Tag Archives: László Mészáros

Laszlo Meszaros and Christian Seely

Bringing the Hangács vineyard back to life at Disznókő

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I was in Hungary on Monday tasting the outstanding Aszú wines of the 2016 harvest with László Mészáros. Tokaj at this time of the year can be either extremely cold, or enveloped in thick mist, or both. But just occasionally there are days of early winter brilliant sunshine that reveal the full splendour of this wonderful wine region, and Monday was one of those.

View from Szt Tomas outside the village of Mád of the vineyard of Disznókő (centre right) and of the Mount of Tokaj in the distance
View from Szt Tomas outside the village of Mád of the vineyard of Disznókő (centre right) and of the Mount of Tokaj in the distance

One of the main reasons for my visit was to visit the site of Hangács on the slopes above the main vineyard of Disznókő, which we are in the process of replanting. This is a very exciting project for us. Hangács has not been planted with vines since the 1960s, when it was abandoned by the then state farm which favoured plantings lower down the slopes, because easier to work with large tractors. But this hilltop site is unquestionably among the greatest terroirs in the whole of the Tokaj region, and was cultivated for many centuries before the 1960s. In the 16th century there are records showing that this particular vineyard belonged to the Balassi family, in particular to the poet and soldier Bálint Balassi.

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László Mészáros, the talented director of Disznókő, clearly feeling rather good about the project, standing in the cleared hilltop site of Hangács, with the Mount of Tokaj and the Terézia chapel in the background.

The soil is clearly well drained, as it was quite dry, whereas most of the surrounding land further down the hill with heavier soil, was still heavy from recent rains. This close up shows the distinctive volcanic soil of the Hangács parcel.

the distinctive volcanic soil of the Hangács parcel

We shall be planting 22 hectares in total here, mostly with Furmint. It is a substantial declaration of faith in the long term future of the great Aszú wines of Tokaj and a deeply satisfying project for us to be undertaking. Something which was dying and had been abandoned will live again and in years to come once again produce great wines, as it did for many centuries.

Toasting the future of Hangács with a glass of Disznókő Tokaji Aszú 6 puttonyos 2008
Toasting the future of Hangács with a glass of Disznókő Tokaji Aszú 6 puttonyos 2008

Over the years we have increasingly focussed on the individual characteristics of the various terroirs that exist within the great vineyard of Disznókő. The Kapi parcel, not too far from Hangács, has notably produced some of the more remarkable Aszú wines that we have produced at Disznókő. We have every reason to believe that in future years Hangács will be among the greatest of Disznókő’s terroirs, and it is thrilling for us to be setting in motion the process of replanting this parcel and bringing it back to life.

The afternoon finished with a glorious sunset over the Hungarian plain. This is a special place.

sunset on hangacs vineyard

To know more in details about the replanting of Hangács vineyard, visit the website of Disznókő: http://disznoko.hu/disznoko-experience/replanting-hangacs-vineyard-the-next-big-project/

2014 Harvest Report – Disznókő (Tokaj)

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After the news from Bordeaux and Burgundy, here are the reports on 2014 from Quinta do Noval, Disznókő and Mas Belles Eaux.

László Mészarós of Disznókő, Tokaj:

« We finished the harvests on the 30th October. We have never finished so early: we have never finished before in October.

Because of the pressure of humidity, we were not able to wait any longer.

The volume produced was very small. We managed a global yield of only 5 hectolitres per hectare. We will have around 500 hl of wines. Only ten days earlier we would not have thought to have produced so little. It is about half of what I would have estimated at the beginning of the harvest.

Fortunately, the majority of the harvest will be made up of Aszú wines, very good, much more marked by Botrytis than usual, and less passerillés.

We have been working with them above all by maceration in made base wines, wines that have finished their fermentation.

It was a very difficult vintage in Tokaj, with a strong Oidium pressure in the summer, and above all an attack of rot (the wrong kind) from the end of August that gave us a lot of trouble. We have to acknowledge that we had too much rain also this autumn.

We began the maceration of the Aszús on the 29th October. After ten days of maceration, we obtained 14 lots in total.

I think we have after all some lovely Aszú wines this year, not very rich, but with a good acidity and freshness and some lovely aromas.”

Read the 2014 Harvest Reports of the other properties :

Harvest Time at Château Pichon Baron

2014 Harvest Report – Château Suduiraut (Sauternes)

2014 Harvest Report – Château Petit-Village (Pomerol)

2014 Harvest Report – Domaine de l’Arlot (Bourgogne)

2014 Harvest Report – Quinta do Noval (Douro)

2014 Harvest Report – Mas Belles Eaux (Languedoc)

2014 Harvest in our properties: Conclusion

To Disznókő for the blending session for the 2007 Aszú wines

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As so often at this time of the year in Hungary, it was very cold, with a lot of snow, but we were lucky to have some wonderful sunshine, which showed off the vineyard to great effect. Here is a photograph of the tasting team in the snow: I could not resist this photo opportunity, although naturally, the serious tasting and blending took place inside!

From left to right: Christian Seely; László Mészáros, MD of Disznókő; Andrea Hanyecz, Commercial Director of Disznókő; Zoltán Kovács, Technical Director of Disznókő; Aymeric de Gironde, Commercial Director of the AXA Millésimes properties, Daniel LLose, Technical Director at AXA Millésimes.

From left to right: Christian Seely; László Mészáros, MD of Disznókő; Andrea Hanyecz, Commercial Director of Disznókő; Zoltán Kovács, Technical Director of Disznókő; Aymeric de Gironde, Commercial Director of the AXA Millésimes properties, Daniel LLose, Technical Director at AXA Millésimes.

A fine Aszú wine should of course be served chilled, so we profited from the natural conditions. I can recommend this way of preparing your glass of Tokaji, and the thought occurred to me that this would be the perfect wine for a ski-ing holiday, a great deal better for you than a glass of hot red wine with a slice of orange in it. 

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The great historic vineyard region of Tokaj is one of the most romantic places in the world. The long and turbulent history of this region, marked as it has been by both glory and tragedy, would make a great book. For centuries recognised as one of the great wines of the world – the preferred wine of Voltaire, Frederic the Great, the Tsars of Russia, Louis XIV – Tokaj suffered enormously in the 20th century from war and politics. The re-emergence of the region began in the early 1990s, with the collapse of the communist system. We acquired the historic Disznókő vineyard in 1992, and set about replanting most of the vineyard, building a winery, and began the process of recreating a great Tokaji wine at Disznókő.

Here is another photograph, which shows the tasting team again, but with the Disznókő winery and vineyard in clear view, together with, in the background, what we like to believe to be the most beautiful tractor shed in the world.

Disznókő tasting team in front of Disznókő winery, vineyard and tractor shed

None of these buildings existed when we acquired Disznókő. It has been an enormous pleasure and privilege for us to participate in the renaissance of one of the great vineyards of Tokaj, and also in so doing to participate in the renaissance of the entire region.  My predecessor at AXA Millésimes, Jean-Michel Cazes, was one of the leading architects of this process, and also the driving force, together with Daniel LLose and the Disznókő team, behind everything that was done at Disznókő in the 1990s. Today the situation of Tokaj is transformed since the early 1990s. Several of the great historic properties have been restored to former glories, but also, and very importantly, a large number of enthusiastic and talented young winemakers have set up on their own in smaller properties to produce exciting wines that are on the way to making Tokaj once again one of the great wine producing regions of the world, and certainly one of the most dynamic places to work.

We were at Disznókő to blend the 2007 Aszú wines. The year had some points of resemblance with the 2000, very rich and ripe, with relatively low acidities. The resulting wines are enormously seductive already, the stylistic opposite of, for example, a year like 1999, which was also very rich but with high acidity and a very strong mineral backbone, for which it is necessary to wait as long as possible. Watch out for the 2007 Five Puttonyos Disznókő Aszú when it reaches the market in a year or two! We also produced a remarkable Eszencia in 2007.

It is characteristic of a region in the process of re-inventing itself that different actors are pursuing different paths. Some believe the future lies in the development of the dry wines, in particular of the noble Furmint grape; some are developing a late harvest style, a delicious compromise between the richness of the Aszú wines and the very dry and mineral character of the Furmint grape when it has no residual sugar. Personally I believe that the greatness of Tokaj resides principally in its Aszú wines, in particular in the five and six Puttonyos Aszús, magical wines, with a unique personality, complex, rich, fine and balanced, capable of ageing and developing for a century or more, but perfectly delicious when young. At Disznókő we produce a dry Furmint, a Late Harvest, and a range of Aszú wines, with a very limited production of Eszencia in some years, but I think it is fair to say that the Five and Six Puttonyos Aszú wines are the real focus of our activity. If you have not tried one of these wines yet, I recommend you to do so: they are among the very great wines of the world, available at what is for us still an unjustly low price!

László Mészáros, tasting a Disznókő 6 Puttonyos Aszú in the vineyard
László Mészáros, tasting a Disznókő 6 Puttonyos Aszú in the vineyard