Strekov 1075 Viola

Regular price $35.00

Winemaker: Zsolt Sütó

Appellation: Strekov, Slovakia

Grape Varieties: St. Laurent, Blauer Portugieser

Cellar: the grapes are hand-harvested and foot-stomped as whole bunches, then aged in neutral oak. Bottled unfined and unfiltered, with zero addition of sulfur.

Personality: Oh, this is chuggable! No serious lengths, no structured tannins, hi-ABV, or over-the-top body. Just loads of Amarena cherries, violets (nomen omen) and bright, juicy acidity. We’re sold.

Zsolt Sütó cultivates 12 hectares of vines in the village of Strekov, in Slovakia. The vineyards are located on the terraces of Pohronska pahorkatina, featuring ponds and marshland that creates a unique microclimate. The top layer of soil consists of clay-loam, which lays above the marine sediments, sandstone and limestone veins. Deeper soil layers consist of yellow and blue-gray clay. Zsolt’s fermentations take place in open topped barrels with no sulfur and no intervention, he also uses a lot of skin maceration, aging under voile to create naturally strong and stable wines. As of the 2017 vintage. Zsolt was very happy to vinify and bottle all of his wines with zero additions of sulfur.

“When there’s an article on our winery in the Slovak media, they call me a Slovak winemaker; when it’s in the Hungarian media, I’m a Hungarian prodigy,” Zsolt Sütó (or Zsolti, as his friends call him) laughs at his double nature of making wine in a village located in Slovakia while being a member of its traditionally Hungarian majority. Hungarians still make up about 90% of the population of the village, whose past dates back to the year 1075 at least. (Hence the number in the winery’s name; by serendipity, it’s also the street number of Zsolti’s winery, a picturesque white house with sun-laden terrace sheltered from the main road by a socialist-era grocery store.) Due to its eventful past, this border region and its ubiquitous bilingual signs are still a sensitive reminder of a once vast Hungarian empire that was significantly reduced in size after WWI.

Yet, standing on the small plateau that separates the upper and lower part of the Údolie Márie (Slovak for “Maria Valley”) vineyard, with wild Blaufrankisch vines on stakes above and some Welschriesling below, you’re more likely to experience an intense sensation of calm and joy. Maybe it comes from the gentle slopes running towards the marshlands and the Danube River on the horizon, both contributing to the unique microclimate of the area. Maybe it’s the unobscured vistas formed by this soothing, horizontally-oriented land. Or the afternoon sun, which leisurely sets around us, bringing us joy as we soak in its long, large rays. Their caresses are also very beneficial to the vines, which – thanks to this extended sunlight –  have built up a resistance to the extreme heat that sometimes hits this area.

It really is a special place, and it’s no wonder that Zsolti has installed a couple of benches and a sturdy table there, creating one of the most charming tasting rooms we know of, indoors or out. No matter how seductive the Strekov 1075 wines generally are themselves, this spot always adds a bonus to their rustic appearance and bold flavors, which often surprise you with their unexpected turns – at times vivacious and playful, at others deep and meditative. 

It’s no surprise that we tend to see wine as a projection of the winemaker himself: Zsolti sports a sturdy constitution and his energetic, honest hug may leave the more fragile among us breathless. Yet, if you’re lucky enough to spend some time with him, you might end up nose-deep in inspiring discussions that run late into the night in the spacious, rustic wooden attic above his zero-additions cellar. The winemaking down there is minimal: whites often undergo skin contact, some of them are then aged under a yeasty veil called flor (similar to Jura or Jerez). Zsolti also often blends different vintages, both in his still and sparkling wines; the latter are made as pet-nats or as non-vintage blends with added must, depending on the vintage. After using less and less sulfur for a couple of years, he stopped adding it altogether in 2017, giving his wines total freedom.

Back in the tasting room above, you’ll probably talk about the open mind needed to taste these unconventional wines. About the leap of faith that it takes to make them, especially completely without sulfur. Or about having the audacity to face the eventual flops of using this approach. “I had a barrel that was borderline flawed, I felt it coming. I also knew that a tiny bit of SO2 would spare me the risk; but if I added it, I’d never know the eventual outcome – maybe the wine would manage to take care of itself. In the end, I think this search for truth is my ultimate fuel. No matter how unflattering or potentially painful, I think we should always seek the truth and face it.”