Planting during the COVID-19

Years ago when we decided to make new plantations in addition to kékfrankos in Steiner vineyard, we would never think in our wildest dreams that the project would eventually have such adventurous twists and turns and real international collaboration would be needed to get the vine grafts to their rightful place.

But let’s not run so far ahead.

We have 5 different vineyards in Sopron. We love them all and we love them for different reasons moreover we see huge potential in each and every one of them. Due to the exceptional soil conditions and fantastic exposure of the Steiner vineyard, it has always had a special place in our hearts, also we have impressive neighbours whose wines always have a great influence on us. Years ago, when we had the opportunity to start working on another hectare in the vineyard, we knew we wanted to create something really special there. Plantation design, of course, goes far beyond impulsive or intuitive decisions. Our viticulture and winemaking activities have always been characterized by thinking and planning for 10-15 years ahead as a new plantation may affect the development of our entire assortment, but we will discuss that in a later post.

We definitely wanted to plant a white variety from the beginning on this new 1-hectare area and we were confirmed by our all-time advisor, the French Derenoncourt Consultant, after they studied the area and the results of the soil tests carried out. From both pedological and climatic point of view, this piece of the vineyard is especially ideal for white varieties. After several rounds of consultations with Derencourt’s expert David Picci, we decided to create a mixed white, i.e. Gemischter Satz type plantation. Our Austrian neighbors have a long tradition of making wines harvested from different varieties from the same area, at the same time, under the name Gemischter Satz. These wines, in addition to giving the winemaker an exciting and creative opportunity to experiment, convey amazingly well the typicalities of the area. Since we have only made red monovarietal wines from our Sopron plantations so far, we consider it a particularly exciting challenge to focus on the terroir characteristics in our first white wine from the area.

In recent years, soil testing and preparation work has taken place in the vineyard, while our team has carried out market research and trend forecasting for our newest member in our assortment, which we can taste in 3-4 years at the earliest.

At the beginning of the year everything seemed to be ready for the planting to start as soon as the weather and the vegetation cycle allowed, when suddenly the COVID-19 pandemic struck down and took control of the world as we know it for months. With different restrictions coming into force, the planned work became increasingly uncertain. When closing the borders, we and Krisztián Zsebők, the vineyard manager of our Sopron areas, were already seriously scratching our heads about whether we could do the work this year or have to wait until 2021 to finally start planting our first white grapevines in Sopron.

Our Austrian partner, Scheiblhofer Reben GmbH from whom we have been buying our propagation material for 20 years now, could only have crossed the border if their colleagues had gone through a 14-day official quarantine which, let’s face it, was not a walkable path. But then how to proceed?

Ákos Molnár popped up to save the day, who despite being the direct competition of the Austrian company, offered to handle the grafts once they crossed the border. We would like to thank Ákos Molnár, the president of the Sopron Hegyközség, for his selfless help. Our viticulturist, Máté Elek who works at our sister estate, the Esterházy Winery, rushed to help us transport the grafts. Máté being a resident of Sopron was free to travel between the two countries due to his work in Austria. Events at this point have accelerated incredibly. In the first days of May we got the news of the future roles of Ákos and Máté and on 7th May Krisztián Zsebők lined up the whole team for the work. It was really heartwarming to see that for the participants in all these events it was completely natural to selflessly help us in these uncertain and perilous days.

After all these we took it kind of easy to do the work in desert-like conditions thanks to the draught. We trust and believe that such a “diverse” plantation that is now being born and so many helping hands were involved in its conception will produce exceptional wines within a few years. We will surely always remember these days.

We continue to do our job because life never stops in a vineyard or a cellar.