Tibor Gál, a leading winemaker in Europe, died in a car accident on Feb. 10 in South Africa, where he was working on a new winery project. He was 46.
Gál established his reputation in Italy, where he was the enologist for one of Tuscany's best-known estates, Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, from 1989 to 1998. His contributions there laid the foundation for the rise of the estate's top red wine, Ornellaia, to the superstar status it enjoys today.
In 1993, Gál turned his attention toward his homeland of Hungary, where he established the Tibor Gál winery, in the historic Eger wine region. The project was a partnership with Nicolò Incisa della Rochetta, the producer of super Tuscan Sassicaia, and Burkard Bovensiepen, owner of German wine importer Alpina. In 2002, U.S. importer Kobrand took over Alpina's share in the estate, which now totals nearly 100 acres of vineyards and produces classic Hungarian wines such as Egri Bikavér and international varietals such as Pinot Noir.
However, Gál did not completely sever his links with Italy; from 1998 on, he was a consulting enologist for an up-and-coming Tuscan estate, Aia Vecchia, near Bolgheri.
Gál was widely respected within the wine trade. "He proved himself to be a great enologist," Incisa della Rochetta said. "But above all, he was a very nice man."
Gál is survived by his wife, Viola, and four children. The funeral will take place in Eger, Hungary, at the end of February.
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