It’s not a bad thing, being a wine writer. To be more precise, according to my friends, it’s the best thing in the world. I’m not going to argue with them. To begin with, I said how much work it all was, how much responsibility, how much learning lay behind it. Nowadays, I don’t do that. Perhaps precisely because I have realised that they are basically right. My job is an incredibly good thing! Either I’m travelling around the world from wine region to wine region, fluttering like a butterfly, or I’m going to tastings, and the rest of the time, I’m attempting to put my experiences down into readable form.
The saying that you learn something always and everywhere is true. That’s why I can safely say that I have no prejudices. I’m not afraid of the wildest natural wines or qvevri, or of wines from 4000-hectare family vineyards with their endless rows of stainless steel containers. The vine density, the grape variety, barrel aging and the concept don’t matter. If I passed sentence before pondering what led the winemaker in question to make that decision, I’d certainly be depriving myself of a great deal of experiences.
However, now I’d like to write about those experiences which were decisive for me in the last year or so. These were not usually decisive because of the wines. Of course, good wine is an absolute must for the memories, but it’s the people who provide the plot for the story! Like for example Marco Cecchini did, with whom I had a very important and memorable conversation. A manager who was resting among the Collio hills and their quiet serenity, contemplating the landscape and life. I had a similar experience in Samuel Tinon’s garden. A French couple with all their cosmopolitan experience settle in one of the Tokaj wine region’s poorest villages, Olaszliszka. This in itself is sensational, isn’t it? Besides, he’s one of the most loveable, dearest people I know!
Then there are those moments when the wine flashed something of the person behind it. I had one such an astonishing experience when I first had the chance to taste Peter Colemont’s wines. I could feel in the wines the small vineyard in a country where there are no strong traditions; they contained the vast knowledge and not a little renunciation, the brick wall which protected the vines, the humility with which the winemaker worked and certainly also the recognition, the recognition of quality, which many before me had also unfortunately recognised, so getting your hands on the wines is almost impossible. I felt similarly astonished one chilly February night when, in a tiny peasant cottage in a small Slovakian village, some of Žitavské vinice’s sweet wine found its way into my glass for the first time. It was stupefying to taste wine after wine of unfalteringly better and better naturally sweet wine, fantastic wines without any exception. The surreal location only enhanced their influence, for me such a dear little peasant cottage, where in Central Eastern Europe, most likely you don’t expect to be offered wine, rather fatty bacon and pálinka.
I will never forget the evening I spent in the house of Eko Glonti in Tbilisi. Admittedly not only because of Eko, but I can’t deny that he played the largest part in the whole thing. On the one hand, the milieu, the paintings, books, rugs and homespun, together with antique and modern ornaments, which captivated me completely, and on the other, the conversation the guests wove and made not only interesting but also exciting. Finally, Balázs Ludányi belongs here too, someone through whose slow construction I have been able to experience inherent beauty and the power of faith. Speaking with him was a spiritual experience and from now on, each occasion when I can open one of his wines will be a spiritual experience.
Marco, Samuel, Peter, Tomas and Juraj, Eko and Balázs, thank you for the opportunity to get to know you!