02 July 2024 / Borbála Kalmár / Photos: Nándor Lang Copy actual URL Facebook share Twitter share

“In fact, we have always been specialists in summer wines”

Although the weather doesn’t always seem to keep up with the calendar, the sunshine, the scent of the air and the inviting murmur of Lake Balaton are all telltale signs that the best season of the year has arrived, which for many means relaxing, garden parties and summer wines. Speaking of summer wines, what does this category actually mean? What can you expect from it, and how can we as winemakers produce reliable quality year after year? That’s what we’ve been trying to discover.

 

It’s harder to make good wine from aromatic varieties,” a winemaker from the Mátra once told me, and the statement is probably correct, as wines from such varieties are not usually part of the premium range, but are priced more modestly. To be profitable, they are usually produced in a large number of bottles, so you not only have to convince customers about them in the first place, you also have to retain them as consumers! Consistently reliable, good quality is therefore essential, regardless of the vintage, and don’t forget that it’s these wines, and of course bubbly, that provide cooling refreshment – perhaps it’s not an exaggeration to say that they end up in the glasses of all wine drinkers. How do you meet so many criteria at once, and what is the current trend when it comes to summer wines? I asked Zoltán Feind owner and István Bacskai, managing director of Feind Winery in Balatonfőkajár about all this.

 

István Bacskai, managing director of Feind Winery

 

Let’s first get the term straight: what does it mean to be a summer wine?

 

István Bacskai: It should be light, aromatic and you can drink a lot of it with soda water! Joking aside, I think we are basically lucky in this product category, as aromatic white and rosé wines have long been the basis of our range. I could even say that we have always been specialists in summer wines.

 

So, is the colour of summer wine definitely pink or white?

 

I.B.: For me, drinking red wine doesn’t go well with summer and the heat. This is just a theory of course, but the market confirms this – our winery sells significantly less red wine in summer.

 

 

In light of this, what grape varieties do you use for your light, aromatic summer wines?

 

I.B.: For us, Irsai Olivér absolutely dominates. You could say it’s our flagship – we sell by far the highest volume of this, while we also need to keep increasing the number of bottles of Sauvignon Blanc we make. I’d also include Chardonnay here, because – although it’s not an aromatic variety, we make it in an unoaked style. There I also see great demand for Olaszrizling, which is very much in tune with the Balaton lifestyle.

 

 

There is more and more talk about resistant varieties, which can also be found in the Balaton wine region, and you have planted such special varieties in the past. Can they also be included in summer wines?

 

Zoltán Feind: This year, we have two resistant varieties coming into production: Hibernal and Johanniter. The latter is very similar to Riesling, while we certainly expect consumers sooner or later to recognise Hibernal as a resistant aromatic variety. In terms of character, it wouldn’t be a big exaggeration to even call it a “resistant Irsai Olivér”.

 

From a viticultural or oenological perspective, what are the key aspects in making quality aromatic wines?

 

Z.F.: Twenty years ago, the statement that everything is decided in the vineyard was true. I don’t think that this will necessarily be the case in 2024, because there have been huge advances in technology that can correct a lot of faults. Obviously, you can’t add things later to the fruit that are not there in the first place, but I think it is the combination of humble viticultural work and modern technology that get you to your goal. In our winery, at least, this is a guarantee that our consumers don’t have to wonder whether what is in the bottle is of a reliable quality.

 

Zoltán Feind, owner of the winery

 

Speaking of technology, I think bubbles definitely fall into the category of summer wines. I think you also make sparkling wine, don’t you?

 

I.B.: Yes, we make sparkling wine both by traditional and tank method, and on site since 2021. Traditional method sparkling wine is not necessarily just a summer wine, as people like to drink it all year round, but we do notice that tank method sparkling wine is in high demand during the summer.

 

 

We already know how to store and open it, but what does it take to make a professional sparkling wine?

 

Z.F.: As my winemaking colleague said, making sparkling wine is a different profession, so with a slight exaggeration, it’s like having to learn everything all over again. We started working with a French consultant, which was a lucky choice as our head winemaker is also French, so they got on very well. But everyone had a say in the final composition – I’m an absolute believer in teamwork.

 

         

 

Last summer, Feind Play was a big hit with me and my friends alike. How did you come up with the name?

 

Z.F.: Play is the name of our range of sparkling wines, and the word itself refers to the playfulness of the bubbles. It comes in both white and rosé versions. We don’t guarantee that they are always made from the same grape variety, but we do guarantee that it is a well-made semi-sparkling wine based on Cserszegi Fűszeres for white wine and Pinot Noir for rosé and that right from the start it has offered a similar flavour and aroma structure each year. Besides tank method sparkling wines, we have seem for a few years now that there is a strong upsurge of carbonated wines on the market. Thanks to the success of Play, we have been approached by two discount chains in Hungary, so we are already making versions for them too: one based on Királyleányka and the other on Irsai Olivér. This is also interesting because our Irsai-based Play won a gold medal in the National Wine Competition this year, while it also came first out of the 22 wines in the semi-sparkling wine test organised by the Maradok a Pénzemnél team, just beating our Királyleányka-based Play into second place. We made a lot of mistakes before we made it to this point, but we’ve learned from them, and now I tend to think – especially given this feedback – that we now really do know something about sparkling wines.

 

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