The Szekszárd wine region has a long history of working with international varieties and most wineries’ top bottlings are based on these varieties. In really hot years cabernet sauvignon might be unsurpassable, in cooler vintages it might be cabernet franc that shines with its special elegance while many winemakers believe that of all the Bordeaux varietals none is better suited to the Szekszárd terroir than merlot.
Kékfrankos is another variety with huge potential; it can bring vibrancy and zest to blends and it is also a variety that generally does well even in lesser vintages. However there is a lot of work to be done; whereas in the case of international varieties the best clones have already been identified with kékfrankos it is still a work in progress. The ongoing research conducted by local wineries covers 200 different variants. Differencies between clones can be quite significant; kékfrankos is a variety that shows diversity in colour, ripeness and the spiciness of its aromas. Once the best clones are identified there is every reason to believe that wine quality will reach new heights. This direction holds a lot of promise and might produce individual and exciting wines that can pique the interest of international customers too. There is a growing reliance on kékfrankos in the region’s top blends and this contributes to making wines with a stronger sense of „somewhereness”.
It has been common knowledge among Szekszardians for a long time that the most precious wines come from red clay soils and this age old observation has been born out by modern day experience with the emergence of some superlative wines. Compared to loess it has a superior water retention capacity, grapes grown here usually show more consistent sugar levels resulting in more complex and more sophisticated wines. It is up to winemakers to decide whether they want to bottle separately the harvests of specific vineyards or to blend them.
By the end of the 1990s a growing number of Szekszárd winemakers realized that it was impossible to produce wines of real concentration without stricter yield control. It was the wines of this period that first brought a wider recognition for the region and achieved success at various wine competitions. That is how it all began. Today each and every winery has established its own way of dealing with the question of yield control as there is no one formula that fits all.
With ambitious concentrated red wines barrel ageing is a central issue. This is the category where new barrels are most often used and French or American oak is the most prevalent. Blending barrels is almost an art in itself and it certainly takes a lot of experience to get it right. Recent years have brought a steady scaling down of new barrels in order to highlight the rounded, concentrated fruit laden character of the wines the region is famous for. Generally speaking wines today spend more time in barrel and bottle to reach proper maturity before leaving cellars.
The diversity of vineyards and the multitude of cellars is an important aspect of the wine region’s character. As far as the quality and personality of their wines are concerned smaller wineries with smaller production do not fall behind the bigger players. And that is good news for wine lovers.