Let's get back to the beginning, how would you introduce yourself - Oscar Maurer, 1994 –the year of that big decision?
In 1994, when I decided to make my first wine, everyone in the village, in Hajdukovo, made natural wines. All grandads and grannies! I made the first Kevidinka without destemming –and now we are slowly coming back to that and try to produce more and more wine without plucking the berries. We made Kevidinka with maceration, because my father-in-law pointed out it was simply the way it was made! The tradition was followed in this process of wine making, some strict rules on the site, that we are now slowly returning to... Regardless of the climate change, in most cases it is evident that if we adhere to these rules, the better results will come in the future years. When I met local winemakers that first year and mentioned that I’d filter the wines, everyone was appalled and looked at me like I was an alien! They pointed out that any meddling into winemaking was faking. "We're doing everything right," they said. I have never (too much) renounced these rules, but today I adhere to them very strictly.
Does that mean that there were periods when you left the course you took?
I had been making natural wines from 1994 until 2002, however, in 2003 the yield was so high (and we already had the amount of wine we couldn't drink alone with the family), that I turned to racking, filtering and use of sulphur due to pressure from buyers and customers. Although these were some minor compromises, they still determined what kind of wine it would be like. The amount of sulphur was medium, but it was enough to "cut" the whole microbiology of wine! There was no spruce of life in these wines. No matter how natural these wines were (because they were made of organic vines), it lacked the essential factor - life. For all of the above, natural wines differ from others. All in all, the answer is - yes, I made a decision to make a compromise.
How did you feel then?
I hated myself.
How long did you manage to stay on that track that you obviously knew that it as a total dead-end all the way?
Nine years passed. Then in Budapest I met Isabelle Legeron, Master of Wine, who tried our wines, came up and said she wanted to help - to present our wines to the whole world! She was delighted with our wines, but she had a few conditions. She would give her name, but only if we shifted the production to natural wines. Without racking, filtering, clarification and sulphur ... Only the wine in its natural state. Although our goal was not to present ourselves to the whole world and to make our wines available in the best restaurants, when a woman such as Isabelle Legeron tells you that she would give her name and stand by our wines, I had no thought, I agreed.
You had no regrets?
No. I was totally happy! I didn't want anything more or better. I was motivated by Isabelle and a few more people. This project was supposed to cover more wineries, however, the others were not interested, they gave up. On the other hand, the wine I have been yearning for all those years returned! Every single year, we made more and more wines without meddling with its "life". We decided not to take away anything and add nothing to the wine. Since 2017, all wines have become natural, out of ten different wines, we have added minimum sulphur in quantities permitted for natural wines in three of them. The year 2021 was the first is without any addition!
Why have so many years passed?
Until new markets were cleared out, I couldn’t immediately start producing one hundred percent without sulphur. But to be honest, our market has been almost completely changed since 2013. This means that we have lost several partners, and also friends. Those who used to love visiting us before, who understood our wines, they were disappointed. They simply didn’t know to accept our new style, as I say. They don't understand why wine is not transparent, what these scents are...
Are you disappointed because of that?
Maybe I am, in some sense. I am sorry that some people I appreciate, with whom I otherwise have good relationships, do not understand what I am talking about. I wish I live in an environment where there is an increasing number of people who are leaning towards the good. I am sure that natural wine is good. It's not just fine, it's good! Good for the environment, for our Earth (which we have already nearly destroyed!), even good for health.
Do you have that inner peace now?
In 2013, we made wines with a minimal amount of sulphur (30 grams), which is permitted for natural wines. At that time, I was already sure that it was as natural as it gets. Soon I understood that, with regard to this, I was only at the entrance and that it could always be more natural. I'm not sure even now if I see the end of the possibilities. My goal is not to differ from other wineries. My goal is to understand the birth of wine - the process where we all have to open our eyes and ears wide, to understand what the grapes want, how it would want to be born ... This is the same situation when a man would want to reposition a baby in mom's stomach before birth under in any circumstance. Maybe it is already positioned in ideal place for birth, but the man would still want to tamper... Of course, you need to supervise it, and if there is a need (which rarely happens), do what is necessary.
It rarely happens?
To be frank, very rarely. It might happen, but it rarely happens to me. I think that it is extremely important to leave the wine the opportunity to find its way. Of course, there are circumstances, but it is still fully ready to form by itself. If we do not meddle in this process, there is a great probability that we will eventually find and understand the information that the vines had collected 24 hours a day! In case we have this talent, the so - called third eye, whereby we will see and understand the universe, then it could eventually become a very nice encounter of man and wine.
Natural wine isn’t for everyone?
No! It definitely isn’t for those who believe only in material things, only in what they see with their own eyes, what they can touch. It is not for those whose own ego is above everything. They will not understand this wine,which does not seek better or different presentation than it already is in its natural form. What it is. Nothing more! In my opinion, our society is extremely conservative, but this conservatism is not based on values, but on habits. However, there are those who are "borderline", they are not completely closed - they raise their heads when they hear something new...
Does all this mean that in your winery nature actually dictates everything?
Definitely. We adapt. There is no recipe, rules that apply to everyone, it is simply impossible when you work in two different regions, on 16 hectares, in 20 plots. A constant presence is needed and loads of decisions have to be made in one day. But I am confident that one must return to some basic values, the times when a man did not control everything. Today we plant and cultivate a vine so that it is ideal, to us, to someone who does the work. So that we can enter on tractors, to avoid pain in our back during the harvest... we pay attention to everything, except the vine - what it would want, what suits it. I took this course. We didn't even prune more than two hectares this year. Now, we are starting to plant blackthorns two times 0,4 hectares. We plant with no plan, where we see that the earth is good, we will let the vine climb, and to live in a symbiosis. A man will come and pick what the nature has given, but we shall bring life back to these plots. We are letting the animals and everyone is returning to its place. Animals and plants into the nature, and the man to his family.