Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Erhard and Evelyne Heumann in Villany, Hungary
I visited the Villany wine region during the summer of 2011 and focused on 3 winemakers: Joseph Bock, Attila Gere and Erhard and Evelyne Heumann. Bock and Gere are big names in Hungary and increasingly so in the international wine market. Heumann Wines is in a different category, also producing exceptional wines, but not yet having the glamor of the Bock and Gere wines.
Frank Dietrich from the Blue Danube Wine Company introduced me to Erhard Heumann and we had dinner together in Washington DC. Erhard was in Washington DC to introduce his wines to the US market.
Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Erhard Heumann in Washington DC
Hungary has a Long History of Winemaking
Wine was introduced to Hungary by the Romans. During the Turkish occupation beginning in the early 16th century, displaced Serbs brought the red Kadarka grape to Eger, which was the basis for the red wine blend that later became known as Bull's Blood. It was also during the Turkish occupation that the Tokaji region became known for dessert wines, harvested late to encourage noble rot. After the Ottoman Empire ceded Hungary to the Austrians in 1699, the Germanic influence was felt with the introduction of grape varieties such as Blauer Portugieser. Under Communism, quality was neglected in favor of over cropping and industrial production. Since 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, there has been an impressive rebound.
Hungary’s Wine Regions
Hungary has 22 designated wine regions, in all 4 corners of the country. Some people consider the red wines from Szekszárd and Villány in southern Hungary, where the Heumann wines come from, to be the cream of the crop. Around Lake Balaton, you will find the Balatonfelvidék, Balatonfüred-Csopak, Balatonboglár, and Badacsony regions. Further to the North, the Somló hills and Sopron region also offer fine wine. I have reported about the wines of Istvan Stepahn Spiegelberg from Somlo here.
Pictures: Erhard and Evelyne Heumann in Villany with their Award-winning Wines
The vineyards of the Tokaji region were classified long before Bordeaux, already in the 1700s, with vineyards grouped into 3 categories depending on the soil, sun exposure and potential to develop noble rot. Noble-sweet Tokaji has been Hungary’s crowning glory for hundreds of years. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, noble-sweet Tokaji was a cherished wine enjoyed by the European Courts.
The wine region of Villany has about 2.100 hectare under vine on the hills of Villány and Siklós. Local Kekoporto and Kekfrankos - which are in the German speaking world known as Blauer Portugieser and Blaufrankisch - are cultivated next to international Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
Under the Turkish occupation, Villány was completely destroyed. When the Danube Swabians came, they brought with them the Kékoportó and other grapes. During the communist era the fine wine of Villány basically disappeared. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the family-owned wineries re-emerged. These, with Attila Gere and Joseph Bock leading the way, have succeeded in making Villány wines famous again.
Villany is a picturesque little town, with cute little whitewashed wine cellars with bright-colored doors and shutters located on the main street next to each other. Near the villages rows of wine cellars were built. From the small press-houses short cellars opened. This is where the harvested grape was transported, and then processed. They are open for tasting, but I did not have an opportunity to check them out.
Heumann Wines was founded in 1995 by Evelyne and Erhard Heumann. “My father-in-law had some business to do in Villany and went there. He came back with the business deal, but also with a couple of hectares of vineyard land, a lease of a 40 year old vineyard with Kékoporto (Blauer Portugieser) in Villány. Originally, we thought this to be something for our spare time, but over the years it has grown into a major undertaking.”
Pictures: Erhard and Evelyne Heumann in Villany
In the first year, Heumann Wines produced 500 bottles. 10 years later, output had increased to 6,000 bottles. “We are now at around 30.000 bottles” said Erhard “and we plan to increase production to 40.000-50.000 bottles”.
I did not see any Heumann wines in the wine stores in Budapest. Erhard later confirmed that Heumann Wines is very export-oriented and only very little is sold in the domestic market. This should not come as a surprise as Evelyne and Erhard do not have the inside track in Hungary, as they moved only recently to the country. Against this background, “we realized that we must try to achieve international recognition. We therefore send our wines to international competitions and have already received a number of awards. In 2010, Heumann Wines was included for the first time in the Johnston Wine Guide. We are successfully exporting to a number of European countries, including Switzerland and Germany, and now we trying to establish ourselves in the US” said Erhard. Exports currently account for 90% of total production.
In the Vineyard
Evelyne and Erhard live in a cute little house right in the middle of the vineyards of Siklos. Work in the vineyards (and in the winery) is lead by a young Hungarian professional with an enological degree and work experience in several German wine estates. “We hope that he will soon be joined by our son who is studying to become a winemaker” said Erhard. Total vineyard area is 4 hectares.
Pictures: In the Vineyards
In the Winery
Until the 2002 vintage, the Heumanns did not have their own winery, but their wines were made at a winery in Villány. Since 2004, they have their own state of the art winery and wine cellar. Evelyne and Erhard showed us around in their winery, which is located in the center of Siklos.
Pictures: At the Heumann Wines Winery
Dinner with Evelyne and Erhard Heumann at their Home in Villany
We spent a lovely afternoon and evening with Evelyne and Erhard Heumann in their garden and had dinner with them. Evelyne and Erhard were also so kind to offer us to stay 2 nights at the house of Evelyne’s sister, who comes only to Villany for vacation.
Erhard comes from the beer belt in Germany, Bavaria. He grew up with beer in Munich. He became interested in wine only later in life, after he had met his wife Evelyne. Interestingly, he met Evelyne in the US – in Las Vegas. As a student, he was touring via Greyhound the US and at the Greyhound station in Las Vegas he run into her. “From then on” he said ”we toured the US together. Back in Europe she soon moved in with me”. They eventually settled in Switzerland, where they still maintain a home.
Until very recently, Erhard had a full-time job as a banker in Zuerich in Switzerland, while Evelyne worked full time at the winery in Hungary. Wasn’t this a bit cumbersome? “Well, if I went by car, yes – 13 hours“ Erhard said ”but if I took the early morning flight from Zurich to Budapest and then a group taxi from Budapest to Villany and I was at our winery at lunch time.”
Pictures: Dinner with Evelyne and Erhard Heumann
Thus, it was Evelyne, who did all the ground work in Hungary, while Erhard was orchestrating the operation from Switzerland (and securing the cash flow). This has changed now. Erhard has retired and works full time in Siklos at Heumann Wines.
My wife Annette and I enjoyed a fantastic barbeque dinner with Heumann wines in the garden of Evelyne and Erhard, overlooking the Heumann vineyards. It was gorgeous. We tasted pretty much the whole Heumann Wines portolio.
The Heumann Wines Portfolio
Here is what Heumann Wines currently offers, with winemaker notes.
The Wines of Heumann Wines at the Hungarian Embassy in Washington DC in 2010
100% Merlot, Harvest 1.2 kg /vine, Dark ruby color. Thick, opulent, very well integrated tannins. Lot of black berry fruit und plums. Super texture, long lasting.
100 % Blaufraenkisch, 1.0 kg / vine, Medium dark purple. In the nose some vanilla, plums, raspberries. Mouth filling concentrated yet supple wine with fruity aftertaste. Very good body, long lasting.
Cuvée Segreto 2007
50% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% other varieties, Harvest 1.5 kg /vine, Dark ruby color. Liquorice nose. Black-berries, chocolate and spices on the palate. Concentrated and full bodied. Good structure and well integrated tannins. Very long aftertaste.
Cabernet Franc 2008
100% Cabernet Franc, 1.0 kg / vine, Deep dark ruby colour. In the nose vanilla, blackberry, cassis. In the taste dark choco-late, cassis again, spices. Powerfull wine with creamy texture. Fine structure. Long aftertaste.
100 % Blaufraenkisch, 1.0 kg / vine, Medium dark purple. In the nose some vanilla, plums, raspberries. Mouth filling concentrated yet supple wine with fruity aftertaste. Very good body. Long lasting.
Terra Tartaro 2008
40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot. 1 kg / vine, Dark ruby colour. First impression in the nose is cassis, underpinned with a fine smell of tobacco and chocolate. The tannins as well as the acidity structure are very well integrated. The wine is balanced and elegant yet powerful. Very long lasting in the mouth.
Heumann & Heimann 2008
This is a interregional blend with wines from Zoltan Heimann in the Szekszárd region, north of Villany, and wines of Heumann. 100% Blaufraenkisch, Harvest 1 kg /vine, Wine made from the best Blaufraenkisch wines of the Heumann and the Heimann winery. It combines the strengths from the terroirs of the both regions (Villany and Szekszard) – power and fruit. Elderber-ries in the nose and on the palate. Sour cherries and Pecan nuts in the back. Complex and deep wine with a long finish.
100% Chardonnay, 1.5 kg / vine, Brilliant yellow colour. Overwhelming per-fume of apricot blossoms, brioche and hazelnuts. Full-bodied and creamy with a hint of lemon grass on the palate. Complex and concentrated. Beautifully balanced.
100% Chardonnay, Harvest 1.5 kg /vine, Light yellow with bright greenish reflexes. Intensive flavors of apple and apricots. Fruity lemon acidity. Well integrated in the creamy body. Well balanced. Long lasting.
Blaufraenkisch, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, 2 kg / vine, Salmon colour. In the nose sour drops. Full bodied yet underpinned with gorgeous fruit. Some cassis. Relativly long aftertaste.
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