodied wines, and it is interesting to see Malbec making a lighter, fruitier style here. The 2021 costs HUF 1,990 from wineloverswebshop.hu. Vesztergombi isyet another Szekszárd winery to have put out single varietal Malbec.

Over in Sopron, the Pfneiszl sisters use Malbec as a component of their Távoli-világ (“Distant World”) blend, which also comprises Shiraz, Carmenère, Zinfandel, and Sangiovese. With its high acidity and lean, tight structure, it tastes very much like a Sopron wine as opposed to something from the New World.

Birgit Pfneiszl describes it as her “CV in a bottle,” referring to the internships she had in various distant places: Australia (Shiraz), Chile (Carmenère), Argentina (Malbec), California (Zinfandel) and Italy (Sangiovese). It costs HUF 4,400 from pfneiszl.hu.

City Tasting

Back in Budapest, the “Vingardium in the City” tasting, held in the Bálna event hall on October 15, provided an excellent opportunity to taste the wine from a combination of well-known names and upcoming ones or those that have floated under the radar.

Having judged on the rosé panel at the Winelovers 100 legjobb Magyar Bor, it was nice to get another chance to try the highest positioned rosé. This wine came from Pecsinger Szőlőbirtok in the Pannonhalma wine region, whose “Reze” rosé 2021, a round, juicy and elegant blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, was the highest-placed pink wine in 27th place in the 2022 edition of the 100 Best Hungarian wines.

This rosé is a bargain at HUF 1,690 from webshop.pecsinger.hu and has enough weight to be enjoyed in the cooler weather. Pecsinger has a striking space-age, mint-green colored, Dezső Ekler-designed winery, dramatically surrounded by vineyards, near the village of Győrújbarát, and is well worth a visit. Pecsinger’s decision to sell more bottled wine instead of in plastic containers is well justified with wines like this.

Keeping with the rosé theme at Vingardium, the Juhász Syrah 2021 from Eger captures the grape variety’s spiciness and is also fruity and fresh. It costs HUF 1,990 from pannonborbolt.hu.

Tamás Dúzsi, from Szekszárd, was previously labeled the prince of rosé, and making wines with son Bence, he keeps upping the pink ante. Made for the winery’s 25th anniversary from late-harvest and botrytized grapes picked on the last day of October, its Cabernet Franc rosé 2017 is full-bodied, with a whopping 16% alcohol and ultra-complex notes of orange, tobacco and sweet bread. A gold medal winner at the International Rosé Championship 2021, the wine will set you back HUF 24,490 from duzsitamas.hu.

A real find from Feind was its traditional method sparkling rosé, which is fruity and juicy with a lively bubble structure. The wines are made close to the eastern shore of Lake Balaton with the French savoir-faire of Maxime Belrepayre. Itcosts HUF 4,599 from feind.hu.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of November 7, 2022.

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