Why Attila Gere Never Gets Old
While new wineries are shooting up in Hungary like mushrooms, reflecting the dynamism of the local wine scene, it is interesting to see how one of the more well-established names is getting along.
Attila Gere (born in 1954) was one of the pioneers of the Villány region, and indeed of post-transition Hungarian winemaking in general. Visiting the 70-hectare Attila Gere estate in the sweltering temperatures of late August, the prospect of being faced head-on by a barrage of full-bodied red wines was daunting to say the least.
However, it was very welcome to be greeted with a glass of Rozé Frici 2018 – strawberries and raspberries in a glass with a refreshing dose of added bubbles. Spot on for the style sometimes disparagingly known as the “bicycle-pump” method or pompe bicyclette, whereby the carbon dioxide is added at bottling. It is a blend of Medoc Noir and Merlot.
The white version, Fehér Frici, is made in the same way as the rosé and the 2018 now has the aromatic varieties of Királyleányka, Muscat Ottonel and Sauvignon Blanc in the mix, along with the more neutral Olaszrizling to ramp up the nose. It oozes pear, pear drops and green apple, and is fresh and zesty on the palate.
Both wines cost HUF 2,490 from Bortársaság and will continue to drink well as long as the temperatures hit 20ºC (68ºF) and above.
While the whole Gere estate has officially been organically cultivated since 2010, it’s only the Portugieser that is released with “organic” clearly marked on the label, as the other wines have a touch more sulfur than the minimum stipulated for organic wine.
This is purposely done for security’s sake, as a cellar of such a size cannot necessarily afford to run the risk of the wine going off or getting oxidized. Nevertheless, there was no problem with excess sulfur blocking out the fruit in the many wines we tasted.
“On transitioning over to organic growing, we noticed how the skins of the grapes became tighter and more resistant to diseases,” says Andrea Gere, Attila’s daughter, who plays a key role in the winery. Consequently, the healthier and more robust wines need less in the way of intervention, which means the winery can dispense with synthetic chemical treatments and instead use gentler organic treatments. Andrea added that the wet and cool 2010 had been a challenging vintage in which to start.
“We don’t emphasize organic growing on the label, but the point is to have healthy, pure grapes,” explains Kristóf Csizmadia, Andrea Gere’s husband.
The organic approach has certainly breathed new life into Gere Portugieser, which comes from the stunning Ördögárok vineyard. It has a bright purple color but is not very intense or viscous in appearance, suggesting lighter tannins, something that is confirmed on the palate.
It has aromas of wild strawberries and black pepper on the subtle nose and on the really spicy palate, with anise notes and lively, tongue tingling acidity, rendering this really drinkable and refreshing. It also has some complexity which is rare for this early-ripening and early-to-market grape variety.
The Ördögárok is warm with great exposure, which allows the grapes to ripen nicely, but it is also cooled by breezes that help preserve acidity and keep the air circulating to prevent certain diseases taking hold.
Horst Hummel and Wassmann, Germans making wine in Villány, also make serious Portugieser, via biodynamic (organic plus a further set of natural agricultural measures) growing and winemaking.
Something both old and at the same time new at Gere would be the Fekete Járdovány grape – a Hungarian grape that thrived before the dreaded phylloxera wiped it out from local vineyards. This grape saw off competition from six other ancient grapes also provided from the Pécs Research Institute in trials and is now planted in the Ördögárok and Csillagvölgy vineyards, totaling 1.2 hectares, albeit with most in the former vineyard.
The wine that comes from the grape has medium tannins, unlike the blockbusting reds that Villány is best known for, and is spicy with lots of red fruit – somewhere between Kékfrankos, Kadarka and Portugieser. The 2017 costs HUF 4,016 from zwackwebshop.hu. There are a few bottles of the spicier and earthier 2016 remaining at Monarchiaborok.hu for HUF 4,990. The Gere winery also uses a local yeast developed by the Pécs Research Institute to ferment its wine.
Attila Gere also co-owns the Gere-Weninger winery, a joint-venture established in Villány in the 1990s with Burgenland and Sopron vintner Franz Weninger, who is Austrian (his son Franz Reinhard is now in charge of the winemaking in both Balf, in Sopron, and Horitschon in Burgenland).
A more recent co-production is the Gere & Schubert winery, which fills a gap in the local market for light and fruit-forward white wines.
Gere has built up an empire that extends beyond wine to that of grapeseed oil, and is making smart use of a by-product in the winemaking process, which can now be found in pharmacies.
Meanwhile, the 2016 vintage of Gere Kopar, the cellar’s flagship wine, is about to hit the shelves. It’s already quite developed and it will please both those looking for a classic Kopar and those seeking subtlety over power: this wine strikes a nice balance.
The 2016 is a blend of 50% Cabernet Franc (which itself has become Villány’s flagship grape – look out also for the winery’s Villányi Franc Csillagvölgy 2017 at HUF 8,250 from the cellar’s own webshop), 40% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.
It was fermented partly in steel tanks and partly in wooden vats, with 60% aged in new barriques and 40% in big (10-25 hl) barrels for 16 months. It comes not only from the Kopár vineyard (note the dropping of the accent for the wine itself), but also the Konkoly, Csillagvölgy and Ördögárok vineyards, and costs HUF 8,450 at Bortársaság.
The Attila Gere winery will be one of a host of wineries pouring their wares at the Budapest Wine Festival in the grounds of Buda Castle that runs from September 5-8.
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