Cover pic: Daniel Ercsey

This year proved to be an unusual one, at least in that we welcomed an illustrious guest in the form of the Archabbey of Pannonhalma. The winery was represented by head winemaker Zsolt Liptai, a university classmate of Sándor Mérész; the pair have remained friends ever since. 

The wines arrived in threes, and we tasted blind, just to make the whole thing more interesting. There was a vote after each flight to see who liked each wine best before the wines we had tasted were revealed.

Photo: Daniel Ercsey

Pannonhalmi Főapátság Széldombi 2021 (barrel sample) I 86-87 points

Bright ruby colour with purple reflexes. Fresh, juicy cherry aromas. Medium bodied and smooth but with appealingly vibrant acidity, strawberry and cherry and firm tannins, with the tannin dominating a little on the finish, therefore making it a little bitter.

Pannonhalmi Főapátság Ravazdi 2021 (barrel sample) I 90-91 points

Medium to deep ruby colour. Restrained nose of cherry and sour cherry. Vibrant, lively acidity with strawberry, cherry and sour cherry on the palate. Very fresh and tight, a stunning wine!

Pannonhalmi Főapátság Écsi 2021 (barrel sample) I 88-89 points

Pale to medium ruby colour. Intense nose of raspberry and strawberry with a touch of bourbon vanilla. Explosive fruitiness on the palate with good acidity. Easy-drinking, approachable, youthful wine with a long finish.

Photo: Daniel Ercsey

After the previous three, where the only difference was the origin, the difference between these three was only the barrel.

Etyeki Kúria 2020 (barrel sample - Kádár) I 89-90 points

Sweet nose with raspberry candy and a hint of forest floor. Smooth on the palate with attractive fruit and barely perceptible tannins. Very drinkable, lovely wine!

Etyeki Kúria 2020 (barrel sample - Stockinger) I 87-88 points

The nose itself is vibrant with sour cherry, marzipan and a little smoke. Fuller bodied with fresh acidity on the palate with distinctly sweet fruit and sweet spice. Some bitterness at the end of an otherwise mouth-filling wine.

Etyeki Kúria 2020 (barrel sample - Trust “5“) I 90-91 points

Restrained nose of blackberry, raspberry and saffron. Crisp acidity on the palate with a medium body, raspberry and some toast with raspberry jam. Already a very wine-like “finished” experience. Longer than average finish.

Etyeki Kúria 2020 (barrel sample - Seguin-Moreau) I 84-85 points

The nose has an appealing spicy vibrancy with juniper, star anise and vanilla. On the palate, you notice the new oak and the grippy tannins, it’s like tasting liquid oak with hazelnuts in the background. I can imagine it as the base for a blend, but not on its own.

Photo: Daniel Ercsey

After the flight, we learned that although Sándor Mérész acknowledges the validity of the saying that if you’re bored, buy a raccoon, he thinks it’s sufficient to plant Pinot Noir…

Etyeki Kúria magnum 2017 I 86 points

Pale ruby colour. The nose boasts hints of forest floor and raspberry jam. Quite vinous on the palate, by which I mean it’s more red wine than Pinot Noir, with ripe spicy flavours and a perhaps somewhat short finish.

Etyeki Kúria magnum 2016 I 90 points

Pale to medium ruby colour. Punch, turpentine and some gumdrops. Medium bodied on the palate with fresh acidity, superb tannins and persistent fruitiness.

Etyeki Kúria magnum 2014 I 85 points

Pale ruby colour. Aromas of rosehip jam, pepper and overripe, fermented strawberry. The palate is broad but a little soft and “melodic”. The finish is a little short.

Photo: Daniel Ercsey

Now it’s back to Pannonhalma, where the head winemaker Zsolt Liptai is just as much a member of the Winemaker of the Winemakers Top 50 list as the Etyeki Kúria head winemaker Sándor Mérész.

Pannonhalmi Főapátság 2019 I 91 points

Medium ruby colour. On the nose, the oak is rather dominant, with green walnut, forest floor and sour cherry. Medium to full bodied on the palate with firm structure, fine tannins and appealing fruitiness. Very elegant structure and a long finish. A real classic!

Pannonhalmi Főapátság 2017 I 86 points

Pale to medium ruby colour. Slightly sultry nose with notes of earth and soup vegetables. Fresh and tightly structured with plenty of fruit, especially raspberry. Unfortunately, the mid-palate is a little empty.

Pannonhalmi Főapátság 2015 I 88 points

Pale to medium ruby colour and a restrained nose with a hint of raspberry jam, toast and vanilla. Firm, drying tannins on the palate together with ripe fruit, sweet spice and crisp acidity. The finish is long.

Photo: Daniel Ercsey

While tasting the wines, Zsolt Liptai notes that he personally prefers red wines for which you don’t need to slaughter a cow, in reference to the structure of Pinot Noir.

Etyeki Kúria 2017 I 90 points

Pale to medium ruby colour with slight garnet reflexes. Restrained nose with sweet spice and strawberry jam. Beautiful maturity and perfect balance on the palate with a lovely fruit to spice ratio. The acidity is vibrant, the tannins support the palate nicely and the finish is medium.

Etyeki Kúria 2016 I 89 points

Medium ruby colour with orange reflexes. Star anise, pepper and lovage on the nose, with a predominantly black cherry flavour. Long and very drinkable with a medium body and well-integrated tannins.

Etyeki Kúria 2015 I 92 points

Pale to medium ruby colour with brick reflexes. Hint of toast on the nose with marzipan, graphite, Old Spice aftershave, raspberry and strawberry. Medium bodied on the palate with fine tannins and crisp acidity, very much still in its drinking window. Perfect balance, harmony and elegance with a long finish. Wow! Wine of the day!

Photo: Daniel Ercsey

Finally, we came to the most anticipated, at least for me, part of the event, the older vintages. Of course, we weren’t told in advance what was coming here either…

Etyeki Kúria 2012 I 91 points

Medium ruby colour with a brick rim. The nose is a little gamey, with hay, walnut and caramelised turnip. Medium-bodied on the palate with crisp acidity and hardly any tannin. Attractive flavours of spice and toast. Perhaps a little past its prime, but still very attractive.

Etyeki Kúria 2010 I 85 points

Medium ruby colour with a brownish rim. A little smoke, toast and caramelised pecan on the nose. Medium to full bodied on the palate with a slightly flabby, somewhat disjointed structure, like something from a cool year, with lots of vegetables and herbs.

Etyeki Kúria 2003 I 93 points

Pale to medium garnet colour. Intense nose of hay, cherry, fruit lollipop and rosehip. Well-balanced on the palate with lovely acidity, still quite fresh with a clean fruity finish and a hint of mushroom. Wow!