16 November 2023 / Borbála Kalmár (translated by Sue Tolson, DipWSET)
The bar had already been set high on the 100-point scale: in 2021, the 2017 Grand Superior Egri Bikavér from St Andrea’s Nagy-Eged vineyard was awarded 97 points at the Decanter World Wine Awards. And now, St Andrea Vineyards and Winery has gone one better in every respect: the abovementioned 2018 Agapé also comes from Nagy-Eged Hill, but this Egri Bikavér is from a higher altitude vineyard. This is the wine that international wine critic James Suckling rated 98 points and a few days later proclaimed the 48th best in the world (out of 39,000 samples tasted this year) – but he didn’t only appreciate this one wine. The hard work put in at the winery, which is 21 years old this year, has paid off. Behind the successes are not one, but at least two György Lőrinczs; but as we learn during this conversation, almost all members of the immediate family are now playing their part in this formerly one-man business. Meanwhile, who knows, perhaps even the third generation of representatives have now already set off on the hoped-for path.
It's not by chance that I write that it is a conversation and not an interview: the following reflections were annotated next to Endre Kollár’s menu, of which I bring you an extract, with love.
James Suckling assessment of the 2018 Agapé wine (Photo: St Andrea Vineyards and Winery)
György Lőrincz: Gyurika has already been working with us for ten years: we are building on his knowledge, what he has learned and experienced in particular. He is a viticultural and oenological engineer, whereas I only studied winemaking, so there’s no doubt that he has a better relationship with the vines. As it turned out, all the kids in our family end up straight in at the deep end, so he was given the entire vineyard area to work with. I believe – and he will also tell you about his experience – that the vine is the essence of making great wine.
I take care of everything else: the cellar work, other work organisation, market building and administrative tasks. And since 1 June, our other child Bálintka is working with us. He is looking at the business from the economic perspective and has already been giving us great advice to help get things moving in a better direction. It is also very important that we now have an extra level of control and attention. I can see that he is also very keen to be involved in the market-building tasks, that is our image and events, which is basically where his mother has been involved. So four of the family are now permanent members, but the fifth, Ákoska, has been working in the cellar all summer. He primarily helps a lot with the wine tastings and so on the weekends when he’s home, he’s busy with that. He is studying international management in English at ELTE (ELTE University, Budapest – editor). The wonderful thing about this is that he is interested in this subject, in wine, so now he and Gyurika are going together to the Decanter Fine Wine Grand Tasting, which we have also been invited to this year. So there are actually now five of us in the winery from our family of six, and we also have a supporter. This is how we look now, as a broad outline.
The two György Lőrinczs and Andrea (mother and wife), after whom the winery is named (Photo: St Andrea Vineyards and Winery)
György Lőrincz Jr: It’s exciting to think that I’ve been at St Andrea for ten years – almost half as long as it’s been around, in fact. The fact that when I joined the estate, my father immediately handed over the management of its 50 hectares was a huge vote of confidence on his part. Obviously, I have studied this part of the grape and wine sector, and we really felt that this was the biggest reserve that could be exploited. I think it is a great honour to be able to work together for such a noble cause, which is to show the wonders of the Eger Wine District to the world.
Great wine, and very fine wine, is made from excellent grapes. It’s a great sign of confidence that my father only comes out to the vineyard once or twice a year, usually before harvest. There, though, we discuss what I’ve done wrong that year… but I learn a lot from that too. Lately, I’m starting to feel like I want to get a bit deeper into the wine side of it.
György Lőrincz Jr (Photo: St Andrea Vineyards and Winery)
György Lőrincz: The process is so complete, that when you work with vines and wine, you also want to see what you are working on. When Gyurika joined us, he was given that opportunity, and I thought it was important to see what people thought of the wine he was making. Accordingly, he had the chance to try his hand at both white and red wine, and he achieved very good results. He has a lot to learn about winemaking, because just popping in at the end of the day after harvest to see what’s in the tank is not enough. But I suppose I still have a few years to hand over the baton to him completely and by then, he’ll have learned about all the things I think about now and why – I hasten to add that you might have to think differently then. At the same time, I am reassured by his enthusiastic and conscientious learning at the Academy (Austrian Wine Academy in Rust – editor), by his regular tasting and by fellow winemakers.
György Lőrincz, wife Andrea and their two younger sons, Bálint and Ákos (Photo: St Andrea Vineyards and Winery)
György Lőrincz Jr: We are now working together to define our wines in a higher dimension. After 20-21 years, we can see what each vineyard is capable of – we cultivate nine different vineyards on the outskirts of four villages. The most exciting thing about the choice of varieties is that we don’t think in terms of varieties, but in terms of a Bikavér concept: for example, we don’t produce Burgundian Pinot Noir, rather one of the components of Egri Bikavér.
György Lőrincz Jr: It’s a dreamlike story, the way we are caught up in it. For years, decades even, my father was working, seeking out Robert Parker, Wine Spectator, Decanter and other critics, trying to get someone to at least taste the wines he was making, but he got no response. But now God is not only dripping gifts, he is also pouring them onto us… One Friday, my colleague Barna Boros took a call on our landline from James Suckling’s assistant, who said that they would like to visit St Andrea that Monday. We replied that we would check our diary to see whether we could accommodate them. Of course, we could…
We got such encouragement from him (i.e. James Suckling) that the path that the Eger Wine District and the St Andrea Estate are on is an amazing one. He was interested in the local varieties, Kékfrankos and Kadarka, not Cabernet Franc and Merlot. So, the message is to be brave enough to show our strengths and our specificities, and with those we can stand up to the world. First, we tasted in the cellar, from the barrels. When James Suckling turned to his colleague and said, “you know, this Kékfrankos is like that 100-point Roberto Voerzio wine we tasted the other day from Piedmont…” My dad and I just looked at each other: not a bad start.
György Lőrincz: I’ve always thought that it takes many generations to make a difference in the world. Which is obviously true, but maybe it doesn’t take that many anymore. We see that in Priorat, for example, it took 30 years to produce the best wine in the world, which scored 100 points; so why not in Eger too, in 30 years?! If we are attentive and thorough, there are plenty of opportunities to take things to greater heights. We are now looking at the vine and its relationship to soil and terroir. We have numerous questions that obviously take a long time to answer; and it’s perfectly normal to set out not to make a 100-point wine tomorrow, but to strive towards it. And of course, things always happen, and of course you make mistakes, but it teaches you and drives you forward.
I’ve been asked many times where I get the strength to deliver on various fronts, and I think it’s from a providential God. It is a great gift to be able to receive the sacraments! I think that the spiritual life is largely in place in our family, it has a place in our daily lives and our work, and it is because of this that one can experience such great things.
György Lőrincz (Photo: St Andrea Vineyards and Winery)
György Lőrincz: It’s a very important thing for us what has happened over these last years; it’s not because we’ve been given a talent. We believe in God; we believe we have been given the task of working together as a family in a wonderful wine region to promote the wines of Eger and Hungary. We believe in the inimitability of the Eger Wine District, and it is a great joy to feel that God is with us.
György Lőrincz Jr: We are grateful. Personally, I am also grateful that I have a father like this, who has built such a miracle for us, and thanks to whom we can essentially live our dreams. To be the second generation to join something that is based on solid foundations and that shows such vision and thoughtful perspective on Eger wine is a very special feeling. It’s not that the next two or three generations should be doing something completely different from what they’ve been doing. The path is there, and we just need to refine it.
What I’ve learned from him is to strive for perfectionism. To give everything that you can from your talent. Humility, faith and acceptance. That there is a point beyond which we have no control over what happens to us or in the vineyard. What I learned from my father was that if we have done our best in a particular vintage, from then on, we have to accept what the year had to offer. From then on, your conscience is clear.
The two György Lőrinczs at the 2018 Agapé presentation in Budapest (Photo: St Andrea Vineyards and Winery
György Lőrincz Jr: It was not by chance that my son was named György Lőrincz the fourth. On the one hand, it is a beautiful tradition, and as in wine, so in life, there is no life without tradition, and I didn’t want to interrupt that. On the other hand, there is no hidden intent behind it, so he can proudly bear the name. After his grandfather, that’s what I’m trying to do too. We’re absolutely thinking in terms of generational continuity, but there is no pressure that you really must do this. At the same time, I think that if he has a vision before him that he can be successful and thrive in the family business, then it can be a vocation for him to work with vines and wine, which is incredibly noble. And I hope that if he can see that, then maybe he will want to do it.