Author: Author: dr. Mészáros Gabriella, Ercsey Dániel Photo: Árpád Pintér
Its history is similar to other wine districts on the Great Plain. Instead of southern Slavic settlers, Germans came and settled in many villages here in the 18th century, bringing their expertise and diligence with them. The wine district can actually be divided into two subdistricts, Hajós and Baja. The cellar village belonging to Hajós is somewhat of a rarity, even in the Carpathian Basin.
AAccording to surviving documents, on 10 April 1728, Cardinal Imre Csáky entered into a contract concerning the obligations of the Swabian settlers regarding the planting of vines and the rights arising from this. It is probable that the vineyards from before the Turkish invasion were replanted at the request of the archbishop. The first vines were near the modern-day villages of Hild and Szentgyörgy. In Hild, you can see caves carved into the earth, the origins of which are unknown, although some hypothesise that these caves housed wine at this time. Locals probably started building cellars in the area of today’s cellar village at the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th.
The first available numerical data on the number of cellars dates from 1851, at which time, there was 553 acres (approx. 220 hectares) under vine in Hajós and 363 cellars. By the turn of the century, the number of cellars had grown to 850 and the area under vine to 1,200 acres (485 hectares). Although heavy burdens were placed on the Hajós growers, and vineyards also occasionally suffered heavy losses, they still provided adequate livelihoods at the time.
The biggest blows to the region were caused by phylloxera and downy mildew, for viticulture was almost completely destroyed in 1874 and 1879. The press houses, since partially protected as monuments, were built at the beginning of the 20th century. At that time, buildings were constructed with cob walls and plastered wickerwork on the facade, boarded at the top. (These are called patics walls around Lake Balaton.) According to a statistical summary from 1935, there were 1,812 acres (733 hectares) under vine in Hajós. In a good harvest, there were 25,000-30,000 hectolitres of wine stored in the cellars; however, the cellars were seriously damaged during the Second World War, most of them froze and were ruined. Several decades of socialism didn’t spare the cellar village either, and the area was only started to be somehow revived in the 1960s. The situation today, however, is very different, and it is well worth visiting.
The area under vine increased significantly after phylloxera, with the current mix of white and black varieties cultivated taking shape during the 20th century. The wine district was established with its current name in 1990 from a part of the Great Plain wine region. The 1997 regulation diminished its area somewhat.
The Hajós-Baja wine district is in the southern part of the area between the Danube and the Tisza, on the western slopes of the so-called Bácska loess ridge. It forms a transition to the north and east towards the sandy-soiled Kunság wine district. Administratively, it is part of Bács-Kiskun County. The wine district includes the 1st, 2nd and 3rd class vineyards, as per the vineyard cadastre, of the towns and villages of Baja, Bátmonostor, Császártöltés, Csátalja, Csávoly, Érsekcsanád, Érsekhalma, Hajós, Nemesnádudvar, Rém, Sükösd and Vaskút. The total production area of the Hajós-Baja wine district is 14,874 hectares, but the current area under vine is 1,636 hectares.
TIts soils are more favourable than those in the Kunság wine district. Loess settled on Danube alluvial sediments to a depth of 1-3 metres on the Bácska loess ridge. Soils formed on loess and loess sands have a higher proportion of loam than in the Kunság. The soils that occur here are mostly loess loam and calcareous chernozem soils.
Its climate is similar to that of the Kunság wine district. The summers are extremely hot, with high heat summation and solar radiation, and hard winters. The region is one of the warmest areas in Hungary. Annual precipitation is low, but vines tolerate its relatively dry climate well. There is a significant risk of frost, especially in winter and early spring.
The area planted with white varieties is about double that of black varieties. The most cultivated varieties are Cserszegi Fűszeres and Bianca, followed by Chardonnay, Királyleányka and Riesling (Rajnai Rizling). The most important black varieties are Kékfrankos, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zweigelt, although there are also some beautiful wines made from Kadarka.
The area’s traditional varieties were Ezerjó, Piros Szlanka, Sárfehér, Kövidinka and Mézes Fehér in the case of whites, and Kadarka in the case of black varieties.
The wine district’s soils yield relatively soft wines that are low in acidity. This softness is successfully compensated for by the region’s reds, some of which are comparable in quality to those grown in hillier regions. The region’s most highly regarded wines have always been red wines. This wine district and its soils “stand out” somewhat from the other wine districts of the Great Plain. The characteristic rock of the Hajós-Baja wine district is Pleistocene loess, compared to varying versions of sand. It is also a wind-blown sediment but has much finer grains than sand, is slightly clayey and also has a carbonate content that is particularly beneficial for viticulture. Well-informed wine drinkers are aware that loess soils generally produce high-quality wine elsewhere, e.g. on the slopes of Tokaj Hill, in Villány, Neszmély or Szekszárd. Its terroir is also well reflected in the area’s wines, as these, so long as they are not high-volume wines, are somewhat different from the wines of the other two wine districts on the Great Plain. They are generally more full-bodied and spicier, while the reds are warmer in character.