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The 2017 vintage

The weather during the 2017 vintage season was very good, apart from heavy and long-lasting rain in September.

  • As can be seen in the below weather graph (click on it to enlarge), the orange curve is the max day temperature and the gray is the min night temperature (both in °C). The blue is the amount of rain for each day (in mm).
  • The month of May were very dry, and caused some problems during flowering in our sandy and hot vineyards. But the season started early and the problems disappeared after rain in June
  • As seen on the night temperature, it went significantly below 0 °C the 21st of April. Our vineyards are steep and the frost didn't hit us, as it did downhill on the flatter land.
  • After May the weather was hot but with enough rain. This kept the season to be 2 weeks ahead of normal seasons. Thanks to the rain, the wines had no problem with the heat and the grapes developed beautifully
  • The only sad thing this vintage was the bad bloat starting in September and culminated the 20th of September. This caused a heavy rot damage on lower parts of our vineyards.
  • October was sunny and beautiful up to the 21st of October. Due to the early season this year, we had to harvest long before, forced by galloping sugar content.

Click on above weather graph to get it larger !


The factor that definitely postpone harvest:

  • Grapes has not lost their unripe green character.

Factors that urge us to harvest:

  • Grapes start containing too much sugar
    • can be a spin-off from too much botrytis
  • Grapes start showing too low acidity
  • Winter with damaging weather sets in
    • Grapes stops to ripen, and risk to shrivel or rot

Due to the fine harvest weather from the 24th of September, there was no weather problem to harvest our vineyards in any order. But given the tropical summer weather, the sugar was galloping. We got a bit surprised from the high sugar measurements, and decided quickly to pick in raising quality order, which is is to start with Genesis low, and go uphill through Bishop Garden and Bishop Backyard, and finish with Genesis high.

The rot damage we had to take into account immediately when we started to harvest Genesis low. Amongst the gray rot there were definitely not a single grape with healthy botrytis, so we applied a severe selection to only pick unaffected grapes. We lost many tons on this strategy, but we refuse to expose ourselves to the risk that our wines taste and smell even the very least of gray rot.

Apart from coping with rot, the harvest went on in an unproblematic way. As said, we already now understood the the consequence of the high sugar content of the grapes, but we like our wines to be both powerful (yet with preserved elegance), also see about pressing below.


As pressing went on we understood more and more that our 2017 wines will be dramatic in concentration. The smell and flavor were intense already from Genesis's low juice, and increased all the time when we pressed better and better grapes. A great surprise was Genesis's graft (formerly szurkebarat) present on the sides of the Genesis vineyard, which now challenge Genesis high in quality.

Because of the loss of several tons of grapes, we had some problems to supply our nine tanks with enough amount of juice to be securely chilled. Because of this, we could not harvest each vineyard separately and in preferred order, so the mix between vineyards had to be pragmatic an not always fully optimal.

From the pressing we ended up with using 8 of our tanks in the below way.

  • Two tanks with 1st and 2nd fraction of juice from Genesis low and Bishop Garden.
  • One tank of Bishop Backyard and Solitude 1st fraction.
  • One tank of Bishop Backyard and Genesis grafts low 1st fraction. This juice was originally meant to be immediately mixed with above, but the during pressing we understood that this was quite superior to the above, and since we had plenty of tanks we decided to keep this separate.
  • One tank of a mix of the 2nd fraction of the two above.
  • Two tanks with 1st and 2nd fraction from Genesis high.
  • One tank with all above 3rd fraction.

To make extremely high quality wine is always very tricky. It didn't get easier after our heat pump completely broke a couple of days after we had multiplied and inoculated yeast in all wines. Suddenly we had no possibility to keep our wines chilled at the preferred initial temperature of 6 °C, which began to raise up to the outdoor temperature of 13 °C. Our alert service contractor succeeded to buy and install a brand new heat pump and we could cool down to 6 °C before the wines really begun to ferment. The fermentation were of course kick-starting, but without any serious consequences.

We always measure twice a week and plot in excel sheets, see the graph below of Genesis high 2nd fraction.

Click on the graph above to enlarge.

First the high sugar prevent from fermentation, and at the end high alcohol prevent from fermentation. This is not a big obstacle when applying quick fermentation, but to build in quality and elegance, the fermentation period must exceed 3 months which means a fermentation speed of about 3 gram sugar per day. At the end of the fermentation, when we approach around 10 gram sugar per liter, we must go down to a speed of 1 gram sugar per day, to be able to break fermentation at accurate residual sugar level. This regularly happen us at a temperature around 15 °C, with the disturbing side-effect that on degree above this temperature bring us back to 3 gram per day, and one degree below this temperature do break the fermentation almost completely.

Breaking fermentation

When we approach the wine to get ready, the big discussion appear, what would be the preferred amount of residual sugar in our different wines. Many factors determine this level:

  • Measurable level of acidity in grams per liter
  • Austerity of the acidity. Even if the acidity has the same measurable level, it may be softer or harder, depending on such things as the weather during the season and time of harvest.
  • The mix of acidities. Higher malic acidity content make it feel harder, and a malolactic fermentation exchange malic acid to lactic acid which feel softer. Since south-facing and steep Badacsony vineyards are a bit too hot, we avoid malolactic fermentation.
  • The alcohol content. Higher alcohol level contributes to a sweet feeling.
  • High concentration or presence of botrytis. Also these contributes to a sweet feeling.
  • And last but not least, the preferred wine style and market opportunities. Villa Sandahl prefer sugar that is detectable, but barely so. The cheaper wines segment prefer more residual sugar than the luxury segment.
  • Wine law. The wine may not be labeled dry when the sugar is more than 2 gram higher than the acidity, or exceed 9 gram per liter.

Our 2017 wines are high in alcohol (14-15 %), with rather high acidity (6.5 - 7 gram per liter) but being soft from late harvest (without botrytis) and without having undergone malolactic fermentation. Altogether, our 3rd fraction base wine will be the sweetest with 7 gram sugar per liter and our best vineyard wines will be driest with around 5 gram per liter.