Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Attila and Andrea Gere in Villany
Many feel – as I do - that the best Hungarian red wines come from Villany in the southern part of Hungary and that they can compete with fine Napa Valley or Bordeaux wines. I visited 3 winemakers in the region a few weeks ago: Evelyne and Erhard Heumann (met Erhard recently in Washington DC, see here), Attila Gere and Josef Bock; I have already issued a posting on Dining and Wining at the Josef Bock Winery Restaurant in Villany, Hungary.
Frank Dietrich from the Blue Danube Wine Company - a good source for quality eastern and central european wines in the US - in Palos Altos imports Gere wines into the US. Frank was so kind to set up an appointment with Andrea Gere, the daughter of Attila Gere, in Villany. I also met Attila Gere during lunch at the Gere Wine Bar in Villany.
The wine region of Villany has about 2.100 hectar under vine on the hills of Villány and Siklós. In Siklós (where the Heumann Estate is based) white wine grapes prevail, while in Villány (where the Joseph Bock Estate and Attila Gere Estate are based) red grapes dominate. Traditionally, the Kadarka, Kékoprtó and Kékfrankos (Blaufrankisch) varieties are common to the area. Following the phylloxera pest, French varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were also planted.
Under the Turkish occupation, Villány was completely destroyed. When the Danube Swabians came, they brought with them the Kékoportó and other grapes. During the communist era the fine wine of Villány basically disappeared. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the family-owned wineries re-emerged. These, with Attila Gere and Joseph Bock leading the way, have succeeded in making Villány wines famous again.
Pictures: The Gere Crocus Hotel Entrance in Villany.
Villany is a picturesque little town, with cute little whitewashed wine cellars with bright-colored doors and shutters located on the main street next to each other. Near the villages rows of wine cellars were built. From the small press-houses short cellars opened. This is where the harvested grape was transported, and then processed. They are open for tasting, but I did not have an opportunity to check them out. Some winemakers, like Joseph Bock and Attila Gere, have expanded rapidly in recent years and now offer in addition to their wines first class cuisine and luxury accommodation.
The wines are deep, dark and powerful. They have become extremely sought after in Hungary, and only a small amount is exported.
The Attila Gere Winery
Attila Gere is without doubt one of the stars of Villany. His winery is located in Villany, on the way to Siklos. The Gere family also owns a nice bistro (where we had lunch and where I met Attila Gere – I will report about it later), a fine dining restaurant and a luxury hotel. This grew out of the Gere guest house, which opened in 1991 - the first such undertaking in Villány.
Attila Gere is a forester by training. The Attila Gere forefathers were Danube Swabians, who, as part of their farming activities, always made wine. Attila Gere's great-grandmother lived in Villány, and her husband was the local cooper. But these family traditions were interrupted after World War II and Attila became a forester. He turned to wine making in 1978, when he and his wife Katalin got a few vineyards as a wedding present from their parents. Initially, Attila Gere continued with his day job as a forester and made wine only on the side, until 1991, when he became a full-time winemaker.
Pictures: The Attila Gere Winery in Villany
An important step in what then followed was a joint venture in 1992 with Franz Weninger, the famous Austrian winemaker. That brought money and know how to Villany. A new winery-building was constructed and equipped with modern technology. The shared vineyard area of the Gere/Weninger joint venture is 8 hectares.
Attila is a family man. His son, Attila graduated as horticulturist and assists in viticulture and oenology. His daughter Andrea has a financial degree. She showed us around and introduced us to the Gere wines. Andrea just got married. Her husband is a chef and heads the “food department” of the Gere enterprise. He just came back from a trip where he had bought delicious cheeses from the region. He was so kind to share them with us at lunch. Katalin Gere runs the hotel and restaurant plus bistro.
Picture: Andrea Gere and Husband Zoltan Paul
Today, the vineyard area totals 50 hectares. In addition, Attila Gere buys grapes from other wine growers. “Our vineyards can be found on the best slopes of the wine region - Kopár, Konkoly, Csillagvölgy, Jammertal, Ördögárok, Fekete-hegy” said Andrea. The soils are predominantly loess and red clay; at places Triassic dolomite, limestone and Jurassic limestone too. The climate is continental with sub Mediterranean micro-climate. Winters are mild; spring comes early, followed by a fairly dry and mostly hot summer. This area receives the most heat and light in the country.
Traditional local varietals (Olaszrizling, Kékoportó-Portugieser, Kékfrankos etc.) and international varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot etc.) are grown. “Apart from these, we constantly experiment with old Hungarian types like Bakátor, Purcsin, Csóka, Balafánt, and Kékbajor” said Andrea.
Pictures: Andrea Gere
“We find the yield control important and we only use high quality, hand-picked and hand-sorted material to create our wines.” said Andrea. "Only those grapes with nice and mature tannins can be harvested. They put grape bunches into plastic boxes, then dispatch them to the winery. After having been selected on the selection table, the next step is berry-picking, from where they go to the fermentation area” Andrea added.
Andrea showed us the new winery which was built in 2002. Andrea explained that “after the process of berry-picking, crushed grapes chilled to 15-20 Celsius are put into steel and wooden tubs with controllable temperature. The alcoholic fermentation takes place on controlled temperature that lasts for 1-3 weeks, depending on the variety."
Picture: Andrea Gere in the Wine Cellar
Andrea continued: “We leave our red wines to age in barrels for 14-18 months, then we proceed with different blendings of the wines. Our top wines are being bottled without filtering them."
Picture: Andrea Gere in the Wine Cellar
Andrea concluded: “Our top wines are always fermented in new barriques. For other wines, used barrels are utilized. Entry level wines are fermented in the traditional barrels with 50 hectoliters of volume.”
The Weninger/Gere Joint Venture
In 1992, Attila Gere teamed up with Franz Weninger. "Weninger is one of the most highly regarded wineries in Austria (Falstaff, March 2005)” Franz brought above all new technical know-how. The Weninger and Gere wines were immediately a great success. In practical terms, Andrea said, the Weninger/Gere wines have become an integral part of the Attila Gere winery.
Meeting Attila Gere
After the tasting with Andrea (see below), we went over to the Gere Bistro, to meet Attila Gere and have lunch there. Attila Gere (and Josef Bock) did not speak English, but I could converse with them in German, because they belong to the so-called Danube Swabians. The Danube Swabians are Hungarians and other Eastern Europeans whose ancestors had moved from Swabia to the former Kingdom of Hungary and settled there, especially along side the Danube River valley. A first wave came in the 12th century and a second wave in the 17th – 18th, after the war between the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire had depopulated much of the country. Between 1740 and 1790, more than 100,000 Germans immigrated to the Kingdom of Hungary. Andrea told me that her grandparents would only speak German at home.
Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Attila Gere in his Wine Bar in Villany
In the Tasting Room
Andrea poured the following series of Gere and Gere/Weninger wines.
Pictures: With Andrea Gere in the Tasting Room
Frici Rose 2010
Fresh, youthful, fruity rosé sparkling wine showing intensively the flowery, rose scent characteristic for the variety. On the palate all these are coupled with notes of carambola, raspberry and toasted bread. The added carbon dioxide offers legereness to the wine which is paired with good intensity. Light structured wine, well drinkable with a nice finish.
Picture: Frici Rose 2010
Cuvee Phoenix 2007 (Weninger/Gere)
Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Kékfrankos, Portugieser (Kékoportó). It is of a deep red color, its bouquet embraces blackberry and plummy notes with a smoky palate. It feels smooth in the mouth - it is a bit on the sweet side, has a long-lasting finish. It is supported by an elegant tannin structure.
Pinot Noir 2008 (Weninger/Gere)
This wine comes from the Pinot Noir vineyards in the Ördögárok (Devils Valley). This very elegant wine has a very nice fruity character, and a long aftertaste. This wine is sold out at the winery.
Cabernet Sauvignon Barrique 2007
100% Cabernet Sauvignon, from vineyards in Csillagvölgy. It is barrique-aged for 17 to 18 months.
Deep ruby color is permeated with violet shades. Exuberant fruity aromas are present in this wine: blackberry, blackcurrant, forest berries, with a note of burnt wood surface upon tasting it. Firm though delicate tannins and sweet flavors characterize the wine. It has a complex build, a persistent, slightly sweet finish.
Cabernet Franc Selection 2007 (Weninger/Gere)
100% Cabernet Franc, matured for 15 months in new oak barrels. Intense fruit and spice on the palate, a hint of sweetness. Aged for 18 months in small, new barrels.
Medium ruby in the glass, nose with cherry, raspberry, blueberry, good structure, youthful tannins on the palate, long finish.
Kopar Cuvee 2007
This is the emblematic Attila Gere wine. The fruit comes from vineyards on the extinct vulcano named Kopár, which means “barren”. This is a reference to the sparse loess on limestone soil the vineyards are planted on. A small amount comes from other prime Gere vineyards. Aged for 16-20 months in new Hungarian oak barrels.
Picture: Kopar, Solus and Attila 2007 - the Big 3
The previous vintage 2006 was the first time for Kopár to break the traditional combination of grapes (40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc) and switch emphasis to Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The 2007 Kopár is a blend of 52% Cabernet Franc, 46% Merlot and only 2% Cabernet Sauvignon.
A change was made in the fermentation of the wines as well; new small barrique has been replaced in large part by big oak casks. The wine deserves to be ranked among the best from Bordeaux, Tuscany and Napa. This substantial, structured, age worthy wine is not with out its charms, even for the impatient. Right now it is heavy with currant, dried roses, cedar and cigar smoke. The tannins are plentiful and perfectly ripe with the generosity of a warm climate, but the definition of a cool one.
Picture: Kopar Cuvee 2007
Solus is a 100% Merlot only produced in excellent years, from grapes grown in the Kopar vineyard. In Latin, Solus means unique, Sol means Sun, here it describes the singularity of the wine and its relation to nature. Aged for 16 months in new small oak casks. Only 550 cases of Solus were produced.
In the glass, dark magnolia with some light brick red rings on the edge, lush bouquet, heavy body, long, sweet finish thanks to its nice, mature tannins.
Picture: Andrea Gere with Solus 2007
This is a very personal wine of Attila Gere, made in very limited quantities. The creme de la creme of Attila Gere's wines.
Deep, complex and extremely varied aromas, dense tannins and an exceptional concentration, huge aging potential.
Picture: Andrea Gere with Attila 2007
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