It is a measure, perhaps, of how good some of the wines in the Pannon Wine Challenge were that when the winners were unveiled at the end of tasting, the judges all crowded round with cameras and iPhones in order to photograph the winning bottles.
The best wines in the challenge were superb. It has made me determined to follow what is going on in Hungary with a close eye in the future. Yes, there are some problems with high-end reds that are picked too late and subjected to an oxidative winemaking regime. But there are also lovely complex wines with great definition, and superb local grape varieties.
After judging was complete, we left Pannonhalm for lake Balaton, where we visited Istvan Jásdi. He’s been making wine here, in the Csopak region on the shores of the lake, since 1999.
He caught the wine bug during 5 years spent in Paris, and when he sold his company, aged 50, he sunk his money into this small domaine that was established by 1853 and which had, at one stage, been owned by a local bishop.
He specializes in Olaszrizling (Welscher Riesling), which does good things here, acting as an interpreter of terroir. Two vineyards, just a couple of metres apart, produce very distinctive and different expressions, and the only difference is the soil.
Jásdi took us to his atmospheric cellar, and showed us some cask samples. We also tried some bottled wines, and the remarkable thing is the positive way his wines develop with age, as 2002 and 2004 vintage wines showed. ‘It is not acidity but the minerality that gives this ageing potential,’ says Jásdi. He cites a friend who has loess soils, and whose wines have half the ageing potential. ‘He is a much better winemaker than me but my wines age better.’