He was the greatest Hungarian weightlifter of all time. Born in 1938, he competed in a record five Olympics, winning the gold medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. He was itty-bitty — an inch shy of 5 feet tall and weighed 123 pounds. Yet in Munich he executed a clean and jerk (lifting the barbell from the floor to arms-length overhead) with 313.5 pounds.
Being scrawny, ineffective and itty-bitty ourselves, we devoted much of our time in the 1960s to the arcane sport of weightlifting. While the other boys in Berkeley were discovering girls, marijuana and the Free Speech Movement, we were reading Strength & Health and Iron Man and becoming intimately familiar with the great American lifters: Ike Berger, Tony Garcy, Tommy Kono, Pete George and Norbert Shemansky. We knew their bodyweights, lifting styles and records. We even boned up on the enemy: lifters from other countries who dared to defeat our American heroes — Rudolf Plyukfelder, the insanely flexible Russian; Yoshinobu Miyake, the Japanese army officer who outlifted Ike Berger in Rome, and Imre Foldi, whose mother was killed during World War II and who, as a young lifter, lost a third of his ring finger in a machine shop accident — a career-ender for a lesser man.
Were we to appear on “Jeopardy” and the final category was “Hungary,” we would have called out “Imre Foldi” (in the form of a question) to each challenge, for the diminutive bantamweight was all we knew about the place.
Then a friend stopped by the office with a bottle of Evolucio. And thus did we discover something else about Hungary. They make wine.
And not just any old wine. Evolúció comes from the Tokaj region in Hungary. In Hungary, a Tokaj wine is usually a dessert wine, but we’d classify Evolúció a picnic wine. One’s first impression is a Sauvignon Blanc in bed with a Portuguese Vinho Verde. Neither dry nor sweet, Evolúció is the product of the Furmint grape grown in the Tokay region. Furmint can go either way — dry or sweet — or it can go its own way, which it has with this delightful, merry wine that is innocently festive and engagingly complex and a respectable 13.5 percent alcohol. On a hot July afternoon, after a grueling round of croquet, there could be no better accompaniment to a platter of sandwiches and cakes.
This summer, if you’re down to choosing among Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay, consider Evolúció. Our pal found it at the Blue Hill Wine Shop for $12.
Today, Imre Foldi is 76 and no longer setting world records or lifting double-bodyweight. But he could probably lift your spirits. He’s still enthusiastic about the Iron Game; he coached his daughter, Csilla, who has won the European Weightlifting Championships 16 times.
We raise our glass of Evolúció Furmint to Imre Foldi, who loves his country and vice versa: Not heavy, but strong. Not famous, but amazing. Inspirational to thousands, among them a boy in America and a girl in Hungary.