The crème de la crème of southern Slovakian winemakers come together in the beautiful panoramic function hall of the Világi Winery in Chl’aba. The participating wineries, despite only numbering ten, were pouring so many wines at the walkaround tasting that we didn’t manage to taste everything. We did try, however…

The 3 Rivers Valley association is in fact a region defined by the Danube, the Hron and the Ipel’. Looking through all the exhibitors and the Facebook page of 3 River Valley, there is still plenty of room for expansion, as barely a quarter to a third of the producers are members of the association. However, it is gratifying that there are already members from near the Ipel’ and from Bátorove Kosihy, even if winemakers like József Drozdík or Vinárstvo Berta in Strekov are sorely missing, let’s quickly add, we hope only for the time being. The visit took place against an unexpectedly sad backdrop. Not so long ago, Tibor Melecsky, one of the best-known faces of the Slovakian winemaking scene and a leading natural winemaker, passed away young, and his funeral took place the day after the tasting.

The Kék Hal Inn in Burda. View of the Visegrád Hills and the Danube. (photo: Dániel Ercsey)

Since the tasting was in the afternoon, I was myself in no hurry and met my friend Tomislav Ivanovic before the tasting, as the organisers had booked our accommodation at the Kék Hal Inn on the banks of the Danube.

View from the Világi Winery. Below us, Chl’aba and the Danube.

After arriving at the beautifully situated Világi Winery, we dived into the tasting, which I will try to tell you about as clearly as possible. I know the wines from the Geönczeöl Winery relatively well. A few month ago, I held a Pinot Noir tasting in Szeged, and one of Attila’s wines was in the line-up. The 2017 Királyleányka sparkling wine we tasted was blessed with rustic bubbles, but its harmoniously oxidised, slightly nutty flavours and floral-citrus finish were refreshing, especially in the morning, as discovered the next day during a surreal and highly enjoyable breakfast at the local butcher in neighbouring Kamenica nad Hronom. The winery’s 2020 Leányka and Olaszrizling were both lovely, fruity wines, while the 2018 Veltelini was a full-bodied, rustic wine with considerable alcohol sweetness, yet still balanced.

The Csernus wines also caught my attention. I don’t know if it was partly thanks to László Bálint, and obviously partly thanks to the winemaker, but the winery has made extraordinary progress. The 2019 Battonage Chardonnay is creamy yet firm, the Peszeki Leányka is fresh and attractive (unfortunately, the 2020 vintage is already sold out!), the botrytis aromas of the Olaszrizling Orange Wine are gorgeous (I’ve already given it 90 points in my head!), while the 2019 Kékfrankos was one of the wines of the evening, at least for me, with its exuberant fruit, elegant acidity and that touch of oak on the finish, without which it perhaps wouldn’t have been complete (91 points, indeed!)

The elegant, mandarin character of Chateau Ruban’s sparkling wine immediately captivated me, while the Svoj sen 2020 stole my heart with its sage and summer pear notes and crisp acidity. The winery’s rosé is classic northern style, with plenty of acidity and residual sugar, as is the Dunaj 2019 with its high alcohol, dried fruit and medium body.

I was also lucky enough to taste the wines from Autentista on the run, rather after the official tasting (but I did better than with Chateau Belá, whose wine ran out so early that I didn’t get to taste anything from them), but at least I had the chance to have dinner with the guys at the Rooster Pub in Štúrovo, where to my surprise, they also serve ostrich and kangaroo. (It must be very authentic to eat ostrich in Slovakia…)  Kasnyík’s 2020 Orange Riesling is a classic orange wine with aromas of hay, white flowers and a firm tannic structure, the Matyas ramato Pinot Gris called Sandwich is darker than a rosé, actually a red wine, but of the funky variety with nice fruit, while Zsolti Sütő’s (aka Strekov1075) Mézes Fehér (two vintages, shaken not blended) from 2019-2020 boasts notes of tea, herbs and dried fruit.

I was only able to taste one wine from Bona this time (you can read more about them here), and the 2019 Olaszrizling is memorable with its harmonious oak influence, smooth acidity and fruity nose.

I left the host and one of the big guns to the end, that is Világi Winery and Frigyes Bott. There is very conscientious work going on at Világi, which is already evident in the basic Zöldveltelini (with a watery Danube label). The 2020 Riesling is also phenomenal (90 points), so it’s no surprise that it came to mind during the tasting that this Wachau-esque region could really be all about Riesling as well as Zöldveltelini.

And what Frici Bott put on the table (or rather picked up and poured, thank God) left me speechless. I was already impressed by his wines and the wine bar in Komarno last year, and now he has just strengthened this impression. The 2020 Kékfrankos (firm and fruity), 2020 Riesling (sweet pear, floral, long) and the 2020 Faricka Furmint (Faricka is the name of the vineyard, the wine is elegant, one of the best of the vintage and variety in the Carpathian Basin) are all 90-point wines, but the 2020 Pinot Noir, reminiscent of Burgundy, also really stood out!

In a word, the region is worth a visit; there’s the Danube Bend, Esztergom in Hungary and of course the vineyards of Slovakia. So head there if you have time, even if it means staying for a night or two in one of Chateau Bela’s beautiful rooms.

View from the Világi Winery’s tasting room...