The winery pioneering a revival for a former favourite of aristocrats

James Ratcliffe, co-owner of The Black Bull in Sedburgh

This month’s expert wine review is from James Ratcliffe, co-owner of The Black Bull in Sedbergh 

The wines of Slovakia aren’t what might be described as a go to area for many of us when it comes to wine. The truth is though that the country has been producing wine for centuries, supplying fine wines to the major European aristocratic courts, particularly in the 19th Century.

Despite that, several things got in the way of what was a burgeoning industry. War, diseased stock and industrialised production practices during the soviet period largely destroyed centuries of wine making tradition. Luckily for us there has been a renaissance in Slovakian wine making, with talent from the country and elsewhere making significant contributions to the revival of that wine making whilst fully embracing modern philosophies and methods.

One of those pioneering this Slovakian revival is Zsolt Sütó. His winery Strekov 1075, is named after the village in which it is located and the year in which the village was first recorded in ancient medieval manuscripts. Zsolt is a gentle giant, who takes a truly holistic approach to all of the wines he creates, harvesting by hand, minimum cellar intervention and avoiding sulphur as much as possible.

Fred is one of the winery’s most popular wines, a unique blend of local grapes; Blauer Portugieser, Alibernet & Dunaj. Fred X, his latest batch, and what first stands out is the deep red, almost blood like colour of the wine through the clear bottle, and the distinctive crown seal cap, just like those you find on beer bottles.

This gives you the first inkling of what the is about, it screams drink me soon and don’t take me too seriously. When you pour this wine you are instantly hit with super juicy earthiness, and just enough funkiness to set the wine apart from everything else out there. It’s so easy drinking, something you could pass round a group of friends, while you laugh, joke or share a philosophical thought or two, whilst fully enjoying the moment.

Yet when you take the time to sit back and really think about this wine, you can’t help but reflect on its true complexity, it actually starts to creep through to more you reflect, the fruit flavours, the spice, the way it comes together making it the complete package.

There’s something about Zsolti’s wine that you just can’t put your finger on, no matter how hard you try. I haven’t had a wine that he’s produced that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. His belief is that wine was always a mystery, a fermentation process that created a great drink, and his view as a result is that it shouldn’t be controlled.

Modern wine production has become about recreating the same wine each time, which takes away the mystery, and can only be repeated with a lot of intervention. Zsolti believes we should all understand nature a little better, take nothing away from the natural wine making process and as a result let wines sing for themselves and develop in the way they want to develop. I suppose in a rather simplistic way if we don’t open our minds to this idea, then there is a distinct chance that we’ll never really enjoy his wine for what it is and should be?


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