I guess all wine regions needs them to some extent, whether you like it or not. The semi wine tourists that is. They’re not geeks, or bargain hunters but more of leisure travelers and people seeking out quality stays. Quite often this group of people are of the wealthy kind and hence bring money to a wine region. They shop wine of course but more importantly, they seek out higher standard hotels and fine restaurants. The true wine nerd might look at them with a suspicious mind but honestly, their spending is of great importance for a wine region in general as it supports the establishment of fine dining and also brings job opportunities.
Tokaj haven’t had so much of this. Yes, there’s the Degenfeld Estate which is run as a classic luxury chateau but more is needed if the wine region wants to establish itself as an attractive place also for wealthier wine tourists. If you walk the village of Tokaj you quite quickly realize there’s no fine dining whatsoever. Absolutely none. It surprises me since there are so many excellent dry wines in the region, some even world-class, and they’re often shaped to fullfill a wine’s main purpose, to be paired with food. In the village of Mád you will find the tremendous Gusteau Kulinaris restaurant which is run by Szepsy Jr and in Tarcal there’s the Andrassy Residence. Still; it’s not enough in order to attract the spending tourists to your region.
By coincidence we end up at one of the new projects in Tokaj, in the village of Tarcal. Basilicus Szőlőbirtok. It’s one heck of a contrast to the winery we’ve just spent a couple of hours at, Kikelet Pince. Where Stéphanie Berecz’s Kikelet is artisanal and a pretty modest establishment, although the wines are amongst the best in Tokaj, Basilicus is a top estate where no expenses seem to be spared. State-of-the-art cellar, winery and a multi-operation with plans to bring tourists in, mainly from Budapest as a start.
It’s just a few hundred meters from Kikelet. A high wall gives an almost curtained feel of the estate when passing by. The winemaker, András Kanczler, well-known in Tokaj, greets us and makes sure we can taste their six wines and catch up with the first group that has been brought in from Budapest, to have a look at the premises. Wine tourists, not geeks. Really nice food is offered, something to chew while tasting as well. A part of the show, to provide the visitor with a pleasant memory of Basilicus.
It’s not my kind of visiting. I honestly have to admit that. However, that doesn’t take away the friendliness I’m experiencing during our stay at Basilicus and the fact I do support initiatives of this kind as they are much needed. I guess there’s something for everyone in a wine region! In the end, places like Basilicus is a general boost for all in Tokaj.
Their first vintage were produced in 2011 and the six wines made originate from cultivators they cooperate with. All wines are made in a modern style. There is an almost international feel over some of them but still they do show typicity of the region. Especially the 2011 Mestervölgy Furmint impresses a lot. András has high hopes for the single vineyard of Mestervölgy and I can understand that; it’s slightly floral with lime peel, pure wet rocks scents and a dash of smoke. Delicious acidity adds depth to the stone fruits taste, apples and peaches, and the mineral feel is so appetizing. Splendid concentration and a wine worth following. Sadly, there’s only 733 bottles made.
Basilicus also produces a wine from the well-known Lapis site. The 2011 is perhaps not my cup, more interesting than enjoyable, but it will find its followers. The ’11 version is in my book too concentrated which leads to a lack of freshness. It’s not a unique thing for Basilicus but something too a many Tokaj wines struggle against. If the alcohol content (14.5% in 2011) could be reduced in future vintages, perhaps also harvesting at a less fully ripe stage, I’m pretty sure this is more my kind of wine. And many with me.
Wines like the 2011 Egyszervolt, 2011 Mindenjó, the 2011 Eleven and the 2011 Édes semmittevés are all well-made wines which perhaps lacks the personal twist. Except maybe the last one, the Édes semmittevés which is a pure Kövérszőlő. Not a great grape but very much appreciated for its ability to work well in the late harvest or Aszú wines. The 2011 Édes is pleasantly pure and tropical with a nice but modest acidity. No heavy-weight but I really enjoy Kövérszőlő and it’s great fun to see more and more pure versions of the grape.
But that Mestervölgy…..need to find some more of it!
Website of Basilicus here. To find any of their wines, use the wine-searcher box in the top right corner.