Grapes are hand-harvested and destemmed. A non-vintage blend of wines fermented in open casks and then aged in old oak for various amounts of time. Once blended, it’s bottled unfined, and unfiltered under crown cap, with zero addition of sulfur.
Farming: Certified Organic
“When there’s an article on our winery in the Slovak media, they call me a Slovak winemaker; when it’s in the Hungarian media, I’m a Hungarian prodigy,” Zsolt Sütó (or Zsolti, as his friends call him) laughs at his double nature of making wine in a village located in Slovakia while being a member of its traditionally Hungarian majority. Hungarians still make up about 90% of the population of the village, whose past dates back to the year 1075 at least. (Hence the number in the winery’s name; by serendipity, it’s also the street number of Zsolti’s winery, a picturesque white house with sun-laden terrace sheltered from the main road by a socialist-era grocery store.) Due to its eventful past, this border region and its ubiquitous bilingual signs are still a sensitive reminder of a once vast Hungarian empire that was significantly reduced in size after WWI.
Yet, standing on the small plateau that separates the upper and lower part of the Údolie Márie (Slovak for “Maria Valley”) vineyard, with wild Blaufrankisch vines on stakes above and some Welschriesling below, you’re more likely to experience an intense sensation of calm and joy. Maybe it comes from the gentle slopes running towards the marshlands and the Danube River on the horizon, both contributing to the unique microclimate of the area. Maybe it’s the unobscured vistas formed by this soothing, horizontally-oriented land. Or the afternoon sun, which leisurely sets around us, bringing us joy as we soak in its long, large rays. Their caresses are also very beneficial to the vines, which – thanks to this extended sunlight – have built up a resistance to the extreme heat that sometimes hits this area.
It really is a special place, and it’s no wonder that Zsolti has installed a couple of benches and a sturdy table there, creating one of the most charming tasting rooms we know of, indoors or out. No matter how seductive the Strekov 1075 wines generally are themselves, this spot always adds a bonus to their rustic appearance and bold flavors, which often surprise you with their unexpected turns – at times vivacious and playful, at others deep and meditative.
It’s no surprise that we tend to see wine as a projection of the winemaker himself: Zsolti sports a sturdy constitution and his energetic, honest hug may leave the more fragile among us breathless. Yet, if you’re lucky enough to spend some time with him, you might end up nose-deep in inspiring discussions that run late into the night in the spacious, rustic wooden attic above his zero-additions cellar. The winemaking down there is minimal: whites often undergo skin contact, some of them are then aged under a yeasty veil called flor (similar to Jura or Jerez). Zsolti also often blends different vintages, both in his still and sparkling wines; the latter are made as pet-nats or as non-vintage blends with added must, depending on the vintage. After using less and less sulfur for a couple of years, he stopped adding it altogether in 2017, giving his wines total freedom.
Back in the tasting room above, you’ll probably talk about the open mind needed to taste these unconventional wines. About the leap of faith that it takes to make them, especially completely without sulfur. Or about having the audacity to face the eventual flops of using this approach. “I had a barrel that was borderline flawed, I felt it coming. I also knew that a tiny bit of SO2 would spare me the risk; but if I added it, I’d never know the eventual outcome – maybe the wine would manage to take care of itself. In the end, I think this search for truth is my ultimate fuel. No matter how unflattering or potentially painful, I think we should always seek the truth and face it.”
Grapes: Alibernet (a cross between Alicante Henri Bouschet and Cabernet Sauvignon), Dunaj (cross of Blauer Potugieser and Sankt Laurent), Portugieser
Region: the village of Strekov / Kürt, border of Slovakia and Hungary
The name of the winery is a reference to the first written traces of the village and also the Zsolt’s house number. The village of Strekov is a Slovak leader of organic viticulture, with more than 10% of the vineyard area certified. The vines enjoy a unique microclimate of the nearby marshlands & Danube River
Tasting: funky, earthy, incredibly congenial. As Zsolti says, the F in the name stands for “friendly, fresh, but also fucking good red” and he’s 100% correct on all accounts.