Bed of the Lord

Katalin Kiszel-Kohari - May 19, 2020

Úrágya translates as Bed of the Lord from Hungarian. It is a small 5,3 ha plot in Mád, in the Tokaj region. It is called the Bed of the Lord because looking from the village, this is where the sun sets, goes to bed. Mád is not pronounced mad; it is more like Ma-ad. Like the ‘a’ in Mark. The winemaker is Istvan SZEPSY. With block capitals, the doyen of the winemakers in Hungary.

You should pay some respect to someone whose family and ancestors have been winemakers since 1500. Under the same name, at and around the same village. No posh château, or blue blood here. They worked hard for someone else, but always with wine.

It does sound rather cool that allegedly one of your fore-bearer wrote down the recipe for making aszú wine. It is not true, he has never claimed it to be true, but still. They bear the same name.

He is possibly the most respected and revered winemaker in Hungary. He believes in terroir above all and manipulating his wine as little as possible. If you come across his wines, approach with caution, it is not an everyday affair. It is not coming at everyday prices either. He used Vinolok as a stopper in this bottle to retain freshness.

He has 53 ha land under wine, planted with mostly Furmint with a portion of Hárslevelű (Lindenleaf) and a bit of Muscat Lunel with the average age of 40 years. They have several green harvests and very strict on yield control. The ripe grapes are hand-picked and hand- selected, same as the shrivelled aszú berries. His wines are not organic certified, but not using pesticides, insecticides, chemical or organic fertilisers, kind of reassures you. This guy lives with the land and knows what he is doing. He has his own cellars where he uses natural, wild yeasts, no enzymes, minimal SO2. Old Hungarian oak barrels, from the surrounding Zemplén Forrest, used for fermentation and for maturation too. Quite the traditionalist you might say.

This white wine is a Furmint which is the stellar champion variety of the Tokaj region. Although it is not the most aromatic of grapes, but it has the capacity of producing outstanding quality wines. It is an early budding, late-ripening grape with thick skin and relatively loose bunches which makes it ideal for botrytised dessert wines. Although the region is famous for its dessert wine, the production is mostly dry white. The long ripening season helps to build up the delicate fruity aromas and the grapes can withhold high amount of acidity to balance the rich, full bodied, fiery wines. Does it not remind you of Burgundy? It does remind me.

If your good fortune brings this wine in your way you might need to dig deep in your pocket, but it will worth it. He's worth it.

Photographs by The Tannin Addict.