Hungarian estate Dobogo is boldly going where no Tokaji winemaker has gone before – into Pinot Noir production

Izabella Zwack, daughter of former emigre and premium Tokaji winemaker Peter Zwack, told decanter.com her dream was to make the finest red wine in Hungary, and she has enlisted the services of New Zealand Pinot guru Daniel Schuster to show her the way.

Schuster, consultant to Ornellaia in Tuscany and Warren Winiarski of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, and recognised as one of the world’s Pinot Noir experts, produces his own Pinot and Chardonnay from his Canterbury winery in New Zealand.

Zwack plans to make a top-quality Hungarian red from Pinot Noir, initially from a two-hectare plot. ‘We have not planted any yet,’ she said, ‘so it will be a little less than 10 years before we produce.’

It is unheard of to grow Pinot Noir in Tokaji, a region which jealously guards its near-mythical status as a pre-eminent sweet wine producer. It is doubtful Dobogo will be allowed to label its new wine Tokaji.

But Zwack cites the rise of the ‘super Tuscans’ Sassicaia and Ornellaia – Cabernets produced against DOC rules until brought into the fold in the mid-90s – as an example of the need to buck tradition. ‘Cabernet was banned in Bolgheri (in Tuscany), and look what happened there.’

At the same time she is embarking on a two-pronged campaign to export and import the best Hungarian and world wines. The idea is to both to educate Hungarians in quality wine and to try to interest the rest of the world in Hungarian wine. ‘We’re trying to create a buzz’, she said.

Foreigners have long invested in Tokaji – Hugh Johnson part-owns the Royal Tokaji Wine Company, French groups CANA, AXA and GMF own Bodrog-Varhegy, Disznoko and Hetszolo respectively, and Spanish producer Vega Sicilia owns Tokaj Oremus – but few have shown interest in anything other than the famed sweet wine.

Now America’s top woman winemaker Zelma Long would like to collaborate as a consultant, as well as others such as highly-rated Sicilian producer Donnafugata.

Dobogo (it means ‘clip clop’ – evoking the sound of horses’ hooves on the cobbled streets of Tokaji) is also producing the first vinegar made from botrytised grapes. That will be on the shelves in summer 2002.

Written by Adam Lechmere12 December 2001