The original of the above statement can be attributed to George Mallory, who lost his life attempting to scale Mt Everest. To this day, it has not been credibly determined whether he had succeeded in his attempt before his death or not. Following a previous, unsuccessful expedition, a reporter asked him why he had wanted to climb the mountain at all. The answer was simply, because it was there. Fortunately for Sándor Zsolt, he had a much better feeling about tackling Cserszegi Fűszeres than Mallory did with Csomolungma, aka Everest, especially since the latter died trying. Whereas Zsolt has gradually come to be known as Mr. Cserszegi among Hungarian wine circles, since so many memorable experiments have been attached to his name. Did I say experiment? Well, I’m not far from the truth…
Beautifully renovated old press house in Miskolc (photo: Daniel Ercsey)
A local Miskolc patriot
He followed a twisting, turning path before he finally established his winery in Avas! Wine itself infected Zsolt Sándor; he set up a wine club in Miskolc and a wine merchants, he worked with Gábor Rohály, fondly known as ‘Sir’, and Gabriella Mészáros, he studied in Soós to become a winemaker too and then cultivated a few baleful vines with Marci Bukolyi, laying the foundations for an estate in Tokaj-Hegyalja from 2011. So, it’s logical that he’s now the headline-grabbing winemaker in Miskolc, isn’t it? The first wines of his own appeared in 2013, with the grapes for them coming from the Bükk wine region right from the beginning. Zsolt must have thought that he could happily play around given that it was Bükk, and thus, he turned Zweigelt and Cszerszegi Fűszeres from this invisible wine region into top wines.
Zsolt in the background... (photo: Daniel Ercsey)
“If you knew what people were saying in 2015 when I decided to do this,” laughed Zsolt. “He won’t succeed anyway. What on earth is this bald guy thinking!? Yet, it is possible to make great wine from Cserszegi, it’s just not fashionable.” As I taste the 2017 LouLee, I ponder that fact that he might be right. Yet, I still don’t understand, why Cserszegi? “We’re in Miskolc and there are vineyards in various parts of the city. One of the best areas is the Csattos vineyard, where there are 24 hectares of Cserszegi planted. That’s why.”
I know it’s not easy, but it’s nice to win!
Ruined old press house in Miskolc (photo: Daniel Ercsey)
Tasting the wines, it’s easy to image that there’s a hidden candid camera somewhere. Tasting Zsolt’s wines blind is anyway a real killer for professionals. And no, not because of the quality! Can you imagine a tasting where you’d never imagine that four consecutive wines are Cserszegi Fűszeres, but of, course, all four are just that? Given that Cserszegi is an easily recognisable, aromatic, light variety! Or is it? He has a skin-fermented version, an orange wine, in exceptional years a real Cserszegi Aszú and also a three-year-old dry wine. Meanwhile, Sándor Zsolt is not only speaking, he is constantly asking questions too, he is obviously interested in everything connected to Miskolc, the wine region and wine too. Classical music is playing in the cellar next to the barrels, I don’t know who it calms down better, the wines or me? My mood is no coincidence. Zsolt’s whole being radiates something calming, that everything is fine just as it is. Organic viticulture, natural wines. But, do they think there is no risk? “The 2014 harvest proved that nature is stronger than us. I harvested next to nothing that year. However, I haven’t altered my principles.”
Photo: Daniel Ercsey
As we listen to Zsolt, the thought that, despite all his eccentricity, I know this man, or at least his thoughts, flashes across my mind. My grandfather was just like him. He believed in what he did, and his faith endowed him with a serene peace, which made it easier for him to endure any evil that befell him. If my grandfather had also had wine, then the wine map of Somogy County would look different. Thus, I’m always happy to come to Miskolc, to drink wine and to talk on the side of Avas.