cover pic - from the Facebook page of the Winery

Every year, we expect a serious family winery who can lay claim to a place among the wine region’s elite to emerge at the northern reaches of the wine region, or at least in its foreground, Tolcsva. The last few years have brought positive changes, one indication of which is the appearance of Czemiczki wines on the market.

Vineyards between Tolcsva and Erdőbénye (photo: Daniel Ercsey)

The above can only be understood from a wider perspective. István Czemiczki has been growing grapes in the Tolcsva area for thirty years, but his original goal was to sell the grapes, not to make wine. Accordingly, the higher value aszú berries were given preference (like with everyone at the time), so new grape varieties such as Kabar, Zéta and Kövérszőlő, which are prone to botrytisation, represent significant proportions of the vineyards. In this case, it is sometimes worth retelling the story of how the regime change came along, followed by the dismemberment of the Wine Kombinát. However, unlike many, István Czemiczki still believed in his vines, so he planted a further ten hectares in the Rány and Csető vineyards in the early 2000s. As he put it, viticulture is a wonderful thing, because the vines pay back all the care you’ve lavished on them when it comes to harvest time. Hence, it’s no wonder that two of his three children, Adrienn and István followed in the footsteps of their father and graduated as viticultural engineers from the Károly Róbert College in Gyöngyös in 2008. Bence, who is ten years younger than his siblings, has been caught by the food bug and is continually training himself with the goal of opening his own restaurant, the Czemiczkitchen.

Photo: Daniel Ercsey

I remember that we were still quite young, when one afternoon the family went over to my grandma’s vineyard to do the hoeing, but we only had one hoe between us. My older sister and I also wanted to join in with what the adults were doing, so much so that we got into a fight over who should get the tool. It degenerated to the point where I stabbed the hoe into her foot in my anger. Later, when our friends were having a great time on their holidays, we were kept occupied. At that time, we weren’t really into viticulture, but when it came to making career choices, there was no question about what we wanted to do – said István Czemiczki Jr.

The single vineyards around Tolcsva

Speaking of Tolcsva! This historically important market town in the wine region seems to have retreated from the public eye. Despite its numerous mansions, most of which are renovated, the beautiful former merchant houses in the centre, the onion-domed Catholic church, unique in the region, and its fantastic vineyards, within this small basin nowadays, both Erdőbénye and Olaszliszka surpass the town in popularity, the latter thanks to a French winemaker. And yet, William Fox, the founder of the American 20th Century Fox film studio was born here! The house is still standing and is rented out as flats; its condition has deteriorated and there is not even a plaque to show its significance. However, we could just imagine it as an interactive museum and cinema, which would attract visitors, who would of course be curious about the wines too, if they had already travelled so far...

Tolcsva, the village from the Petrács vineyard (photo: Daniel Ercsey)

The family now cultivates 17 hectares, with their largest income still from the sale of grapes; in 2019, they bottled just three types of wine. The once successful sale of bulk wine now plays an increasingly minor role in the life of the family estate. When tasting the bottled wines, the question arises as to why you can find relatively few wines bearing the memorable labels and the name of Czemiczki in wine shops? The answer is, in part, given by the market, where consumers are increasingly looking for wines that have labels in line with their own expectations. This is also the case with the Czemiczki family, from whom companies buy entire batches of wine. On the one hand, this is a welcome event, yet it reduces the opportunity to strengthen the family brand. On the other hand, the family sees their greatest chance of survival in cellar door sales. They have designed their tasting room to accommodate up to a busload of people, although, admittedly, alongside viticulture and winemaking activities, they may not have enough time left for this kind of hospitality. Thus, the Czemiczki wines, which originate almost exclusively from the outskirts of Tolcsva, from the Petrács, Csető, Serédi and Rány vineyards, with more than nine hectares in the later, are mostly sold at the cellar door.

Our infoposter made by Tamás Doma

And we have not yet mentioned the heart and soul of the entire enterprise, István Czemiczki’s wife, Tündike, a teacher who helped hundreds of  kids on their way at the kindergarten in Tolcsva. She’s actually called Gizella, but the name Tündike stuck in early childhood and she is still known as that around town. She is responsible for all administrative things, but also holds the family together. It’s just like being in Italy, where Mama remains in the background while the others loudly exchange ideas and argue, but she’s the one who’s needed in the end to fix things. Fortunately, succession is ensured, as the family has recently grown by four grandchildren, who are now exploring the not-entirely-boring everyday life of the Czemiczki family.

Photo: Daniel Ercsey

Now to some wine tasting. The 2017 vintage of the Hatos Cuvée bowls you over with its vibrant acidity. The name comes from the fact that the Czemiczkis used all six varieties permitted in Tokaj, hence a kind of essence of the wine region. And looking at the labels, an upside-down letter i is the first thing that strikes you, which then morphs into an exclamation mark, into Czem!cki. The version of the label that lights up in the dark is also a good way to reach young people in bars, which would certainly be an important step, not only for the family but also for the wine region. The wines are already very drinkable, and their prices are pretty attractive, so let’s hope that more and more people pay attention to them. We think it would be worth it!