What do you see when you look in the mirror?
A happy man, who has not been getting younger (I’m 61).
Where did you grow up?
In the Tokaj wine region, in Bodrogkeresztúr village, on the bank of the Bodrog river.
Where were you educated?
I attended primary school in Bodrogkeresztúr, high school in Sárospatak and university in Budapest.
How did you get into winemaking?
Our family has been producing in the Tokaj wine region since the 1500s. I spent my holidays in the vineyard from 1955.
What drew you to wine?
I loved the hills, the vineyards, the flowers, the birds, the working people, the smoke of the cuttings fire.
Is great wine made in the vineyard or the winery?
Only in the vineyard, being on special terroir.
Do you make wine for the people, the critics, or yourself?
I grow grapes as perfect as I can, as it’s my passion, and I love the people who understand me.
What’s your view of awards?
I’ve got some and they helped me to develop. Now, they’re not important.
And the Robert Parker system of ranking wines?
I don’t want Mr Parker to taste my wines. I believe in nature!
What impact is the recession having on your business? How are you handling the changing economic times?
We have fewer possibilities to develop technically, but it helps us to be more creative. We produce wines with a new approach and try to spend less money.
Whom do you most admire?
My father, who created a happy life in the worst communist times (in the 1950s) and gave belief.
In wine terms, who are your heroes?
The ancient Hungarian people (in 2000 BC) who started to break the rocky soil in Tokaj.
What is it you most dislike in a wine?
If there is no balance.
Your feelings on oak?
A barrel is necessary for full-bodied wines, but only new ones.
How important is the glass you drink from?
We use larger Riedel glasses.
What has been your greatest winemaking achievement?
My greatest achievement is that I have found wonderful terroirs for dry wines.
If you could make a special wine for a particular person, who and what would you choose?
I make all the wines for the people I love.
What music (if any) do you listen to in the winery?
Old Hungarian songs.
Tell us about a surprising wine in your cellar.
The greatest surprise was in 2000 – a dry furmint wine from Úrágya vineyard which has a very stony, rocky red clay and 50-year-old vines. It was ripe, rich and dense, with perfect body and intense aromas.
What do you drink on a “school night”?
Young, dry furmint.
There’s a noticeable disparity between the numbers of male and female winemakers. Why do you think this is so?
This work needs a lot of time in hard circumstances, to meet workers and visitors, to travel, etc. The ladies play a different role in the family; it is difficult to fit the grape-growing and winemaking into their lives.
What has been your best experience in the wine industry? And the worst?
The best is that I discovered that quality has no borders. The worst is that I make plans and nature has finished them differently.
Are you adjusting your winemaking practices because of climate change? If not, do you anticipate you’ll have to?
I had to adjust my practice in cool years already, with malolactic fermentation.
If you are not drinking wine, what are you drinking?
If you weren’t making wine in Tokaj, where would you want to make it?
How do national differences display themselves in wine?
The history is different, the climate is different, the soils are different, the grapes are different; this is why we can enjoy all of them and it’s not necessary to compare.
During harvest, who or what do you pray to?
I believe in God and I know that all the things that happen (even the bad weather) are for my spiritual development.
Are you afraid of dying?
It’s not a good feeling, but I know there is no death, only a new circle that has to be followed.
What would you want the last wine you taste to be?
What brings you the greatest happiness?
My family, and to see the vineyards growing.
What do you think would make the world a better place?
Convince all the people that we’re part of the only ONE being.
In the end, what really matters?
Belief in spiritual evolution.
As told to Diana Goodman