DANCH & GRANGER SELECTIONS
Importer of Memorable Wines from the New Old World of Eastern and Central Europe
Importer of Memorable Wines from the New Old World of Eastern and Central Europe

Fekete, Somló, Hungary

“The Grand Old Man” of Somló, Fekete Béla, is Somló embodied. To know his wines is to know Somló.

Winery map

At a Glance

http://feketepincesomlo.hu/en/
Somló
Cool Continental
Basalt and ancient seabed
220-260 meters
Slopes of an ancient dormant volcano
Hárslevelű, Juhfark, Furmint, Olaszrizling
4 hectares
Dry Farmed
Natural


Fekete Béla
Fekete Béla and his wife Bori

The Appellation

Somló (Shoam-low) is Hungary’s smallest appellation and once an underwater volcano. Now dormant, its slopes of ancient sea sediment, hardened lava, and basalt are home to some of Hungary’s steepest, most densely planted vineyards. Driving up to Somló from Lake Balaton, it’s like seeing an island rise up from the ocean’s horizon — nothing else around survived the retreating ocean. The oldest writings mentioning the wine of Somló date back to 1093 and viticulture all the way back to the Romans. Hungarian Kings bought vineyards here, Maria Theresa and Queen Victoria both praised the wines, and insurgent Hungarian troops fighting against the Hapsburgs would solute the vineyards as they marched past at the end of the 17th century. In 1752, local laws stated that if you were found adding water to wine, expect 25 lashings as the minimum punishment. If you were found to be labeling wine as Somló but using other fruit sources, you would be banned from making wine permanently and might even have your property confiscated. Perhaps most well known is that belief that drinking the wines of Somló before copulation would guarantee a boy. “Nászéjszakák bora” or “wedding wine” was soon the favored wine of the Hapsburgs to keep the Monarchy in full swing.


Somló
Somló

The People

Today, “The Grand Old Man” of Somló is Fekete Béla. 32 years ago, while on a trip to buy grapes for his garage production, a farmer offered to sell his vineyards on the southern slopes. Fekete accepted and approaching 90 years old, still tends his 4 hectares of beloved Fehérvári-cru. Everything is done by hand, and much like the man, his wines are honest, engaging and highly expressive of the region. Focusing on Hárslevelű, Furmint, Olaszrizling, and Juhfark, Uncle Béla, and his wife, Aunt Bori decided that 2013 would be their final vintage.


Fekete Béla

Vineyards

Béla is engaged in a private dialog with his land that’s only possible after decades of working it. His vineyards are not as postcard perfect as his neighbors, nor are they planted to the newest clones. In the summer when others rush to drop fruit in pursuit of the expression and concentration that makes Béla’s wines so enigmatic, he simply smiles at his vines which instead hang heavy. Having listened to the old farmers and the council of others when we started, his vines have achieved balance. With 4 hectares dry farmed on the southern slopes, the basalt soil retains heat and a mixture of alluvial and loam soils give just enough nutrients. The vineyards have a secret garden appeal that’s far from a monoculture. Little to no synthetic treatments are used.

Fekete Béla
Fekete Béla

Winemaking

The wines of Somló tend to be high in alcohol, very acidic, and chock-full of smoky volcanic minerality. All wines are meant to be aged and can be fairly aggressive when young. Much like Tokaj, this is an all white appellation so winemaking is geared for structure and strength. After careful hand harvesting and sorting, spontaneous fermentation takes place in old 1200 liter Hungarian oak casks. Without bâtonnage and never completely sealed off from oxygen, all wines are aged for 2 years before bottling.

Fekete Cellar
 
FeketeFkt Hárslevelű Gábor 2020
White Wine
Hárslevelű;
13.5%
1.3 g/l
7 g/l
This is a new addition to the traditional lineup. Since Bélá sold the winery in 2014, one of the new owners, Gábor, has taken the lead in experimentation and is allowing some new and exciting things to take shape. The long aged style that Béla began making in the early 1980s is still alive and well, so this new project will take on a new label to clearly distinguish it. The maceration is about the same as the traditional lineup at 4 days as is the following 10 months in oak casks. However, instead of an additional minimum of 2 years in tank before bottling, this 2020 Hárslevelű only spends 2 months in old neutral French 225L oak followed by 5 months in tank. This is by far the freshest example of Fekete Béla you can find apart from barrel tasting in the cellar. Only 600 bottles were produced. This isn’t for the faint of heart concerning acidity, but the concentration and brightness make up for the needed difference.

FeketeFurmint 2018
White Wine
Furmint;
13.5%
1.3 g/l
7 g/l
While most may be more familiar with Furmint from Tokaj, this is a completely different animal. This is especially the case with a warm vintage like 2018 where higher levels of residual sugar were not needed to balance out over the top acidity. The acidity is still nearly 8 g/l, so it’s hardly subtle, but there’s ripeness behind it. While only macerated for 4 hours, the élevage is also what matters here. Gently pressed and fermented in 1000L Hungarian Oak barrels, it then spends 10 months on the lees. It’s then moved to 500 and 1500 liter tanks for reductive aging for a minimum of two years before bottling. No racking and no stirring. A “fresh” wine all things considered, the naturally high acidity and aromatic neutrality of Furmint allows Somló to shine clearly.

FeketeFurmint 2019
White Wine
Furmint;
14.3%
3.5 g/l
7.3 g/l
While most may be more familiar with Furmint from Tokaj, this is a completely different animal. This is especially the case with a warm vintage like 2018 where higher levels of residual sugar were not needed to balance out over the top acidity. The acidity is still nearly 8 g/l, so it’s hardly subtle, but there’s ripeness behind it. While only macerated for 4 hours, the élevage is also what matters here. Gently pressed and fermented in 1000L Hungarian Oak barrels, it then spends 10 months on the lees. It’s then moved to 500 and 1500 liter tanks for reductive aging for a minimum of two years before bottling. No racking and no stirring. A “fresh” wine all things considered, the naturally high acidity and aromatic neutrality of Furmint allows Somló to shine clearly.

FeketeHárslevelű 2013
White Wine
Hárslevelű;
13.5%
1.3 g/l
6 g/l
Literally translating to “Linden Leaf,” Hárslevelű certainly lends itself to the lime blossom teas and mild honeys that Linden trees are known for. More feminine than the Olaszrizlings and Juhfarks in the region, the texture is remarkably smooth and the acids are well balanced. Loosely bunched berries make it difficult for Botrytis to set it so the flavors are also extremely clean and lighter in body. Curries, peanut sauce, baba ganush and anything that plays off of the slightly honeyed volcanic flavors make this wine sing.

FeketeHárslevelű 2015
White Wine
Hárslevelű;
12.2%
1.1 g/l
6.6 g/l
Literally translating to “Linden Leaf,” Hárslevelű certainly lends itself to the lime blossom teas and mild honeys that Linden trees are known for. More feminine than the Olaszrizlings and Juhfarks in the region, the texture is remarkably smooth and the acids are well balanced. Loosely bunched berries make it difficult for Botrytis to set it so the flavors are also extremely clean and lighter in body. Curries, peanut sauce, baba ganush and anything that plays off of the slightly honeyed volcanic flavors make this wine sing.

FeketeJuhfark 2018
White Wine
Juhfark;
12.8%
1.3 g/l
7.6 g/l
Juhfark (Sheep’s tail) is a distinctive white grape variety found almost exclusively in Somló. The clusters are long, tightly packed and curve a little at the end hence the sheep’s tail moniker. Naturally very high in acidity, it’s also fairly neutral on its own and instead absorbs and shows fidelity to the mineral spring water that flows from inside the extinct volcano. With only 4 hours of skin maceration, it’s then fermented in 1000L Hungarian Oak barrels followed by 10 months on the lees in the same vessels. It’s then moved to 500 and 1500 liter tanks for reductive aging for a minimum of two years before bottling. No racking and no stirring. According to Bay Area restaurateur Jeff Berlin, “it’s the ultimate yin and yang wine in that it is at once rich, opulent and elegant but has such prominent veins of volcanic ash and minerality running through it at the same time. Like a Caligulan feast in a glass.” For those seeking cool climate intensely volcanic whites, this is a benchmark.

FeketeJuhfark 2019
White Wine
Juhfark;
13.7%
1.6 g/l
5.4 g/l
Juhfark (Sheep’s tail) is a distinctive white grape variety found almost exclusively in Somló. The clusters are long, tightly packed and curve a little at the end hence the sheep’s tail moniker. Naturally very high in acidity, it’s also fairly neutral on its own and instead absorbs and shows fidelity to the mineral spring water that flows from inside the extinct volcano. With only 4 hours of skin maceration, it’s then fermented in 1000L Hungarian Oak barrels followed by 10 months on the lees in the same vessels. It’s then moved to 500 and 1500 liter tanks for reductive aging for a minimum of two years before bottling. No racking and no stirring. According to Bay Area restaurateur Jeff Berlin, “it’s the ultimate yin and yang wine in that it is at once rich, opulent and elegant but has such prominent veins of volcanic ash and minerality running through it at the same time. Like a Caligulan feast in a glass.” For those seeking cool climate intensely volcanic whites, this is a benchmark.