The hallmark of good wine is that "Pour me another one, please" feeling

gastro VEB2023 / Photos: Bálint Kovács

What makes a good wine? Which one is worthy of becoming the official wine of the city of Veszprém and the Veszprém-Balaton European Capital of Culture 2023 programme? The answer to these questions is not easily given, especially since objectivity is often tainted by the subjective feedback from taste buds. Nevertheless, a few devoted individuals have taken it upon themselves to decide on this gastronomic issue, and we asked them how they came to their decision.

Selecting the official wines of Veszprém and the ECoC programme is part of a century-old Balaton tradition. Even if this year's jury only gathered for the first time to deliver judgment. The discrepancy in time and place, however, is easily explained. The competing entries to be judged by the professional jury were wines exclusively from the sub-regions of the Balaton terroir. Furthermore, although the Balaton Wine Competition is less than two decades old, nineteen years to be exact, it was organised by the Balaton Association, a society whose history dates back to the early years of the twentieth century.

Returning to the selection of the official wines of the seat of the county and ECoC, it was part of the overall Balaton Wine Competition: a special judging within the full competition by a special jury that was presented with 13 select entries. The wines received high marks in the general contest but were not among the final winners. Thus, the ECoC jury chose from a line-up of known high-quality wines that had thus gained an extra shot at winning a prestigious title.

Those who sat on this jury came from different walks of life, but all have a connection to wine culture. They were seven: Ms. Alíz Markovits, CEO of VEB 2023, Mr. Gyula Porga, Mayor of Veszprém, Mr. Péter Tungli, gastronomy advisor to ECoC, Mr. Zoltán Mészáros, festival organiser and owner of the Oliva restaurant, Ms. Zsófia Laposa, winemaker, Mr. Gábor “Biga” Heincz, musician and Mr. Nándor “Nándi” Fazekas, the legendary goalkeeper of the Veszprém Telecom handball team. We asked the latter three judges before the tasting began what, in their opinion, are the criteria for good wine and which one of the entries was closest to their taste. Gábor Heincz aka Biga and Nándor Fazekas immediately said they were laymen but connoisseurs of wine. Moreover, Nándi, the goalkeeper, had the opportunity to learn about winemaking as a child, spending many summers with his grandfather, who had a small vineyard near Veszprém. Biga, the singer and guitar player, prefers to associate wine, preferably Irsai spritzers, with summer and friends. Having been born in Balatonfüred, he swears by white wines. His latest video clip reminds one of the summer holidays, with several scenes shot in Veszprém. He told us about the behind-the-scenes details of the filming of the clip, including that although a cheerful and carefree vibe radiates from the video, they didn't open a single bottle of wine during the shooting. Since the story of the "Hiába üzenek" (My Message is in Vain) does not end when the song does, the musician revealed that the story will continue in another summer song, where wine may have a role.

Turning from the world of music back to wine judging, Zsófi Laposa was the odd person in the seven-member team: she is a winemaker from Badacsony who is perfectly knowledgeable about winemaking and judging. She quickly dispelled the misconception that wines can only be judged subjectively. There are objective criteria that, if known and correctly applied, can help rank wines. First, the wines must be served at the exact right temperature so that the aromas come out in their best form. Then come the three main characteristics of the wine: its colour and clarity, its perfume, and finally, the flavour of the first sip. Continuing the crash course, Zsófi explained that one needs to check how well the wine represents its varietal character, whether one can recognise what type of wine is served from an unlabelled bottle. Only when it has passed these tests can the real discovery begin as the judges look for that special and unique something in the wine. The region's climate, the soil - for example, the volcanic rocks that give the Badacsony wines a particular flavour - and so on.

As for subjective opinions, Zsófi does not deny that personal taste cannot be put aside, but as the slogan in a one-time advertisement proclaimed, if we are tempted to say, "Pour me another one, please!', then the wine cannot be bad.

In the end, the jury examined 13 wines (five sparkling and four white and red lots each) both objectively and subjectively. Each wine was awarded a maximum of 15 points by each judge: five points each for aroma, taste, and overall impression. In the end, a white wine was awarded the title of official wine of the city of Veszprém. Also, one from each of the three other varieties was chosen to represent the ECoC programme and the rich Balaton wine region.

In 2022, the white wine of the VEB2023 ECoC became the 2020 vintage wine of Nagy & Nagy Vinery Badacsonyi Furmint, the red wine in 2022 was the 2018 wine of Balatonlelle Garamvár Vineyard Sínai mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, and in the sparkling category the Garamvár Vineyard Prestige Brut Vintage Selection His 2018 champagne won. The Veszprém City Wine 2022 title was won by the Bio Sauvignon Blanc 2021 wine of Dobosi Winery in Szentantalfa.


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