Bott Frigyes in his cellar

Presenting the Wines of Bott Frigyes

Aug 31, 2023Andrew Wyse

The dissolution of the centuries-old Austro-Hungarian Empire resulted in Hungary losing around 71% of its territory to Romania, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Austria. Over 3 million ethnic Hungarians found themselves outside of Hungary, where they continued to cultivate the Hungarian grapes and traditions that they had used for centuries. On the southern slopes of the Muzsla Hills in Slovakia surrounded by the river Garam, Danube and the Ipoly rivers, is one such example: Bott Frigyes. The neighbouring village of Béla is where Judit and József Bodó of the cult Tokaj producer: Bott Pince (another Cardwell Cellars producer), began their winemaking career (ethnically Hungarian but born in Slovakia).

Bott and his son Frici cultivate 10 hectares of vineyards next to the River Garam, at 250 metres above sea level. They are growing Furmint, Hárslevelű (Lipovina in Slovak), Juhfark, Kékfrankos (Blaufränkisch in German), Kadarka (cuttings are incidentally from the viticulturist Balla Géza in Romania who is also ethnically Hungarian), Tramini, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sárfahér and Olaszrizling. The soil is clay on top of volcanic bedrock, which is also rich in limestone and minerals.

The winemaking is certainly structured in terms of technique, although all fermentations are native, there’s zero temperature control, longer lees aging, natural settling, all oak barrel (limited use of amphora), and bottling is done unfined and unfiltered with a small amount of SO2 at bottling as the only addition. For the reds, Bott stresses his use of the “Hamburger” method which is alternating layers of foot-stomped whole bunches, uncrushed whole bunches, and finally a destemmed and hand-crushed layer. This achieves a semi-carbonic quality to the wines without developing too much of the banana or bubble gum often associated with carbonic. For the skin contact whites, it’s no more than a week, and it is worked over regularly to prevent volatile acidity and other flaws. The winemaking is tied to tradition but with an emphasis on modern hygiene in the cellar.

The wines we’ve proudly imported are as follows. Descriptions and reviews are by Kasia Sobiesiak of The Wine Front.

2021 Juhfark
Juhfark is an old Hungarian variety… producing neutral, rustic… a bit forgotten or unwanted wines. It’s mostly grown in the western part of Hungary and in southern Slovakia.
It’s a very interesting perfume from the start, there’s something rough about it (rustic?). It has high notes of dried orange, chamomile and sweet and spicy hints of wild honey, Mirabelle plums and pomelo. On the palate, it’s spicy and dry, with crushed rocks, ginger, ripe yellow apples, and waxy skins, verging on overripe tones. Flavours linger with cleansing acidity but it doesn’t hold the tension for very long or as long as I would hope for. However, it’s beautifully textural with ginger biscuits and grilled nuts to finish. Lots going on. Delicious.
92 points
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2021 Furmint
This dry Furmint is something else. Firstly, it’s not hugely aromatic. It gently invites with flint, curd, bread dough and nuts. Understated. Mouthwatering acidity, detailed, silky-smooth feel. Almost feathery touch. Mineral. It continues with chamomile tea, yellow grapefruit tang and a long-long dusty crushed slate finish. Reminds of a tonic water sensation, the lively, lifted mouthfeel. There’s a bit of everything here, a touch of sweetness, umami, flint, fine dusty texture and chewy acidity. Perfect drink.
95 points
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2021 Hárslevelű
The acidity across the whites of Bott Frigyes is really impressive; raw, oozing, mouth-salivating and drooling. Eye-watering! This one is no different. The perfume’s intensity is comparable to other grapes they vinify, Juhfark comes to mind, with a signature orange blossom aroma. In this wine, I also get almond blossom, yellow apple skin, yellow plum. It’s a bit of a ripe-fruit-basket type of aroma. The acidity is limey, tingling and lightly briny. It carries the flavours nicely, making it moreish and cleansing but the finish itself is not the longest. Still, impressive and worth exploring.
92 points
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2021 Super Granum White
A blend of Pinot Blanc, Hárslevelű and Furmint from vineyards in the warm southwestern corner of Slovakia.
Sweet blossoms open the aromas, there’s a creamy quality of lemon curd, a dusty chamomile/lavender element and a sweet hint of cinnamon-sprinkled baked apple too. Flavours are a nice surprise, super fresh, with high acidity. The palate is limey with raw green juice. Cinnamon spice lingers pleasantly. It has intense perfume but it’s also mouthwatering, on par with other whites from Bott Frigyes. Another hit of a wine.
93 points
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2021 Muzsla
‘Muzsla’ here refers to the southern slopes of the Muzsla Hills (or Mužla). It’s a blend of Pinot Blanc, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.
Tropics. Ripe and yellow fruit skins, orange citrus, honeyed flowers, but also little something flinty/smoky. Flavours are refreshing, coming in with a great counterbalance of savoury and sour. It has a chalky texture with an acidic lift, a touch of apple cider but just enough to refresh the somewhat thick perfume. Imagine biting through an orange or tangerine, right through the peel, essential oils burst in your mouth, it’s chewy, fleshy, pithy, juicy and finishing on a bitter tang. It’s a wine with a grip, maybe there was some skin contact at play. This works very well. Delivers a long memorable experience.
94 points
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2021 Kékfrankos
I’m immediately drawn to this perfume, almost dipping my nose in the wine. Seductive. It’s earthy with amaro herbs, tart fruits, chewy skins, currants and cranberries, blood plums, tart blackberries, smoked charcuterie, mossy wood, purple flowers, iron, sour cherry, briar rose. Whoa. It has a balloon skin feel of tannins, lively, with amazing tension. There’s great energy in this wine, complexity and layers. It has all the components to age 10+ years, easy. Compelling.
94+ points
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