The brand’s name is ‘Collective’. Its aim is to help winemakers located in the Carpathian basin (not only Hungarians) gain access to the market, those winemakers who have been producing their wine in a natural way or who would like to do so, but due to some kind of restriction (usually monetary), have not managed to make difficult decisions associated with this. The Collective brand’s first wines have been produced by Oszkár Maurer, who we have already written about after visiting his estate. What the four wines have in common is that they do not use any absorbent agents in the vineyards, there are no additives in the wines and they work with a very low level of sulphur dioxide. (For example, one of the wines has a sulphur dioxide level of zero!). Oszkár, of course, has been heading in this direction for some time, but without the financial support of Terroir Club, their help with market access, and Isabelle’s tasting experience and advice, it is not certain that he would have dared to get started. What is particularly appealing about the story is that the famous MW tasted Oszkár’s wines at an event in Budapest last spring and sought out the winery herself with future cooperation in mind.
What you should know about Oszkár is that the centre of his estate, as well as half the vines, is in northern Serbia, in the Subotica-Horgoš (Szabadka-Horgosi) wine region, the other half of the estate can be found in what is perhaps mediaeval Europe’s most famous wine region, Srem (Szerémség), on the southern and eastern slopes of the Fruska Gora Mountains. Three of the wines tasted here come from the Srem region.
In addition to the abovementioned viticulture and vinification criteria, the winemaker also strongly believes that you should only cultivate those grape varieties in this ancient wine region that were already flourishing in these hills 500 years ago; unfortunately, the other winemakers in the region do not totally share this idea, although Isabelle Legeron thinks that they will also reconsider this. The Mézes Fehér, Furmint, Bakator, Kadarka, Kövidinka or Szerémi Zöld are all varieties of which little is produced elsewhere in the world, perhaps only by a few Hungarian and one or two Serbia producers. The fact that there is none on the world market only increases their attraction.
Before the tasting, Oszkár said:
Those primary aromas which are present in wines with higher sulphur dioxide levels are not going to appear here. In this case, the sulphur dioxide blocks oxidisation.
In fact, Oszkár is a fourth-generation winemaker, whose great-grandfather established the winery in Hajdújárás in 1916; he even has some vines which were planted in 1880 on the sandy ridge! He bottles the Kardarka produced from these separately and generally explains at the largest, comprehensive tastings that, during WWI, the soldiers from the area set off to the front with just that same taste in their rucksacks!
Isabelle emphasises the fact that Oszkár is known as a sensitive, humble and, at the same time, open person, lacking the ego possessed by the majority of winemakers, which prevents them from trying out something new. She has previously made the following remark about the wines:
You don’t always have to think about what varietal-specific characteristics these wines should also have. Instead, when you are tasting, you should consider whether these wines bring pleasure or not.
Finally, one last nice thought from the winemaker, which was voiced at the tasting:
The world was not created that long ago. Perhaps you can still smell it. At one time, people were still satisfied with the quality of what nature could give. I would like to go back to those times. The controlled fermentation so fashionable elsewhere is for us the shade of our hundred-year-old walnut tree. If I want to relocate the cellar, I would only consider somewhere where another hundred-year walnut tree is already standing.
The wines will not be on sale in retail outlets (given the extremely low number of bottles); you can only order them from Terroir club, and mainly for restaurants. You should probably hurry as a Danish wine merchant has already bought up almost half of the stock…
Szerémi Mézes Fehér 2013 I 84-85 points
(27mg/l total sulphur dioxide)
Pleasant fragrance (and that is the right word for it) of white flowers, a little honey in the background, hay and a bit of dusty minerality. There is no sign of any oxidation; after a little airing, vanilla and cloves are also apparent. The palate is medium-bodied with a firm structure, bright acidity and flavours of lemon, minerality and some herbal bitterness. Medium to long finish. Due to the acidity, I could imagine it would be better with food. (A Danish wine merchant compared the wine to Riffault.)
Szerémi Kékfrankos 2013 I 84-85 points
(20mg/l total sulphur dioxide)
At first, the nose is a little stale and unclean, but this clears after about ten minutes. In the background, not the usual exuberant fruitiness, but rather ‘real’ fruit aroma, especially cherries. On the palate, it most resembles a Loire Valley Cabernet Franc, with its lively acidity, masses of sour cherries and cherries, and smooth tannins. It is also very easy to drink, the question is how long it will remain like this with such low levels of sulphur dioxide.
Kadarka 1880 2013 I 88-90 points
(0mg/l total sulphur dioxide, there was also a little botrytis)
Its brown colour is completely unusual, perhaps even worrying at first; the sacrilegious word ‘cola’ came to mind when I saw it. (The winemaker said that the botrytis also breaks down the colour pigments, which is why this colour appears, and the zero sulphur dioxide may also have contributed to this. He recommended drinking the wine within 24 hours of opening.) Aromas of fruits of the forest, rosehips, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and a little fig, the last perhaps attributable to the botrytis. The palate is completely Burgundian in style, with bright, lively acidity, low tannins and a firm structure. Flavours of dried and fresh red fruits, with a little bitterness. Exciting, spicy finish. (Rarely do I explain my points, but here I'm forced to do so. You have to be very open minded with this wine. The Georgian route helped me with this. It is not for those yearning for a classic Kadarka. However, for anyone looking for something special, I would definitely recommend it!)
Szerémi Kadarka Nagy-Krisztus dűlő 2013 I 86-88 points
(20mg/l total sulphur dioxide)
Exuberant fresh fruitiness, with lots of strawberries and raspberries. This is mirrored on the palate, the wine is light yet elegant, but still so young that you often have the impression of fruit juice. Tight structure, beautiful acidity with plenty of fruit and pleasant spicy notes of pepper and cloves. Good balance, intense and very drinkable. I would taste it again in a year!