21 November 2023 / Borbála Kalmár (translated by Sue Tolson, DipWSET) Copy actual URL Facebook share Twitter share

Generational teamwork instead of one man show at the Vida Family Wine Estate

Young people are the face of more and more wineries in the Szekszárd Wine District. “It’s great to talk about the next generation,” says our interviewee, “but let’s not forget that for the last 30 years, it has been our parents who have gone above and beyond to ensure that we have these estates. The reason we have a second generation is because we had a very good first one.” In Péter Vida Jr’s case, he had already been strengthening the team at the Vida Family Wine Estate for a year when his father won Wine Producer of the Year in 2011. We spoke to him.

What does Szekszárd mean to you? 

Everything. The winding valleys, the meandering gulleys, our beloved single vineyards. And smiles, because when I come home from elsewhere and see these hills, it always makes me smile. But, of course, frustration too, because I can feel inside me how much more I’d like to get out of all this, and how many people have yet to see these charming valleys. It would be nice to show them to as many people as possible.

 

You are at the forefront of this in the Szekszárd Wine District, as you hold quite a few events in the wine region.

It’s not individual performance but group efforts that work in today’s noisy world – that’s what we believe in. We’ve hosted Master of Wine events, organised sommelier tours, given masterclasses and even represented the wine region at the same table. We look for ways of doing something together for Szekszárd.

 

That’s good to hear, as many wine regions in Hungary are still characterised by more individual achievements.

It can often be a problem that there is no common platform to bring everyone together. But we have a common Szekszárd bottle, which started from the consensus of the previous generation. Whoever joins in with this will have a consistent style and quality, with a focus on our local varieties. There have been various events where we did not appear as individual winemakers but as the Szekszárd Wine District, and I represented other people’s Kadarka, Kékfrankos and Bikavér just as much as our own. I was sure that if it was in a Szekszárd bottle, there wouldn’t be much of a difference in quality.

 

What do you mean? What is the guarantee of this? 

It’s not a buddy organisation (he laughs – editor), it’s a delimited thing. There are only three types of wine that can use the Szekszárd bottle, and those wines are only determined by a blind tasting panel on a specific day each month. A three-thirds vote is required before anyone can use such a bottle for their wine. In such cases, there is always a wine in the flight which is already using the Szekszárd bottle, and if there is any suspicion that the winemaker has not bottled what the committee had approved, a laboratory test is carried out. Such a case will result in a long ban, so it’s not really worth it. So when a customer buys a wine in the Szekszárd bottle, they know what to expect. I think this should be the letter A in the development of a wine region image. We are lucky here as the letter A has already been written down.

 

You didn’t start out by joining the family winery? What was your detour?

Detour is a good term, because I’ve now been working back here at home for 13 years, it’s more time than I’ve spent anywhere else, so it can be considered a destination. I graduated from Pécs University of Economics and my first job was in Dublin, in a graduate training programme. Afterwards, I worked for an international advertising agency in Hungary, and then I came home. Fate is a funny thing, as my sister had a similar career too. She also graduated in Economics and after the MOL graduate training programme, she first worked in a bank and then at Ford. And she joined in 2020, ten years after me.

 

How are the tasks distributed today?

The time came when just me being here was no longer enough: Zsuzsi returned from New Zealand for the 2020 harvest and since then all our wines have been her handiwork. I have every respect for her and I’m proud of her – it means a lot to me that we are working together as a team. In our winery, we say that 80% of everything is decided in the vineyard – and to this day, my father, at 70, is responsible for the most important part. We have the remaining 20% and are trying hard not to ruin it. You can have a drawn sword when you go into battle – and by that, I mean, for example, good winery facilities – but if you don’t have good grapes, it’s worthless. Zsuzsi makes the wines, and I’m a kind of joker.

 

How much were you led down this path? 

As a practised parent, I can be grateful for the example I was given, as we were never told by our parents that we should do this. So, I’m proud to say that me sitting here in the office and my sister, as I can hear, now pressing the grapes, was absolutely our own decision.

 

Your father was named Wine Producer of the Year in 2011, and you can read his inspiring thoughts in countless interviews as well as the values that made such outstanding success possible. What is it that he taught you that you live your daily life by?

We are driven by what we can do better, and are never satisfied. If we have learned anything from him, it’s that we should never just sit back, we should always try to be better. And there is no such thing as hard work not getting results.

 

It’s interesting that you say that, as I had the pleasure of talking to György Lőrincz (founder and winemaker at St Andrea Vineyards and Winery – editor) the other day, among other things about the fact that one of their wines received 98 points from international wine critic James Suckling. He also mentioned similar perfectionism and the fact that you had been among the first to congratulate them.

Maybe I didn’t actually cry, but as soon as I saw the results, there were tears in my eyes. It was so great to read what he wrote about St Andrea’s 2018 Agapé wine, which says it is world class. Just think about it, everything you believe in, everything you have been working for, what you have here is now world class in the eyes of an influential person. Honestly, I rejoiced in it as if it had been our own success. And as I always talk about bad things, I also speak about good things. So, I wanted so much to share my joy that I did, in my own clumsy way, I called Gyuri.

 

You can’t complain about your own success either: what have you brought to the life of the winery? 

I don’t think I’m a revolutionary person, and when I came into this, I came with a lot of questions instead of answers – which, of course, led to a lot of conflict. I certainly brought a different mindset, a lot of momentum and a lot of improvements. Looking back, in the 13 years I’ve been here, we’ve basically grubbed up all our vines and replanted them with the varieties, clones and spacing that we envisioned. Then we built a winery the way we wanted it, to be able to deal with our 23 hectares without compromise. We’ve created a world-class image and labels that can stand their ground anywhere in the international wine market. There’s a lot more to it, but what I’ve certainly brought to it is a team effort rather than the “one man show” that there was before. 

 

And what’s next?

If in the coming period – because we are now sailing in a very rough sea – we can stay on course and not sink, I think that’s a pretty good goal. It is as far as we want to go and as far as we can dream at the moment. Staying alive and keeping the rudder in the direction in which we started is challenge enough in itself.

 

Title photo: Péter Vida Jr and his father (Vida Family Wine Estate)

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