Mihály Szöllősi had always considered wine as a hobby. Born in the plain city of Mezőtúr, Szolnok County, in 1949, he started out his professional life with training as a horticultural engineer, working in production control in a state company.
In 1999, he bought a winery in Neszmély, in the Northern Transdanubia wine region of Ászár-Neszmély, which he calls ideal for white wines. The former cave (literally) of Count Nándor Zichy was in a state of ruin at the time. Dug out of the tufa hills, it measures 65 metres in length and has an arched roof and storage shelves carved into the walls. It is a rather small cellar, if comparing with others, but then again, production was for a long time limited, too. Until a couple of years ago it was a purely a father-daughter operation.
Today production runs at about 130 000 bottles of wine a year. They have about 30 hectares of vines as old as 35 to 45 years, which grow in clayey-shale, löss and brown forest soils, and they choose to keep yields low.
Botond Barsca, who has been winemaker at the estate since 2011, told Vino247 that their agricultural approach “is about to change”, favouring organic viticulture and integrated pest management, using Biocont Hungary techniques.
Thanks to European Union development assistance, the winery has recently been able to build a new bottling facility, which includes improvements to its ageing cellar and a temporary restaurant for up to 80 guests.
The Szöllősi Pincészet wines cover 12 different labels divided into the Standard, Premium and Selection ranges, not to mention a syrupy sweet grape must. “People like it,” Szöllősi says, “particularly for children.”
Here, native varieties are given front and centre, along with international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. White grapes including Irsai Olivér, Cserszegi Fűszeres and Olaszrizling, otherwise known as Italian Riesling, are made into single varietal wines under the Standard label—though given that one would be hard pressed to find wines made from these grapes outside the country, they should be considered anything but standard.
Szöllősi’s Olaszrizling 2007 Selection Melegeshegy is named for the Melegeshegy plot where the grapes grow, which Mr Szöllősi considers the best terroir in the region. The wine, dry and rich with a nose of sweet flowers, is made with 4% botrytised grapes. He tells us that it could keep for at least another 6 to 7 years.
About half of Szöllősi’s wines are sold abroad—Barsca says that as of late 2012, this includes in China and Japan, as well as in various European countries. The estate has also supplied wines for airlines, including Lufthansa and the now-defunct Malév.
Neszmély Szöllősi Winery was named winery of the year 2009 by the Hungarian Wine Academy, and Mihály Szöllősi has six times been named winemaker of the year.
Szöllősi Pincészet – Neszmély
2544 Neszmély, Kásáshegyalja út 6
Tel./Fax: +36-34/4512 54
For an overview of the Hungarian wine industry of today, see Cave Hopping In Hungary, From Past To Present.