17 June 2024 / Ádám Geri Copy actual URL Facebook share Twitter share

The new home of Kékfrankos: the Mátra Wine District

Probably few people realise that the area of Kékfrankos vineyards in the Mátra (520 hectares) is almost as large as that of Sopron (600 hectares), so-called “home of Kékfrankos”. If this is not enough proof that the variety plays a prominent role in the largest mountainous wine region in Hungary, here is another fact: the most widely grown black variety by far is Kékfrankos.

This is no coincidence, since following mass production under the socialists, more and more people are discovering this lovely variety in the Mátra Wine District – whether artisanal wine producers or large family wineries. Mostly because terroir and variety really come together here. “Kékfrankos has a thousand faces. It can produce filigree rosé, siller, pét-nat, sparkling wine, spicy whole-cluster pressed wines, fruity wine and full-bodied top wines,” says Mátyás Páger, owner of the five-hectare Páger Winery in Gyöngyöspata. This wide portfolio is due in no small part to the varied bedrock and soils of the Mátra. Thanks to the active volcanic activity of the Miocene and the presence of the Pannonian Sea, andesite, riolitic tuff, loess and even limestone can be found here. The soils are also varied, but have a high content of bound clay in common.

 

Photo: Páger Winery Facebook

 

The Dubicz Winery demonstrates the diversity of the variety within one estate. The 100-hectare winery, based in Gyöngyös, produces rosé, premium blends and top single vineyard wines from the 500-metre-high Sár Hill. “The highlight of all our tastings is our Sár-hegyi Kékfrankos. It offers a different experience to a Kékfrankos from Villány, Szekszárd or even Eger, because our wine region is cooler than all of these. Ours is a wine with a completely different character. It has both fruitiness and minerality,” says Mrs György Sándorné Dunai, owner and manager of Dubicz Winery. Another of Kékfrankos’s qualities is exploited in their Kékfrankos-Cabernet Franc blend, where it adds body to the finesse of Cabernet Franc.

 

Photo: Dubicz Winery and Vineyard Facebook

 

Mátyás Páger considers it important to emphasise that the diversity of the variety and the Mátra terroir can only be shown with appropriate yield restrictions. “Although it is a prolific variety, it needs to be restrained, otherwise it will not ripen properly. Unfortunately, the balance in mass-production Kékfrankos made from such grapes is skewed towards acidity, which overwhelms everything.”

The Gyöngyöspata winemakers have also recognised the potential of Kékfrankos to show the uniqueness of the vineyards. To capitalise on this, they have created the Pata Wine Community and made premium Kékfrankos their flagship wine. “The Gereg, Meggyes and Úrráteszi vineyards in Pata produce wines with very good acidity and lingering, lively fruitiness, yet are also complex and long,” says András Kovács, owner of the Hegymente Winery in Gyöngyöspata. They recently received confirmation of this directly from Elizabeth Gabay. The British Master of Wine, an expert on Hungarian wines (and one of the ambassadors of the Hungarian Wine Summit 2024 in April) recently visited the Mátra, where she tasted eight Gyöngyöspata Kékfrankos. After the tasting Elizabeth Gabay said, “you have to rethink what you already know about Hungarian Kékfrankos,” says András Kovács. In order to strengthen the Pata Wine brand and the awareness of Pata Kékfrankos, the community launched its own festival in 2023, which will take place on 15 June (see our feature story).

 

Photo: Pata Bor Facebook

 

Thanks to its versatility, Mátra Kékfrankos is an excellent food wine. Moreover, as it can be used to make anything from rosé to full-bodied, barrel-aged wines, it can be paired with menus changed on a seasonal basis. Rosé and lighter, fruit-forward Kékfrankos is excellent with Italian dishes, soups, vegetables and lighter dishes such as meat gratins. Full-bodied, aged Kékfrankos, on the other hand, can stand up to fattier, juicier meat dishes, but it also goes well with forest mushrooms – of which the Mátra wine region boasts plenty. Of course, any food and wine pairings cannot omit the region’s two most famous dishes. So, we would suggest pairing legendary mutton and green bean Palóc soup, originally prepared in honour of Kálmán Mikszáth, also known as “the greatest Palóc”, with Mátra Kékfrankos Siller and Mátra-style battered chicken (Mátrai borzaska) with sour cream and cheese with a lightly oaked Mátra Kékfrankos.

 

Kékfrankos and tonic is becoming an increasingly popular cocktail too

 

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