When I went to Tokaj in April 2019, my friend, the great Hungarian wine writer Daniel Ercsey, had recommended that I visit László Szilágyi, the owner of Tokaj producer Gizella. One cannot reject advice from that source, so of course I made an appointment.
The gentle giant Lászlo comes from a family that has been active in wine in Tokaj for generations, but struck out for himself in 2005, when he founded the Gizella Pince winery. Gizella has holdings in a number of excellent vineyards, such as Bomboly, Szil-völgy, Barát, Szent Tamás, Medve and Kastély. A range of single-vineyard wines has historically been made from these vineyards, but Lászlo has decided to slim down the range, for reasons of being able to offer a consistently good Estate product, and to not confuse the consumer with too much variety. When looking at other producers and their frequently large ranges of wines, I think this makes a lot of commercial sense.
Production is about 20.000 bottles/year, with a possibility to grow it up to possibly 30,000 bottles/year. Lászlo thinks he will need to keep it at or below that level in order to be able to deliver consistent quality.
While Gizella is headquartered in Tokaj, the wine is actually made in the communal winemaking facilities at Hercegkút. Lászlo is very intent on making a clean, consistent, drinkable product, so the modern steel tanks and bottling facility there suit him very well. Once grapes enter the facility, they are immediately pressed, and only the first pressing is used, in order to minimize bitter phenolics (Furmint, in particular, can exhibit a relatively elevated level of phenolics). Wines are fermented using selected yeasts, and are aged on the fine lees for a few months before bottling, parts in used oak barrels, but the majority in steel tanks.
In keeping with the stated philosophy of presenting fewer wines to the public, the tasting consisted of four wines only. While this is not a huge number from which to draw conclusions, I will venture some anyway. The first one is that Lászlo’s philosophy of cleanness and consistency in the wines clearly comes through in the wines; they are upright, vertical and have admirable consistency from nose to mouth to aftertaste. Secondly, the excellent vineyards shine through in the wines; there is depth, complexity and a beautiful vein of minerality on that upright background. And finally, yes, these wines are highly drinkable and easily understandable, in a non-banal and terroir-faithful way. These wines strike an admirable balance.
My tasting notes follow. As usual, no colour notes, and no points scoring. They wouldn’t tell you anything relevant anyway.
Tokaji Hárslevelü Barát 2018
100% Hárslevelü. Fermented in stainless steel, aged 6 months in used oak barrels (20%) and steel tanks (80%). Residual sugar 8 grammes per litre, acidity 7.2 grammes per litre. Barát is a loess vineyard in Tarcal, on the side of Tokaj Hill. This wine has been made since 2006.
Lovely nose of peach with shimmering citrus and a touch of clay. Juicy, fresh and lively in the mouth, with a fruity-fleshy feel. Long and very minerally, ending on the same notes as the nose. Delicious!
Tokaji Furmint 2018
85% Furmint, 15% Hárslevelü. Fermented in steel tanks and aged 6 months in new oak barrels (10%) and steel tanks (90%). Residual sugar 3.8 grammes per litre, acidity 6.1 grammes per litre. This is the Estate wine, mixed from a variety of vineyards.
Quite deep and intense nose, mildly fruity with dry minerality and a hint of florality from the Hárslevelü. Lovely acidity, fruit and minerality and a long aftertaste mirroring the nose, with a hint of citrus, conspire to make this a juicy, fresh, delicious and very drinkable wine. To be downed by the bucketful.
Tokaji Furmint Bomboly 2017
100% Furmint, fermented in steel. Aged 6 months in oak barrels (50%) and steel tanks (50%). Residual sugar 8 grammes per litre, acidity 6.3 grammes per litre. Bomboly is a single vineyard.
Quite broad, impactful nose with dry apple and big hit of minerality; little hint of oak ageing. Intense, fat, yet vertical and elegant, wine that seems dry from big extract coupled with oak ageing. Long, with scintillating minerality. Rather good.
Tokaji Szamorodni 2017
45% Furmint, 45% Hárslevelü, 10% Sárgámuskotály. Fermented and aged 6 months in oak barrels. Residual sugar 143 grammes per litre, acidity 7.8 grammes per litre. This is obviously a sweet Szamorodni, with enough residual sugar to classify it is an Aszú wine.
Flattering, lightly floral nose with scents of peach, citrus, fresh minerality, hints of nettle-y botrytis and oak spice. Clean, fresh sweetness fills the mouth and is balanced by lovely acidity. Very long, mirroring the nose, with fresh minerality. Gorgeous. Yummy!
I enjoyed this tasting greatly, both for the warm hospitality and lucid vision of Lászlo Szilágyi and for the sheer quality of the wines we tasted. I have much time for his vision of an uncluttered, people-friendly version of great terroir wine. And make no mistake: Lászlo’s wines are not simple quaffers. Their drinkability and enjoyment factor spring from their innate freshness, elegance and liveliness, coupled with their faithfulness to a great terroir and great grape varieties, not from a levelling or filing down of those characteristics. Lovely wines, in other words, highly recommended.
Declaration of Interest: Apart from writing about wine, I am also a wine merchant. I do not at the point of writing import or sell wines from Gizella.