Born and raised in Tokaj, Sarolta embodies a strong maternal sensibility coupled with a keen sense of the changes and challenges facing probably the best known, but arguably most forgotten wine region in the world — Tokaj-Hegyalja.
Born and raised in Tokaj, Sarolta possess a strong maternal sensibility and keen awareness of the changes and challenges facing Tokaj — one of the best known yet most forgotten wine regions in the world. Beginning her career studying at the University of Horticulture in Budapest, she also took advantage of the recently fallen Iron Curtain and spent time in France, Italy and Spain. Upon returning to Hungary, she worked at Gróf Degenfeld and soon after became the inaugural winemaker at Béres Winery in nearby Erdőbénye overseeing 45 ha of vineyards. Preferring closer attention to detail and the total knowledge inherent in small-scale winemaking, she left and planted her own 6 ha in 1999. In 2005 she converted a traditional 19th century house into a winery and cellar in the middle of the town of Bodrogkeresztúr. In addition to dry and off dry bottlings of Furmint, Hárslevelű, Kövérszőlő, and Sarga Muskotály, she is also making incredible late harvest and Tokaji Aszú 5 and 6 Puttonyos. All her wines embrace a myriad of volcanic soils with remarkable aromatics and balanced acidity.
The town of Bodrogkisfalud is right along the banks of the Bodrog River just north of the town of Tokaj. Moving away from the river right up against Zemplen forest at around 250-280 m high is the Csirke-mál vineyard. The soil is a mixture of heavy clay with exposed volcanic tuffa and hardened black andesite. Given its distance from the river and the exposure to wind, botrytis is kept at bay making it ideal for dry wine production. The previous owners left it about 30 years ago and it lay largely fallow until Sarolta starting bringing it back to life in 2004. Today the vineyard consists of roughly 75% Furmint, 10% Kövérszőlő, and 15% Sarga Muskotály.
Grapes are hand harvested and sorted both in the vineyard and in the winery. All single vineyard wines are fermented with native yeasts in 220 liter Hungarian Zemplén Oak barrels and aged on the less a minimum of 8 months until bottling. Half the barrels are new while the rest are two to three years old. The overall approach is minimal intervention, avoiding botrytis in the vineyard, focusing on a healthy spontaneous fermentation, and letting the vintage decide the balance of sugar, acidity and fruit.
This is our first sweet wine from Sarolta which is long overdue. The Amicus pulls from the Barakonyi dűlő and Csirke-mál dűlő and is usually 100% Furmint. In special vintages like 2013, she was able to add some Kövérszőlő as well. Kövérszőlő (the fat grape) originated in Transylvania but also found a home in Tokaji and in neighboring Romania. Phylloxera nearly wiped it out, but a few plantings survived and it’s slowly making a comeback thanks to a handful of growers like Sarolta. Big berried, early ripening, and high in potential sugar made it historically ideal for Aszú production. Picking for a minimum of 30% botrytis per cluster, the wines were fermented separately, then blended and aged for 6 months in barrel. With over 120 g/l of RS and 9 g/l total acidity, this is an ideal pairing wine and refreshing on its own.
After gentle pressing, the must is fermented in oak barrels and then ages 6 months in 220-liter oak barrels. The wine shows aromas of pear, mint, honey and subtle notes of vanilla from the barrel aging, On the palate, it is rich, complex, with a very long finish.
Because Hárslevelű is more loosely bunched than Furmint, it is less susceptible to Botrytis and is increasingly used on its own as a pure dry varietal white. Where many dry Tokaji wines are acid driven, Saroltaa’s wines are intensely mineral driven. Rich mouth feel, seemingly dry despite its residual sugar, and once given the chance to open up, incredibly distinct. There’s also an amazing sweet and sour quality that lends itself to foods that play off of the same theme. Although deeply concentrated, works well as an aperitif.