Holass, exciting wines from the border of Austria and Hungary

Website: https://holass.com/

Imre Halász and Ellie Bauwens are the couple behind Holass. It’s a virtual winery, in the sense that they don’t own vineyards, and they source grapes from both Hungary and Austria. They met at Prowein in 2014 when Ellie was working for a Belgian wine distributor and Imre (who is Hungarian) was with an Austrian winery.

Their model is working with local varieties from historically important Hungarian wine regions and also Burgenland, which has belonged to Austria since 1921, but has a Hungarian heritage.

‘I was born in Szombathely, which is right next to the border,’ says Imre, ’and I grew up there with all these wines. Franz Weninger was a childhood friend of mine. We used to sip wine with our fathers when we were 15. Then I went to study law: I went to Budapest and I went abroad, and then I went to South Africa, to the Swartland. Craig Hawkins said to me that he was just starting harvest at Dorli Muhr’s, so why don’t you come and join me? Criag had just started working with Harslevelu so we went to Tokaji and Somlo together to taste different Harslevelus. This was in 2010. I thought, I’m never going to return to an office.’

Imre left the law behind (he’d got his diploma but had never practiced, and instead he started to travel around and did a couple of vintages in the Swartland (he worked with Chris and Andrea Mullineux). ‘In South Africa they all talked about their harvest experiences in the old world, and I thought: I’m coming from the old world.’

He emailed Moric, and asked if he could pick grapes with him. ‘We had a 3 hour talk and I started as a harvest intern. After the harvest he said, why don’t you stay? I ended up staying there four years.’ Through this, he was working with a Belgian distributor called Bibendum who imported Moric. He met Ellie and they started dating. They both felt that their jobs were taking up too much of their time and were too intrusive, and while they were dating they found an abandoned vineyard close to the Balaton lake in Sümeg. ‘It was completely forgotten, but before the world war it was one of the most famous regions,’ says Imre about Sümeg. ‘There were only 18 hectares left of 400. So we found a little parcel, we picked the grapes and this was our first wine in 2016.’

They quit their jobs without any future plans. ‘I went to do some pruning in the Loire, because that’s where we wanted to move and start something. In the meantime some friends we were close to – Martin Lichtenberger, Christoph Wachter, Franz Weninger and Attila Hommoner in Tokaji – said, what are you doing? Why don’t we do something together? In each area where I have knowledge there are certain vineyards I wanted to work with, and they gave us this opportunity. We work their vineyards, we can use their cellars, and so we own nothing in Hungary. This project came to live in Belgium. The idea was to show all these different regions, all the places where I had relationships.’


Holass Burgenland 2019 Burgenland, Austria
This is Grüner Veltliner from the Leithaberg, on muschelkalk soils. Ripe, textured and layered with lovely freshness on the finish. So mineral and expressive and fine, with lovely taut citrus fruit. Fine grained, mineral and detailed. 94/100

Holass Pinka 2018 Eisenberg, Burgenland, Austria
A white wine from Olaszriesling. Lively, vibrant and detailed with real finesse to the citrus and pear fruit with hints of apple and lime. Very expressive. 92/100

Holass Somló 2019 Hungary
Imre’s father farms this vineyard, and has a small cellar here. 10 different varieties in the blend. Mineral and complex with pear, honey and spice notes. There’s also some melon with lovely spicy detail. This has some real complexity with some appley notes and a saline quality. 95/100

Holass Sopron 2018 Hungary
Blue Frank! This is from the home of Blaufrankisch, with grapes grown on mica and schist gneiss. Peppery and mineral with lovely red fruits, good acidity and vital cherry fruit with some redcurrant and plum. Fresh and fine. 93/100

Holass Vas 2019 Burgenland, Austria
From iron-rich soils this is Blaufrankisch that spends two years in a 1000 litre foudre. Very pure, aromatic and fine with cherries, raspberries and redcurrants. So fine, expressive and concentrated with lovely structure. 95/100

UK agent: Indigo Wine