I find myself verklempt with emotion in certain scenarios: when a song is queued at just the perfect moment, reading a piece of prose that implores me to pause and ponder, or sipping a wine that speaks to me so prophetically, I'm left speechless.
Such are the wines of Zsolt Sütő, produced in the southern Slovakian village of Strekov.
I came across Strekov via the videos of Terroir Squad, and was so moved by the interview with this profoundly enlightened man, I immediately embarked on a quest to hunt down his wines.
I've noticed I don't dissect Strekov systematically when imbibing - they're too special - made with so much emotion and heart, that reducing them categorically into their components somehow feels like an assault on the style.
Naysayers will reduce this romance as "woo woo", or roll their eyes when words like "super natural" or "mystical" are mentioned.
Call it a frequency that only some are attuned to - these are wines one really needs to be truly awake to understand.
LM: How long have you been making wine for? Has your approach changed in that time?
ZS: 45 years ago, I assisted to my father in winemaking. My approach has changed in 2 basic things – I can't imagine working with chemicals in the vineyard and I can’t imagine putting sulphur into my wine. I’m using, of course, sulphur in my cellar for disinfecting of barrel, the bottling machine, the peristaltic pump, etc., but I don’t put sulphur into my wine.
LM: What are some traits/approaches that are unique to making wine in Slovakia that you wouldn't necessarily find anywhere else in the world?
ZS: You can make perfect wine everywhere in the world. To make your own unique wine is the challenge - this is the question and this is also the answer. My own wine has to be born in the place where I'm at home, where I have my genetic past and I want to leave my genetic trace. My home is my village named Strekov in Slovakia, in the Carpathian valley, in Europe, in earth, in the solar system in the universe. My wine has to be loyal to these places in this order. I have to allow all influences to come to my wine. It means influence of the energy and microbiology of my surroundings, the energy and microbiology developed over centuries on this soil, on this micro climate and the people here. I can't find this anywhere else in the world.
LM: How do you achieve such complexity in your wines? Recently, I was drinking wine with my partner and father in law, and over the course of the evening we drank a number of bottles, finally settling on opening one of your pinot noirs. The other wines paled in comparison. I was lost in the aromas. How do you explain this phenomenon?
ZS: You are sensitive to the energies in my wines, you feel them and you like them. It is very simple – you are compatible with these energies, smells and feelings. You have fantasy for life and your fantasy is provoked by my wines. It works. I´m always excited when somebody feels by this way - I never take it for granted.
LM: What's your approach to farming?
ZS: I´m farming more than 10 years ecologically on 12 hectares. This year, I begin not to spray 2 hectares of my vineyards. I believe, that most vintages it's not necessary to spray if the land is in good condition. The good condition means vital soil, good agricultural manner and healthy biodiversity.
LM: Has your palate changed as you have aged? Do you ever look back on things you used to do, or like, and wonder "What was I thinking?"
ZS: Yes, my palate changed a lot and I'm also looking back a lot. It helps me in thinking, not to be so sure, that what I'm thinking now is unerring. Also it helps me to be more understanding of people who are on the way, maybe on my way. I don't want to judge anybody ( except myself 😊)
LM: What is the driving force behind you? Would you say you make wine based on instinct, or something else?
ZS: The local patriotism. Yes, I´m making wine based on instinct. I believe, in Strekov wine. I think I don't have affinity to make wine in another place.
LM: Can you comment on what is taught in conventional winemaking school today? What do you wish would change?
ZS: It has to be focused more on ecological wine growing, to sustainable winemaking without additives. I think, the only way to honest winemaking is to be fair to nature and to accept the microbiology of the terroir.
LM: Who are your inspirations?
ZS: For me the inspiration is the idea. I believe in morphogenetic fields. I believe that I have to think about things and the solution will come. Thanks to God, I always meet people who help me at the right time. They are my inspirations. Everybody can be the holder of the message, everybody can participate on the discovery of the truth of life. You only have to be ready to receive. Winemaking is the best way for me to understand, to feel and to be.
LM: What's in your glass these days?
ZS: I like my Kadarka from my never sprayed vineyard. This is my super natural light red wine with high drinking comfort.
LM: What are your death row wines?
ZS: My Frankovka
Learn more about Strekov here.