Erdőbénye is perhaps the most charming town in the whole of Tokaj-Hegyalja. It lacks Tokaj’s wealth, Mád’s strength, Sárospatak’s intellectual capital; however it has a bit of everything, moreover, it’s surrounded by hills and forest. A true world of wonders, you can spend days leisurely wandering its streets and discovering its churches and old buildings which proclaim its past wealth. There are also plenty of wineries that are worth visiting where there are good or really good wines, where you can also eat well, and what’s more, Erdőbénye is a place where the winemakers are interesting people too. Well, this is also true elsewhere, but here they aren’t interesting just because of the wine! In this small village, which was once a market town, they include a pharmacist, a historian, someone working in the media and also two philosophers. That’s who I’m going to tell you about now...
‘No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.’ (Gen. 17:5)
You couldn’t be further from the truth if you thought that Ábrahám winery had got its name from the biblical character, the forefather of monotheism. The owner, winemaker, jack-of-all-trades is the couple Enikő Ábrahám and Róbert Péter, although Enikő’s father laid the foundations for the estate, hence the name, however this is undoubtedly interesting to philosophise about on entering. It seems that the spirit of the place captivates you early on. Speaking of the place, the combination of two old houses created the centre of the estate in the top part of Erdőbénye, (if you’ve already been here, you’ll understand – there’s a serious difference in level within the village), which is also the backdrop to their life, as Robi and Enikő live here too, and since their son Dani was born, now a threesome, together with a variable number of cats.
When are we finally going to get to the wines? Patience, please! Maybe I’ve already mentioned that we are talking about philosophers here...
Tasting wine at Robi and Enikő’s is absolutely not an everyday, normal thing. From the outset, as you go through the gate into the courtyard, to the right there is a cottage awaiting renovation, to the left the entrance to a cellar, in front of you a wooden roof (an arbour, says Enikő), underneath it a table and chairs, the latter made out of barrel staves and on the table, by good fortune, glasses and bottles. It’s no surprise either if they’re not from Tokaj, they could be from Burgundy or Wachau, as Robi and Enikő are very open-minded winemakers, they taste continually and consider this one of the pledges to their development. From here you can continue along a path towards the second house (they live there) where the winery, the fermentation room, the barrels and the stainless steel tanks are in one of the outbuildings (an old stone house). Don’t imagine a whole load of fuss. This is a real garage winery, where perhaps a little too much chaos is portioned out, but somehow in the end the path you need to take still always crystallises so perfectly, just as if God existed. For me at least, this is usually the proof of power. (What on earth am I talking about? This is what happens if you have philosophers as friends...)
“It’s a small winery, with a lot of manual work and lots of small quantities. From pruning to the closing chord, everything – for the best wines - happens with us and for us. Also for our friends. Various harvests, variable vintages, sampled maturation methods. A playground given to us by the vineyards. Experiments. Relationships. Either we make wine for our friends or for someone who will later become one. That’s it in brief.” (www.abrahampince.hu)
You could stay with the neighbouring Pétér Turján and his family; his wines are also good, the rooms too and their breakfast is without equal, but it’s harder to leave the Ábrahám winery than you think. The stories and the faces behind the wines are generally more exciting than the wine itself, but at least they add to the excitement of the make the final product. When I first strayed into their place, I came out four days later! Well, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration. We talked for four whole days! I was already there early in the morning and I was still there at two the following one. Sometimes they cooked, sometimes I ordered pizza. We tasted, we analysed, we talked, we walked out to one vineyard, we went to the next one by car, we tasted again, they read to me from a volume of poetry, we entertained each other with quotations, we quoted Darvasi and Béla Fehér, then as time passed and evening began to close in, out came the Nietzche, Kierkegaard, Béla Hamvas and Schopenhauer. Robi and Enikő though are not ‘wine-made’ philosophers, both graduated in this from university!