“Well, I guess most of the locals think we’re the weird ones,” laughs Jakub Herzán when asked about how many natural winemakers besides them you’d find in Kobylí (one, to be precise). Similar to their fellows from the Dlúhé Grefty winery (that we also import), Jakub, his girlfriend and fellow winemaker Sandra and his sister Zuzana are a stubborn natural wine “island” in a village otherwise dominated by a huge conventional winery. And just like Jara Tesařík in the nearby village of Mutěnice, their approach (and beautiful wines!) speak of dedication to respectful winemaking, a vision that we immediately felt attracted to.
The trio works with 4.3 hectares of vineyards planted by Jakub’s father from 1997 onwards, all pretty much on the same south-oriented hill with fertile black soil on loess. After Mr. Herzán Sr.’s untimely death in 2012, Jakub and his sister Zuzana, although young and inexperienced, suddenly found themselves responsible for the estate. Jakub had only just begun studying winemaking college back then and had quite a lot to take in at once; but, led by his innate belief in environmental sustainability and influenced by the natural wine movement that many of his classmates became part of as well, he gradually landed on his feet and started to make wine in a more and more natural way, both in the vineyard and in the cellar located under the family house.
The winemaking is really minimal—the wines ferment solely with indigenous yeasts, mostly age in used French oak barrels and nothing but grapes is used in their pet-nats and off-white label wines. The only exception are the “Black Label” wines, which receive a small addition of sulfur at bottling in order to preserve a “more polished” character compared to the funkier part of the range. Jakub’s interest in skin-contact also led him to purchase four qvevri in Georgia back in 2016; this PhD. research tool has been buried in his garden and has served as a fermentation/aging vessel for a part of Herzánovi’s wines ever since.
“This light hand in the cellar wouldn’t be possible without respectful viticulture, leaving enough natural yeast and nutrients both inside and outside the berries,” the winemaker asserts the belief that led him to turn the estate fully organic in 2016 (Herzánovi are in a transition period for the certification at the time of writing). Since then, they have also been implementing more and more biodynamic methods and even co-founded the Czecho-Slovak branch of Demeter. “Each year we add something new to observe the influence on our land and wine. We want to give the soil and plants all that we can, live in close contact with them, and limit the impact of our viticulture,” Sandra confirms.
Sandra met Jakub while studying at the same winemaking college a couple of years ago, sharing an interest in holistic, respectful agriculture among others. Together, they now patiently work towards sustainability and self-sufficiency, one step at a time: “We’re currently looking for a field where we could start our own compost since our garden is not big enough. But the biggest dream is having a horse to help with the vineyard work, although that’s still a bit far away as we’d need to have double the current vineyard’s size,” the winemaking couple outlines, describing a sandy parcel they are eyeing as perfect for Riesling. “It’s not easy to get new vineyards in Kobylí, as the “mogul” winery historically owns most of the land here. But that’s OK—we’re in it for the long run,” they add with calm determination and we can’t help but do our best to help this dedicated young trio to reach their sustainable dreams as soon as possible.
Vineyard: loess with sand and humus, planted in 2004. biodynamically farmed by Jakub & co themselves.
Cellar: after the manual harvest, the grapes were destemmed and fermented as whole berries in open-topped tanks for 2 months. Once pressed, the wine spent 10 months in older French oak barrels of various sizes. Blended, naturally stabilized by sedimentation and bottled without filtration or addition of sulfur.
Personality: Dornfelder is known for its super-dark color and deep fruit/earthy notes and that’s exactly what you’ll get here – think blueberry, blackberry and cooked plums.
-Jenny & Francois