On the occasion of the annual press conference of the Hungarian winery, Jammertal Wine Estate in Villány, we had the opportunity to interview the winery’s head winemaker, who was awarded the title “International Female Winemaker of the Year 2023” by Germany’s largest online wine portal, selection-online.de. We asked Zsófia Kövesdi about her career as a female winemaker, the importance of the competition she won in Germany, wine marketing, and the Villány wine region.
First of all, I would like to congratulate you on winning the title of “International Female Winemaker of the Year.” How widespread or popular is the profession of winemaking among women? Can we say that it is still a male-dominated field?
There are many more female winemakers today than in the last 10-20 years, and there are also more and more aspiring female winemakers. But being a female winemaker is still terribly difficult. This is not always perceived, of course, because the perception of difficulty in women is as much a matter of personality as it is in men. If a man is not capable and determined enough, he can be just as oppressed as a woman.
Unfortunately, however, there are still some male chauvinists who come to the winery and talk about technical issues not with me, but with a male colleague who is below me in the hierarchy. Of course, I have my ways of dealing with this, but it is very surprising to see that today, after all this time and all this professional recognition, this still happens. These men think it is perfectly fine to turn to my male colleagues rather than to me when they need to discuss a particular problem with me, for which I am competent.
Nowadays, there are still separate awards for the international male winemaker and the international female winemaker of the year. Would it not make more sense to award a male or female winemaker in a joint competition, regardless of gender?
There are a lot of women’s wine competitions, which I do not necessarily agree with. But I think it is very important to show that women can be just as successful in the wine industry as men.
In order to avoid discrimination, I think it would be better if everyone kept in mind that these are wine competitions.
The reason why selection-online.de‘s wine competition was so important was not because it is a women’s wine competition, but because it is a competition where the winemaker competes, and there are not many of those. There are competitions where you can enter wines, the vineyard or the wine competes in different categories. But wine competitions where a particular winemaker, a particular person, competes with their own work are rare. The German competition was such a competition, so I participated in it and I am proud of my achievement.
Red wine (Photo: Jammertal Borbirtok)
Why is it so important to win a wine competition in Germany? One might think that wine culture flourishes less here than in France or Italy.
Germany is a country with a winemaking tradition going back over two thousand years, with 13 wine regions. Although Germans are not necessarily exporters, they are wine lovers. For us Hungarian winemakers, it is very important to export our own wines, so sending our wines to German wine competitions also helps to raise our prestige. Of course, not everyone expects a result, but when we achieve something of such a high standard, it certainly appeals to people. And not necessarily in our country either, because Hungarians tend to shrug their shoulders and say: “Oh, a wine competition.”
But in Germany, people talk about the fact that the wine of a Hungarian winery became the best red wine, and how it could happen. The same thing happened in 2021, at the French Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, where a Hungarian red wine, the 2015 Cassiopeia Merlot from the Jammertal Wine Estate won the Grand Gold Medal Revelation Red Wine. Again, I received feedback from my French friends that this was incredible for them. Of course, not everyone likes it, but the point is that they talk about it.
The results of 2023 international wine competitions (15 Gold and 7 TOP-Gold medals from England, Austria, Canada, Germany, and France) are a precise reflection of the extremely high quality of the viticultural and oenological professional work at Jammertal Wine Estate.
Photo: Jammertal Borbirtok
This year, for the first time, the winery sent wines for evaluation to the most renowned and influential wine critic in the English-speaking world, the Robert Parker Wine Advocate (RPWA) in the USA. Cassiopeia CF*CIH 2015 and Cassiopeia MCF*CAPH 2015 both received 90 points, while Koh – I – Noor Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 received 92 points. The Koh-I-Noor Merlot 2019 was awarded 91 points by the RPWA.
Jammertal Wine Estate’s exceptional run of success also continued at the French Gilbert & Gaillard International Challenge. As in 2022, Jammertal received the double gold medal for all three red wines submitted in 2023 (Koh-I-Noor 105.6 2017, Cassiopeia MCS*Achird 2018, and Jammertal Blue Sky 2020).
The experience of recent years has shown that marketing aspects have become an indispensable factor in the marketing of a country’s wines. What can Hungary do to strengthen its wine marketing abroad?
I would emphasize cohesion, not necessarily at the wine region level, but at the national level.
It would be important to agree on the direction we want to show to others at the national level.
If you look at the Hungarian wine regions, they all have a different focus. Villány, for example, cannot produce a Tokaj Aszú or a Balaton Welschriesling, just as Tokaj cannot produce a Villány-style red wine. Somehow we should find a common approach that we can represent together. If that does not work, we should build on our past successes.
Zsófia Kövesdi (Photo: Jammertal Borbirtok)
Ars Poetica is the name of one of the brands of the Jammertal winery. In connection with the name, I would ask what is your creed and your goal for the Villány wine region and its wines?
It is very unfortunate that we are not yet known at the wine region level. I think that wine experts and wine consumers already know where Villány is. I hope that the moment will come when it will not be an issue for the average person. What I would like to achieve is that, as a result of this success, everyone will know exactly where to buy red wine.
Via Ungarn Heute, Featured image: Jammertal Borbirtok