Older and wiser – Csopaki Kódex 2017

Newcomer of the year.

The retasting of some of the 2016s fully justified my high hopes for the Csopak Kódex wines so I was in bullish mood when our little circle set off for the 6 wine flight. Were my expectations fulfilled? Yes and no.

The major hurdle winemakers had to overcome in the sunny and hot vintage was to stay within the parameters set by the Kódex regulations which stipulate relatively low alcohol and a classic, balanced character. The wines that my fellow tasters liked the least were the ones where damage limitation was done with a resounding success: the two Homolas. And there was one producer where either TCA or simply cellar hygiene got better of the wine (Hamvas). For the rest we were happy. And when at the end of the blind flight I opened the last of my prized bottles of 2009 Fekete Csopaki Olaszrizling all the missing pieces of the puzzle fell into place. So this is what these tight buds are hiding! Tasting Kódex wines so young for the third vintage it was high time to put them into perspective by experiencing what their ageing curve holds in store. My fellow tasters were ecstatic. That’s exactly how I felt when visiting Mr. Fekete in Csopak and tasting this wine for the first time.

Back to the present. There are 8 Kódex wines from the 2017 vintage: Hamvas Nagykút; Guden Slikker; Homola Sáfránkert; Homola Hajnóczy; Fekete Hegyalja; Jásdi Lőczedombi; Szent Donát Slikker; Szent Donát Szent Donát. Last October I travelled to Csopak to participate in the Kódex tasting and there the undisputed winner was the Homola Hajnóczy (I think it came on top with all the other judges too).

For the Szeged tasting we received 6 out of the 8 Kódex wines (the absent ones were Fekete Pince Hegyalja and Szent Donát Slikker). All the wines were tasted blind. Our panel’s top 3 were: Szent Donát Szent Donát (19 points); Guden Slikker (15 points); Jásdi Lőczedombi (7 points). The impressions and opinions below are strictly mine.

Charming smile, steely determination.

The Homolas represent an interesting experiment that we just failed to appreciate in the quickfire exchange that blind tastings normally are. It was only days later that I realised how these wines preferred higher temperatures and how much they benefited from several hours of aeration. After opening the back-up bottles and having slowly and methodically re-evaluating them for another 72 hours I have a much better picture of the two. They are leaner and brighter than their counterparts, an impression enhanced by the lower alcohol (11.5% in the case of Sáfránkert!) and the obvious presence of some malic acid in the case of Hajnóczy. But both are focused, deliciously fruity and elegant with great mid-palate intensity. Most of the time I preferred the Sáfránkert for its gentler attack and more generosity but at the final tasting Hajnóczy had the upper hand again managing to retain its aromatic freshness and youthful vivacity.

The Jásdi is a curate’s egg. It’s painfully slow to open up aromatically and you cannot fail to notice the strong influence of oak. However, the balance is faultless once again and armed with the knowledge of how well it ages I was no longer apprehensive about this; you just have to accept that Lőczedombis start their lives being reticent and oaky. The palate is succulent and concentrated with floral, honeyed and saline notes joined by bitter almonds on the finish. Classical in style and balance with a robust health, I can’t see anything that could hinder its development into a great wine.

A long way to go.

The Szent Donát Szent Donát was the winner of the blind test by a mile. It’s a completely different beast compared to the rest. Jásdi’s Lőczedombi or Guden’s Slikker could serve as paragons of Csopak typicity with the two Homolas as slightly subversive variations on the same theme but the Szent Donát seems to have a mind of its own. There is a distinct mineral character to it that I normally associate with Somló wines: the taste of spring or deep well water with its ferrous and saline undertones. It also seems more generous, even opulent than the others. If Lőczedombi is the classically restrained polite day time persona of Csopak Kódex than this is the mysterious and risqué nocturnal side of its personality.

The great surprise of the tasting was the Guden Slikker. Mind you, this is once again an olaszrizling where the nose underdelivers, i.e. it fails to seduce the taster before actually tasting the wine. Not that there is anything wrong with it, it’s just so reticent that it takes quite some effort to coax anything out of it. But once it enters your mouth, things change. It’s a finely poised, transparent, concentrated and textured wine with a juicy attack offering green peach, lime and herbs. The acidity is complex and vibrant. There is some leesy character and notes of almonds and citrus on the persistent finish. A rare example of a wine where aromatically the palate outdoes the nose. It broke my heart when it turned out that the backup bottle was badly conteminated by TCA.

The lesson to take away: every major tasting of Csopak Kódex wines should come with at least one example of a mature bottle. These are seriously ageworthy whites which cannot be fully appreciated at bud burst.