Country Location: Hungary
“Our goal is to transform Szekszárd into an internationally recognized, high-end wine region capable of appealing to the most sophisticated and curious wine lovers.” — The Heimann family
The appellation.The Szekszárd appellation was originally established by the Celts, flourished under the Romans (Emperor Probus), continued under the Cistercian Abbeys, and even survived Turkish occupation due to the high tax revenue the wines generated. Once the Turks were pushed out, modern day Serbians were being pushed north by said Turks and brought the Kadarka grape with them. Up until this point, the appellation was almost entirely white wine. Since then, Kékfrankos and a variety of Bordeaux varieties (Cab Franc and Merlot mostly) have taken firmly to the region. These grapes in particular also survived under Communism while many of the native white and red grapes did not fair so well, namely Kadarka.
Backing up a bit, after the Turks were pushed out, the very wine savvy Swabians from southwestern Germany were also incentivized to resettle the area. Where the Serbians brought a key red grape, the Swabians brought superior winemaking skills. Their influence is still felt today. Case in point, the Heimann family is intensely proud of their Swabian roots and have been making wine here since 1758.
The people. This sense of regional pride is alive and well with the current Heimann family as well. Zoltán Sr. is the acting Chairman of the Szekszárd Appellation. He is also a founding member of Pannon Winemakers’ Guild and Vindependent. Ági, his wife, is the founding member of Pannónia Női Borrend, which puts on a wonderful series of cultural events. Zoltán Jr. is a member of Junibor Association of Young Winemakers. He has also studied viticulture and enology at Geisenheim, Montpellier, Bordeaux and Udine in addition to internships in Australia (Mac Forbes) and visiting top estates in Italy like Foradori. Zoltán Sr., Jr., and Ági are all active members of the Szekszárd Winemakers’ Guild which gathers the best winemakers in Szekszárd to develop the region as a whole. In 2016 Heimann was chosen as the “Winery of the Year” in the Gault-Millau Guide.
In the vineyard. Heimann farms roughly 23 hectares spread over the Baranya, Porkoláb and Iván Valleys in addition to some rare hillside plantings on Batti. The soil is overwhelmingly Loess in Szekszárd, but you can also find Terra Rosa (iron rich soil also dominant in Istria, Croatia) if you get deep enough. If you’re approaching the appellation from the Great Plain to the East, you first hit the River Danube and then the first hills are Szekszárd. It’s a fairly dramatic change in the landscape and an obvious place for multiple exposures. Currently most plantings are Kékfrankos with smaller amounts of Merlot, Cab Franc, Tannat, Sagrantino (from Umbria!) and now more than ever re-plantings of Kadarka are underway.
In the cellar. The Kékfrankos is fermented in large wooden vats with temperature control. After secondary fermentation, the wines are aged in 50 hl wooden vats and large Hungarian barrels (1000-5000L) for a minimum of one year. The Alte Reben, which means “Old Vines” in German, is sourced from vines planted in 1969 in the Baranya-völgy vineyards. Yields rarely exceed 1 kg. Fermentation takes place in concrete vats followed by aging in three 10 hl and one 5 hl Hungarian oak barrels for 22 months.
For the Bikavér, every variety is fermented separately in either concrete, open wooden vats or stainless steel. Each grape is then aged separately as well. Only the Cabernet Franc sees new oak aging.