My head is easily turned. Some would say I’m fickle. Mapping the direction of my conversation would be a challenge. I have a tendency to rhapsodise. On the few occasions I’m overcome with enthusiasm for something, I border on the evangelical. And when I discover something, or somewhere, or someone I really, really like, the world and its mother has to know.
I was introduced to Sándor Szogedi on a recent trip to Noszvaj. I’d gone to mass (wrong service, wrong church, different experience) while the others went to see the castle and the cave dwellings. They were to come back and meet me in an hour when I’d done praying for all our sins. Instead, I got a phone call. They’d found their church – the Gazsi Pince.
It wasn’t by accident. My friend had sampled a red wine from the Gazsi cellar some time ago and knew it was resident in Noszvaj. They went to check it out and when they found it closed, she called the number on the gate. The ever-amenable Szogedi agreed to open up and let them taste his wine. And it was there I eventually found them, lauding the merits of a rosé that apparently was the best anyone had ever tasted.
While I’m prone to exaggeration myself, I don’t find it becoming in others. I was just a tad sceptical and more than a little contrary that sunny Sunday. So I decided to ignore their urgings and go with one of the cellar’s 12 wines – a dry white 2015 Leányka. And I was impressed. Very impressed. Bottled from grapes from vines planted back in 1982, it’s certainly a ‘young lady’ of note.
I tried another, a 2014 Királyleányka. And the descriptive that came to mind was intriguing. I’m convinced that wines have personalities. A lot of them are simply boring. If they could speak, their conversations would be dull and uninteresting. I could relate to the Királyleányka – it caught me unawares. I liked it, too. A lot.
The others had moved on to the reds so I was catching up. Curiosity got the better of me and I gave in. I tried the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon rosé. Since discovering the virtues of rosé back in Wimbledon, UK, some dozen years ago, I have only once tasted anything that came close. I don’t have the vini-vocabulary to describe it so I’ll revert to the prosaic – it was bloody brilliant.
I’m not one for red wine. I had an unfortunate encounter with a bottle of port when living in Anchorage, Alaska, many moons ago, an incident that left me scarred for life. Even sitting next to an open bag of wine gums turns my stomach. But I was on a mission. And I tried both the dry Cabernet Sauvignon and the sweetish Turán. And if the rosé and the white ran out, I could drink either.
Szogedi, too, is a rather remarkable man. In a country where customer service is still in its infancy, he has nailed it. Eschewing the usual retail channels, Gazsi wines are sold directly to the consumer. Relationships are established. The family is extended. With just two hectares under vine, they buy in grapes from other growers and then work their magic. Their run is small – perhaps 6-8000 bottles a year plus the barrels dispensed in 2L and 5L plastic bottles. Their wine tastings can be coupled with a four-course meal in the cellar, something that’s now officially on my list of things to do. And with delivery runs to Budapest three times a week, putting wine with a personality on your table has never been easier. Introducing others to the delight that is Gazsi is a bonus. Check them out at www.gazsipince.hu
First published in the Budapest Times 17 June 2016