Bencze 'Chenin Blanc' 2018
Varietal: Chenin Blanc
Notes: Hand-harvested whole clusters are pressed to 330 liter terracotta amphoras and 300-400 liter used oak barrels. After resting in amphora and barrel for about 11 months, the wine is bottled without fining or filtration and zero sulfur is added.
“I like acidity-driven wines with a nice saltiness,” says István Bencze as we slowly walk through his charming vineyards with impressive Lake Balaton views. “I’m looking for good energy and only 11, 12% ABV, which naturally makes me harvest much sooner than my neighbors,” he explains why many of the rows around are already grape-less during our mid-September visit.
The early harvest date is not the only factor that sets this up-and-coming, introverted winemaker in his early thirties apart from the local scene. The other is the fact that since his 2017 visit to the Styrian natural legends Ewald Tscheppe and Roland Tauss, István has stopped using sulfur in the cellar, which is still quite unusual in Hungary. Not that his wines were ever conventional at any point: Bencze vineyards have been organic since the very beginning of his endeavor in 2011, and biodynamic since 2014 (now Demeter-certified). And his wines have always been made with very little intervention, save for filtration and sulfur addition at bottling. But that trip to Austria made this self-taught winemaker realize that he “didn’t want to use sulfites anymore, or make my wines less cloudy just for the sake of the conservative Hungarian market”. - Jenny & Francois