Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lunch at the Gere Bistro in Villany with Winemaker Attila Gere, Hungary

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Attila Gere at Gere Bistro in Villany

I recently visited Villany and was treated to a fantastic tour of the Gere Winery and a tasting of Gere wines by Attila Gere’s daughter Andrea Gere. See: "Visiting Attila and Andrea Gere, and the Attila Gere Winery in Villany, Hungary" After the tasting, my wife Annette and I had lunch at Gere Bistro, where I had a chance to meet and to chat a bit with Attila Gere.

Attila Gere is without doubt one of the stars of Villany. His winery in Villany is located on the way to Siklos. The Gere family also owns a nice bistro, a fine dining restaurant and a luxury hotel. This grew out of the Gere guest house, which opened in 1991 - the first such undertaking in Villány.


The wine region of Villany has about 2.100 hectar under vine on the hills of Villány and Siklós. In Siklós (where the Heumann Estate is based) white wine grapes prevail, while in Villány (where the Joseph Bock Estate and Attila Gere Estate are based) red grapes dominate. Traditionally, the Kadarka, Kékoprtó and Kékfrankos (Blaufrankisch) varieties are common to the area. Following the phylloxera pest, French varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were also planted.

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. Some winemakers, like Joseph Bock and Attila Gere, have expanded rapidly in recent years and now offer in addition to their wines first class cuisine and luxury accommodation.

The wines are deep, dark and powerful. They have become extremely sought after in Hungary, and only a small amount is exported.

Conversing with Attila Gere in German

After the tasting with Andrea, we went over to the Gere Bistro, to meet Attila Gere and have a light lunch there. Attila Gere (and Joszef Bock) did not speak English, but I could converse with them in German, because they belong to the so-called Danube Swabians. The Danube Swabians are Hungarians and other Eastern Europeans whose ancestors had moved from Swabia to the former Kingdom of Hungary and settled there, especially along side the Danube River valley. A first wave came in the 12th century and a second wave in the 17th – 18th, after the war between the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire had depopulated much of the country. Between 1740 and 1790, more than 100,000 Germans immigrated to the Kingdom of Hungary. Andrea told me that her grandparents would only speak German at home.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Attila Gere at Gere Bistro in Villany

Attila Gere

Attila Gere is a forester by training. The Attila Gere forefathers were Danube Swabians, who, as part of their farming activities, always made wine. Attila Gere's great-grandmother lived in Villány, and her husband was the local cooper. But these family traditions were interrupted after World War II and Attila became a forester. He turned to wine making in 1978, when he and his wife Katalin got a few vineyards as a wedding present from their parents. Initially, Attila Gere continued with his day job as a forester and made wine only on the side, until 1991, when he became a full-time winemaker.

An important step in what then followed was a joint venture in 1992 with Franz Weninger, the famous Austrian winemaker. That brought money and know how to Villany. A new winery-building was constructed and equipped with modern technology. The shared vineyard area of the Gere/Weninger joint venture is 8 hectares.

Attila is a family man. His son, Attila graduated as horticulturist and assists in viticulture and oenology. His daughter Andrea has a financial degree. She showed us around and introduced us to the Gere wines. Andrea just got married. Her husband is a chef and heads the “food department” of the Gere enterprise. He just came back from a trip where he had bought delicious cheeses from the region. He was so kind to share them with us at lunch. Katalin Gere runs the hotel and restaurant plus bistro.

Tasting Gere Wines

Before lunch, we went enjoyed a wonderful tasting with Andrea Gere at the tasting room of the Gere winery. Andrea poured the following series of Gere and Gere/Weninger wines.

Pictures: Tasting Gere Wines with Andrea Gere at the Gere Winery in Villany

Frici Rose 2010

Fresh, youthful, fruity rosé sparkling wine showing intensively the flowery, rose scent characteristic for the variety. On the palate all these are coupled with notes of carambola, raspberry and toasted bread. The added carbon dioxide offers legereness to the wine which is paired with good intensity. Light structured wine, well drinkable with a nice finish.

Cuvee Phoenix 2007 (Weninger/Gere)

Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Kékfrankos, Portugieser (Kékoportó). It is of a deep red color, its bouquet embraces blackberry and plummy notes with a smoky palate. It feels smooth in the mouth - it is a bit on the sweet side, has a long-lasting finish. It is supported by an elegant tannin structure.

Pinot Noir 2008 (Weninger/Gere)

This wine comes from the Pinot Noir vineyards in the Ördögárok (Devils Valley). This very elegant wine has a very nice fruity character, and a long aftertaste. This wine is sold out at the winery.

Cabernet Sauvignon Barrique 2007

100% Cabernet Sauvignon, from vineyards in Csillagvölgy. It is barrique-aged for 17 to 18 months.

Deep ruby color is permeated with violet shades. Exuberant fruity aromas are present in this wine: blackberry, blackcurrant, forest berries, with a note of burnt wood surface upon tasting it. Firm though delicate tannins and sweet flavors characterize the wine. It has a complex build, a persistent, slightly sweet finish.

Cabernet Franc Selection 2007 (Weninger/Gere)

100% Cabernet Franc, matured for 15 months in new oak barrels. Intense fruit and spice on the palate, a hint of sweetness. Aged for 18 months in small, new barrels.

Medium ruby in the glass, nose with cherry, raspberry, blueberry, good structure, youthful tannins on the palate, long finish.

Kopar Cuvee 2007

This is the emblematic Attila Gere wine. The fruit comes from vineyards on the extinct vulcano named Kopár, which means “barren”. This is a reference to the sparse loess on limestone soil the vineyards are planted on. A small amount comes from other prime Gere vineyards. Aged for 16-20 months in new Hungarian oak barrels.

The previous vintage 2006 was the first time for Kopár to break the traditional combination of grapes (40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc) and switch emphasis to Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The 2007 Kopár is a blend of 52% Cabernet Franc, 46% Merlot and only 2% Cabernet Sauvignon.

A change was made in the fermentation of the wines as well; new small barrique has been replaced in large part by big oak casks. The wine deserves to be ranked among the best from Bordeaux, Tuscany and Napa. This substantial, structured, age worthy wine is not with out its charms, even for the impatient. Right now it is heavy with currant, dried roses, cedar and cigar smoke. The tannins are plentiful and perfectly ripe with the generosity of a warm climate, but the definition of a cool one.

Solus 2007

Solus is a 100% Merlot only produced in excellent years, from grapes grown in the Kopar vineyard. In Latin, Solus means unique, Sol means Sun, here it describes the singularity of the wine and its relation to nature. Aged for 16 months in new small oak casks. Only 550 cases of Solus were produced.

In the glass, dark magnolia with some light brick red rings on the edge, lush bouquet, heavy body, long, sweet finish thanks to its nice, mature tannins.

Attila 2007

This is a very personal wine of Attila Gere, made in very limited quantities. The creme de la creme of Attila Gere's wines.

Deep, complex and extremely varied aromas, dense tannins and an exceptional concentration, huge aging potential.

Lunch at the Gere Bistro

The Gere Bistro is part of a larger complex, right in the center of Villany, which also includes a fine dining restaurant and a luxury hotel.

Pictures: The Gere Complex with Hotel, Bistro and Restaurant in Villany

We just had a little snack – charcuterie and cheese. With us having lunch were Attila Gere with his daughter Andrea and son-in-law Zoltan Paul as well as a bunch of Attila’s friends. Zoltan had just returned from a trip where he had bought, inter alia, cheese from producers in the region; we were the first guests to taste the cheese.

Pictures: Zoltan Paul and Andrea Gere in Villany; Cheese Plate.

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