Wednesday, December 1

Oremus Wine: The Hungarian Jewel of Vega Sicilia | Business

The morning fog, very common due to the proximity of the Bodrog River, makes way for a radiant day in mid-October in Tolcsva. From early in the morning, different crews harvest by hand, grape by grape, the vines on the hills that surround this small town in northeastern Hungary. It is the Tokaj region, considered as the first wine-producing denomination of origin in the world (18th century), and there it has had a winery since 1993 Tempos Vega Sicilia: Oremus.

“It came from kings; king of wines ”. Legend has it that Louis XIV of France named the Tokaj wine that way. For several centuries, Hungarian sweet wine was the star on the tables of European monarchs, nobles and popes. However, its prestige faded after World War II; the communist regime seized power in Hungary for more than 40 years. “Most of the vineyards were nationalized. During that time, Tokaj became a bureaucrat’s wine, impoverished by massive productions to satisfy the Soviet market ”, explains András Bacsó, Oremus’ chief oenologist.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, with the collapse of the Soviet regime and its satellite countries, Hungary declared itself a Democratic Republic. The new government wanted to change things, but it had no money. A need for modernity that opened the door to foreign capital. In the early nineties, wineries in Tokaj began to be privatized and the Álvarez family – owners of the services giant Eulen and who a decade earlier had landed in the wine business with the purchase of Vega Sicilia – landed in Hungary. The winery chosen was that of Oremus, which has been making wine since 1630 when a Calvinist preacher created a sweet drink that he named Tokaj Aszú (tear wine). In 1993 the agreement was closed and the Spanish group contributed 50% in capital and the Hungarian State the other 50% in land, bottles, barrels and an underground cellar. After three years, the Álvarez family took over the majority of the shares.

Winning combination

“It was a perfect match. Tempos Vega Sicilia contributed the search for excellence and financial muscle. For his part, Oremus had his tradition behind. In addition, Tokaj offered the group exoticism and complemented with its whites the offer of red wines from the rest of the group’s brands ”, explains Robert Kindl, general director of Oremus, during a press trip organized by the company in which several Spanish media were present. , including EL PAÍS.

In 2020, Oremus had a turnover of 2.6 million euros, with an operating result of 1.1 million and a net profit of 995,000 euros. In total, Tempos Vega Sicilia earned 35.96 million last year with its five wineries (Vega Sicilia, Alión, Pintia, Macán and Oremus) and earned 18.53 million. “Profitability has not been easy. We now have a strategic plan that foresees stable growth for the next few years. The arrival of the Álvarez family has been key in the revitalization of the winery. More than evolution, I would speak of revolution. Oremus only had a past and Vega Sicilia has contributed the present and, above all, the future ”, highlights Kindl, who joined Oremus at the beginning of this year after the retirement of András Bacsó (father), who had led the winery during almost three decades. The new CEO has spent much of his career in New Zealand wineries.

Oremus has 115 hectares and the predominant grape is the furmint variety. The vine, planted at the foot of the mountains at an altitude that does not exceed 200 meters above sea level, is protected from the north winds and its orientation allows it to receive a lot of sun. The harvest in Tolcsva is divided into two phases. In the first, the grapes for the production of the two dry whites of the winery are collected. Vega Sicilia was the first group to produce white wine in Tokaj, with Mandolás (2001) and in 2021 Petracs joined.

If the vintage meets the required quality requirements, the second phase of the harvest begins in Oremus in mid-October. It is then that the grapes are picked for their late harvest wine and their famous sweets (Aszú and Eszencia). Thanks to the raisin caused by the noble rot caused by the benign effect of the Botrytis cinerea fungus, which attacks the grain of the grape, an Aszú wine is achieved with a perfect balance between sweetness and acidity. The wooden container with which the berries are collected (puttonyo), with a capacity of 25 kilos, allows Aszú wines to be classified into three categories according to their sugar level: three, five and six puttonyos. In the case of Eszencia, during the days of storage the pressing is natural, only the own weight of the grape intervenes, which allows the must or essence to be distilled in its pure state. This wine is the most expensive per liter that Vega Sicilia has (300 euros for a 0.375-liter bottle) and only about 800 bottles are released on the market each year.

“Oremus is an isolated and advanced case thanks to the impulse of Vega Sicilia, but in the Tokaj region there is still much to do to be able to equate its wines with the great whites of Sauternes or Rheingau. There were many years of communism where there was no innovation. There is a lack of infrastructure, hotels and education to express all the potential that the area has ”, concludes Zita Rojkovich, manager and distributor of Oremus.

A magic mold

The new Oremus facilities for the production and bottling of wine were inaugurated in 2000. This modern building communicates through an elevator with a labyrinth of caves with an extension of close to five kilometers of corridors on three levels. The underground cellar was built between the 13th and 17th centuries and is still used for the aging of the cellar’s wines. In these tunnels the temperature remains stable between 8 and 12 degrees, with a relative humidity level of between 78% and 96%. Ideal conditions for the wine to rest that is achieved naturally thanks to the dark gray and cottony mold that covers the walls. Cladosporium cellare is a fungus that thrives on alcohol vapors and gives oxygen in return. Underground Tolcsva hides a treasure in the form of Hungarian oak barrels that are interspersed with old Aszú bottles, whose amber color produces an optical effect similar to gold bars when stacked.

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