By Howard Swains
There are plenty of amateur vinters in Slovakia producing wine in tiny cellars, usually consumed no further away than their own village. Some of these willing novices are also keen to show off their produce, though, and are happy to share a quick spin around their cellars with visitors from further afield. (A few mouthfuls are only to be expected, of course.)
There are (in Malý Horeš) between 250 and 300 family-owned cellars cut into the hillside, some natural and some man-made, originally mainly used as storage rooms for vegetables, etc. One of them is owned by the husband-wife team of Pavol and Katarína Geresiová, just outside the Tokaj region in the far south east of the country. The cellars have also provided decent hiding places from Tartar invaders, but their fixed temperatures and specific conditions are now primarily utilised for making wine from grapes grown in nearby fields.
The Geresis produces about 500 litres of wine per year, from half a hectare of vineyards. But it is a time-consuming task and Geresi is driven only by an internal passion. "We only make wine in our free time," Geresi said. "But it takes up all of it. I would like to quit my job and make winemaking my occupation. But we can only cover about 20 to 25 percent of our life-costs through the vineyard."
Neverthelss, approximately 400 people visited the cellar for a tour and a taste during 2007, some from as far afield as Scandinavia and even Australia. They crouch and shuffle down two shafts to a number of alcoves deep underground, where the barrels are stored. Bread, cheese and salami is on hand to cleanse the pallet between tastings. Geresi would like even more tourists to enjoy the experience, and is attempting to mobilise other local residents to help out. There is already some water-based tourism in the area – river tours and the like – and he believes that linking all the attractions together could make the region a magnet for visitors.
The wine seemingly never runs dry, and neither does the enthusiasm for the product. Asked whether he would ever consider selling the cellar, passed down through generations, if a rich investor came knocking, Geresi was adamant:
"That would be like selling half of my heart. And with only half of my heart, I couldn't live," he said.
These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2008, which you can obtain from our online shop.
EURO CALCULATOR (Sk30.1260 = €1)
Malý HorešPopulation: 1,149
Nearest urban centre: Trebišov (52km)