Attila Fiáth is an ethusiastic expert and lover of sophisticated wines, a well-known economist and international bourgeois professor at the Corvinus University of Budapest, who has recently been appointed as a year instructor. An eternal traveler who’s always travelling around the world, visiting the world’s most important wine regions. He has studied at Cambridge and Harvard, and he’s currently a student of the Institute of Masters of Wine being nominated for the highly-skilled Master of Wine title.
It’s not a secret, you are currently working on an international wine program at Baraka the fine dining restaurant as a project…
Yes, we’ve known each other for ages. I’ve been to the restaurant several times tasting the food, checking the wine list, and recently we talked a lot about the wines at the restaurant. I would call this, what we’re now working on is clarifying a wine concept to match the food concept. It’s not just about a wine card, it’s about the dining experience.
In fact, you have to imagine this process as if there was an umbrella above it, which is actually the concept itself. In my experience, this is what is missing in restaurants in Budapest. There are better and worse wine cards, food and wine pairings, but if you’re really looking at a restaurant’s wine menu, in most cases you don’t feel the exact reason and thought behind their choices… Baraka has a strong concept regarding their food, which will now be paired with a unique and comprehensive wine card.
How did you start working on the new wine program?
My starting point was to know the essence of the restaurant. It’s in Budapest, in the heart of a European capital city that is absolutely centrally located, so because of the location a lot of foreign guests arriving here, but as there is a French-Asian touch in the food concept, you can expect the foodie Hungarians to also come to taste different kinds of specialty foods. Its positioning is clear from the price point. With regard to wines, international classics can not and should not be avoided, including those that are trendy and fits very well the elegance of this kitchen such as champagne.
Does the Asian-French fusion mean a challenge in the compilation of the new wine program?
Absolutely. It’s a real challenge but also giving many opportunities…
What is this process like?
With Péter Kovács, Baraka’s head sommelier, we’re looking at the world and Hungary’s wines, and we want to bring the best of both here to Baraka. It is not enough to find the best wines, but the wines that best enhance the flavours, tastes and style of Baraka. As you can imagine this is a very meticulous job…
At the same time, the wine menu is being collected to see what wines we need. Besides, that is also a very exciting story to start collecting items that are worth investing in now and later on. This is especially important because here in Budapest, after a while you could see that in all restaurants have the same wines, and we don’t want to be like this. We want the wines that we know are not elsewhere and are here. It could even be a very special bottle from 2008 or 1998. However, for a new degustation menu experience we also have extreme desires for prestigious wines and prestige champagne.
What do you think when people could feel (taste) the results of your work?
It’s an ongoing process. We’re constantly refining the wine card and constantly looking at the wineries, especially the Hungarians. We pay special attention to Hungarians to catch wines that are on an exceptional, international level. Just because the winemaker’s puppy is so cute, his wine won’t be on our wine card. It’s quite interesting that if you’re trying to narrow the Hungarian wines down on different aspects, for example, to be thrilled to reflect terroir, you’ll realize that from hundreds you instantly get only a few. And the top restaurants have a big big responsibility for this. For a top restaurant in Budapest, in my opinion, it’s not the task of giving unforgivable, overpriced wine, but to introduce to their guests a totally new world of wines to explore, perfectly balanced with their food.
Do you think that sophisticated Hungarian foodies are opened to these changes?
I think very much, they just don’t even know what this really means. The moment that this new world we are talking about will open, it will cause gigantic changes. Those restaurants who pay attention to it will become the exemplary ones in this process. Because there is an openness. I’ll give you an example. It was impossible to know if there was enough attending for a champagne tasting three years ago, and now, it’s the opposity, because there is a need for it. It will be the same for the others too. Personally, I don’t believe that Hungarian wine has a future of not educating the consumers, as it has to be acknowledged that yes, this is a competition. It’s good for everyone in the long term, believe me. In Hungary, focusing on the customers is still missing. Less is more, this is the rule. I’d say that just like abroad, let’s just keep six white wines on the wine card, but you instantly feel that it took a half of a year thinking about which six…