The Hárslevelű is hissing softly in the cellar. The aroma of its first week of fermentation was just like grapefruit juice, although it’s not like that anymore, said Balázs Ludányi, the so-called Centurio micro estate’s chief winemaker, manager and motor.
Balázs adds an interesting splash of colour to Hungarian wine society, which has been in the throes of a large-scale artisan conflict for some years now. It’s as if winemakers and wine consumers can only think in terms of black and white; the word ‘artisan’ is also quite worn out by skirmishes, so that many people now consider it synonymous with faulty wine, just like the other side tars the large estates and the use of selected yeast with poisoned words.
Anyway, enough about that, let’s go back to Balázs, who is an artisan winemaker, but doesn’t advertise this anywhere, and doesn’t use selected yeasts (his wines are fermented spontaneously), but newspaper articles don’t talk about this. He works his vines with strictly restricted yields and only uses copper, sulphur and algae extract. He’s a softly-spoken, good-humoured young man who thinks before he acts and finally speaks but then only when he’s asked his opinion. However, it would definitely be worth paying attention to this!
The estate is currently 3.12 hectares, but after serious future developments, he’s like to reach a size of 3.33 hectares (How different this statement sounds, doesn’t it, if somebody maintains a size on a human scale?) About 10-12,000 bottles per year are born from this area, which are already hard to get hold of due to increased demand. Speaking of consumers and demand, Balázs’s wines are natural (spontaneous fermentation, low sulphur level, he doesn’t use any absorbable chemicals in his viticulture), but even the blindest techno-geeks don’t realise this and happily drink his wines. And as for demand, it would be worth him considering some serious price hikes, because what Balázs has achieved in the last few years certainly gives the rub to the joke category. His wines are ranked at around 90 points, whereas the prices (retail!) range from €6-11! So it’s no wonder that the wines have already run out halfway through the year and everyone is awaiting the next vintage with anticipation.
Some thoughts regarding the above, or rather connected to it. The Centurio estate, founded in 2001, and the young winemaker have always avoided publicity and the limelight. There are few such winemakers, building bottom up, focusing on professionalism, who have got this far with such a humble attitude. His attitude towards wine merchants is the same too. At first, he tried to be present in as many places as possible, however now just one merchant markets his wines. So it’s much easier for both him and the merchant. The cellar door prices also protect this relationship; you can’t get hold of the wines more cheaply from him than you can say in Budapest. (This may be a completely normal attitude in Burgundy, but in Hungary the idea is still in its infancy.)
Balázs mentions two vineyards on the labels, the Diós and the Fay-domb. The latter is an area of yellow clay, part of which was mined for lignite in the past, so while tasting the wines, the winemaker jokingly pointed out about the terror that maybe this is a vineyard where there are no rocks below it, rather specifically one big nothing. The spatial distribution and vine density were inherited from the time of the large socialist estates; hence about 4000 bottles come into existence each year per hectare.
In Burgundy, a tractor is created for the vines, whereas in Hungary, the vines were created for the tractors.
Centurio is a vineyard where it is not enough to taste the wines, you actually have to travel to Gyöngyöstarján and experience the atmosphere of this garage winery, go for a walk among the wines, talk to Balázs, or just listen hard and pay attention to the vibrations of nature. According to Balázs Ludanyi’s concept of terroir, terroir is part of the active, creative person. There’s nothing more to add, the picture is complete as it is.
Hárslevelű 2015 I 85-86 points
Still a little yeasty although there is hardly any sugar left. Structurally attractive, mouth-filling and firm, with good acidity and plenty of autumn fruits.
Sárgamuskotály 2015 I 87-89 points
Varietal character, yet complex aromas of flowers, peach and a little clove. Medium body and rounded acidity, with flavours of apple, pear and citrus fruits. Very well-balanced – a much more serious wine than you would expect! An interesting salty note appears in the long finish.
Szürkebarát 2015 I 85-87 points
Aromas of flowers, a little coconut, apple and citrus fruits. On the palate, medium to full-bodied, with rounded acidity, apple, citrus fruits, a little honey, coconut and pineapple. Long and intense.
Első fejtés 2015 I 86-87 points
Ripe red berry fruit, mainly cherry, on the nose. On the palate, full-bodied, rounded, with plenty of fruit. This isn’t rosé, it just looks like it!
Fay-domb Kékfrankos 2015 I 82-84 points
Lots of sour cherry, cherry and spices. Medium body, attractive acidity, with a little tannin. A real fruit bomb. Bright, fresh and very easy to drink. The finish still needs a bit of polish.
Diós Kékfrankos 2015 I 87-90 points
Intense on the nose, with notes of pepper, clove, plum and sour cherry. Medium to full-bodied, firm structure with black berry fruit, blackberry and dark chocolate. Very long finish. One to watch – shows great promise!
Fay-domb cuvée 2012 I 89-91 points
Intense aromas of overripe black berry fruit, black cherry, a little blueberry and plum jam. On the palate, medium to full-bodied, mouth-filling and complex, with beautifully ripe fruit, spices and a little minerality. Very drinkable!
Sárgamuskotály Selection 2011 (140g residual sugar) I 89-91 points
Aromas of fig jam and exotic fruit. On the palate, rounded acidity, dried fruit, citrus fruit, papaya and fig. Very well-balanced with a long finish enlivened by a little tonic bitterness.