Author: dr. Gabriella Mészáros, Dániel Ercsey
Photo: Árpád Pintér

Balatonboglár Wine District

Balatonboglár Wine District

Of all the wine districts clustered around Lake Balaton, Balatonboglár perhaps has the least solid history. Nevertheless, it boasts excellent terroir, somewhere on the imaginary border of the most enticing white and red wine regions. Which means that top-quality white and black grapes are grown here, not to mention grapes for sparkling base wines, too. Balatonboglár represents elegance, finesse and outstanding, yet soft, acidity.

History

Investigating the history of the Balatonboglár wine district, we know from early records that there was initially little difference between the wines of the northern and southern shores of Lake Balaton. Thus, for example, there were already “Balaton wines” being produced in vineyards on the southern shore of Lake Balaton belonging to the diocese of Veszprém as early as the 14th century. The black grapes used to make red wines were increasingly widespread under the Turks and dominated the region until phylloxera struck. At the end of the 19th century, the Balaton’s southern shore was divided into wine-producing districts. The Kéthely district was located between the Kis-Balaton and Nagyberek and mainly produced red wine. The sandy Somogy vineyards stretching between Balatonkeresztúr and Balatonszárszó mainly produced siller wines. Siller was also made in the area from Szárszó to Kiliti, while both white and red wines were produced between Siófok and Balatonfőkajár.

Phylloxera destroyed two-thirds of Hungary’s vineyards between 1875 and 1895, and with them their ancient varieties. Thus, phylloxera also reared its ugly head in the Balaton region at the end of the century and great losses were only prevented on Badacsony Hill through the application of carbon disulphide in the vineyards. The state made huge efforts to alleviate the damage caused by phylloxera, providing loans for replanting, organising information for growers and establishing new wine-growing areas that were immune to phylloxera thanks to their sandy soils. One such area was Máriatelep, established in 1891 on the Somogy shore of the Balaton. This was established on an 800-kilo-hectare area of pastureland donated by Count Tasziló Festetics, 300 kilo-hectares of which were designated by the state for planting. The main varieties in Máriatelep were Olaszrizling, Zöldszilváni, Ezerjó and Nagyburgundi. So, after phylloxera, the cultivation of white grapes began to dominate.

A flourishing grape and wine culture developed, partly on an estate owned by the Benedictine Abbey of Tihany and partly on the former Festetics estate. However, the real prosperity of the wine district dates back to the planting of vines in the mid-20th century. During the decades under socialism, the Balatonboglári Pincegazdaság (cooperative winery of Balatonboglár) managed viticulture and wine production in the region, bottling both its own and bought-in wines. By the end of the 1980s, it had already developed a wide range of products, from small-batch wines destined for exports through to unpretentious wines for the masses, and even cheap “bulk sparkling wine”.

Geographical location

It is located on the southern shore of Lake Balaton, in the northern part of Somogy County, from Zamárdi to Balatonboglár and extending south to Andocs and Tab. The vineyards around Kéthely and Marcali, south of Balatonkeresztúr, also belong to the wine district. According to the current regulations, the Balatonboglár wine district includes the following towns and villages: Andocs, Balatonberény, Balatonboglár, Balatonendréd, Balatonkeresztúr, Balatonlelle, Balatonszemes, Karád, Kéthely, Kőröshegy, Kötcse, Látrány, Lengyeltóti, Marcali, Ordacsehi, Somogysámson, Somogytúr, Szólád, Szőlősgyörök, Visznek and Zamárdi. The wine district’s total area is 9,984 hectares, of which 8,156 hectares are classified as 1st class vineyards. The area under vine is currently 3,109 hectares.

Soil

The soil consists of clayey-sandy sediments, which were deposited by the Pannonian Sea and later covered with loess. This has been overlain by horizontally sloping loess and loam soils, which are perfect for viticulture. Currently, you can differentiate between the unique styles of the Szőlőskislak, Szőlősgyörök, Gyugy, Kőrös-hegy, Sinai-hegy and Jánoshegy vineyards. However, it’s likely that more will join the queue in coming years.

Climate

Balatonboglár has a mild climate, which is especially hot in some years. The average number of sunshine hours per year is 1,950-2,000, while average annual precipitation is 600-800 mm. Extremes of temperature are not typical, so vintage variation is relatively slight.

Grape varieties and typical wine styles

The wine district has traditionally been a popular area for both white and red wine grapes; however, nowadays, white grapes dominate. The most planted varieties are Chardonnay, Irsai Olivér, Királyleányka, Olaszrizling, Riesling (Rajnai Rizling) and Zöldveltelini, while the most planted black varieties are Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by Pinot Noir, Kékfrankos and Zweigelt. The style and quality of wines produced here perhaps depends more on how they are grown and their yields than in other wine districts. Both white and reds can be fresh, light, summer wines with crisp acidity and bright fruit (e.g. from Királyleányka), but the region also produces extremely concentrated, oak-aged white and red wines with high alcohol. Although the area is close to the shore of the Balaton, white wine was not so dominant here in centuries past as on the northern shore. This is due to its soils and its climate, which is similar to that of Szekszárd. Wines grown here on loess also resonate charm. There are areas where you can walk among the vines in spellbound excitement, with high loess walls revealing soils mixed with lime in many places. Vines thrives in this terroir and reward careful work with well-structured, silky wines. There are plenty of reductive, light wines. These fruity, light, aromatic, graceful wines are generally characterised by soft acidity in more simple wines, while more complex white wines made from Pinot Blanc, Királyleányka and Chardonnay may boast elegant, playful acidity. The region also produces pleasant, light, dry Irsai Olivér and Pinot Gris (Szürkebarát). The soft, mellow red wines with restrained tannins are perfect for those who are not fans of very heavy wines. For some years now, however, many fuller-bodied, more tannic yet elegant red wines have been starting to come out of the wine district, mainly from Cabernet Sauvignon, thus showing the hidden merits of the region and of the winemakers concerned. A considerable number of rosés and sparkling base wines are also produced in the area.

Chardonnay
Irsai Olivér
Királyleányka
Olaszrizling
Rajnai rizling
Szürkebarát
Zöldveltelini
Cabernet sauvignon
Kékfrankos
Merlot
Zweigelt
Balatonboglári Gömbkilátó/Balatonboglári borvidék
Balatonboglári Gömbkilátó/Balatonboglári borvidék
Balatonboglári Gömbkilátó/Balatonboglári borvidék
Balatonboglári Gömbkilátó/Balatonboglári borvidék
Balatonboglári Gömbkilátó/Balatonboglári borvidék
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