'Why would a sommelier want to get his hands dirty?' That was the question posed by Gergely Barsi Szabó (sommelier at Ramsay's Bread Street Kitchen) on his Imbibe blog last year. Nearly a year later, hands suitably dirtied, along with those of fellow sommelier Donald Edwards (of Peckham Bazaar), the first vintage of their wine has reached the UK this week from Hungary.
Barsi Szabó Edwards 2014 is a Tokaj wine consisting of a traditional blend of two-thirds Furmint and one-third Hárslevelű, sourced from Tállya and Mád. The two have produced a grand total of 659 bottles, without actually owning any of their own vineyards or winemaking equipment. '2014 was an extremely difficult vintage, and everyone told us that we were completely crazy to even bother to cluster select in the vineyard, but we did it,' is just one example of the constant stream of technical winemaking jargon coming from Szabó nowadays.
And, no doubt to everyone's collective relief, the wine itself is rather good, particularly considering it's a first attempt – by full-time employed sommeliers no less. We included a bottle in a blind panel tasting at Imbibe Live this year, and it scored a very respectable 77% (see the hot-off-the-press September-October issue for our full Indigenous Varieties tasting). It's quite restrained at first, with soft lime notes, leading to more fresh lemon and lime on the palate, accompanied by a light herbal note, plus a big hit of acidity.
For more insight into the sometimes-chaotic-and-quite-dramatic year that went into creating this wine (apparently Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones played a crucial part), and particularly if you're ever tempted to embark on a similar folly, see the BSE website, and Szabó's blog here.
That extremely-limited number of bottles is available via Theatre of Wine, at £12 each. And you can expect much more (both in terms of quality and supply) from the 2015 vintage, currently a work in progress.