BENCZE, estate winery on the north shore of the Lake Balaton (Badacsony) region in Hungary. It was founded in 2011 when IT expert István Bencze moved here in search of a change of lifestyle.

VINEYARDS | 18 hectares of vines divided into three distinct vineyards, all of which are situated on the south side of zent György-hegy (Saint George Hill). In 2017 there were 10 hectares of Pinot Noir, 7 hectares of Riesling and one hectare of other varieties including Chenin Blanc. 

VINEYARDS

MÁSFÉL VINEYARD | This surrounds the estate’s guesthouses. “Másfél” used to be lot of small plots, which the owners turned into a single one of 1.5 hectares (3.7 acres). Its lowest point is at 141 metres, its highest is at 170 metres, giving a slope of 12-15%. The soil is mostly clay, loes and some brown earth with reddish hues high in iron. The highest part of this vineyard has basalt stones, with huge pieces of rocks, and at a depth of 1.5 metres (5 feet) sandstone can be found. The small plots used to contain a mix mixed of grapes varieties, but mostly Olaszrizling. The owners harvested the vines for two vintages but decided to make the plot uniform, replanting it in 2014 with Chenin Blanc and Rózsakő, a crossing developed in 1975 in nearby Badacsony.

KILENCÉSFÉL VINEYARD | This lies on the lower slopes and is the estate’s biggest contiguous vineyard with almost 10 hectares (24,7 acres) of vines. The majority of “Kilencésfél” was planted in 1999, with additional plantings in 2002, situated at 118 to 136 meters altitude. This vineyard is enclosed by two small slopes, on top of them the soil full of basalt stones, on the lower parts it is a mix of clay, loess, sand and brown earth. Grape varieties: Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Piros bakator and Kék bakator. The last two are ancient Hungarian varieties.

HÉTÉSFÉL VINEYARD | This comprises 7 hectares (17.3 acres) and is situated close to Lengyel-kápolna, a chapel which is the symbol of the Szent György-hegy (Saint George Hill). This is Bencze’s most interesting plot and potentially it most qualitative. Hétésfél lies at 180 metres (600 feet) altitude. The soil is full of basalt stones and huge rocks which makes tractor work complicated. In 2015 we started to replant the plot with Furmint, Hárslevelű, Riesling and Kéknyelű. About 2.5 hectares (6.2 acres) of existing Riesling planted around 1974 were retained 40-year-old. The owners believe that in time this vineyard will make our best wines.

BIODYNAMIC CERTIFICATION | 2014 Conversion to organics began. | 2016 Conversion to full Demeter Biodynamic certification began. | 2017 First vintage with full organic certification. | 2018 First vintage with full Demeter certification. 

SPARKLING WINES

ROSÉ BRUT, GEMINI | Pinot Noir. Zero dosage.

WHITE WINES

RIESLING, RAJNAI | The site is a slope below a small chapel (called ‘Lengyel-kápolna’) on Szent György-hegy (Saint George Hill). | 2013 Debut vintage. Fermented in stainless steel and oak barrels. Part barrel-aged. Salty, light spice, really good (tasted during my ‘Biodynamic Pioneers’ masterclass (VINCE 2018).

ARIES RIESLING | From the Hétésfél vineyard. | 2015 Riesling. 13%. No botrytis, therefore no sulfur dioxide addition pre-fermentation. Whole bunch pressed. Fermented in stainless steel. Aged in a variety of amphoras, including some made of sandstone. Bottled November 2016. Some sulfur dioxide added after fermentation and before bottling. 80ppm total SO2. Clean, creamy, slight blur Vrsac, Serbia at the annual conference of Serbia’s Association for Biodynamic Agriculture 09th December 2017.

ROZSAKO | Made from the Rozsako grape which is a crossing of Budai Zöld and Keknylu. Whole bunch pressed. Sulfites added at bottling. Clean, light, well focussed off dry white at the Real Wine Fair May 2017.

VENUS | 2015 13.5% + 2.7g/l residual sugar. 80ppm sulfites. Riesling from the Hétésfél vineyard but in contrast to ‘Aries’ above this has Botrytis. De-stemmed, then pressed and the juice was macerated on skins overnight. Fermented in stainless steel, aged in 500-litre barrels and terracotta amphora (various sizes). Showed very nice grip, vibrancy at the annual conference of Serbia’s Association for Biodynamic Agriculture 09th December 2017.

VIRGO | 2014 12%. 6g/l RS. A Pinot Noir vinified as a white wine. Picked 23 & 24 September, and 01 October 2014. Some whole clusters were pressed as for white wine with the juice being racked into oak barrels. The other part was destemmed before pressing, and its juice was racked into a mix of steel tanks and barrels. After spontaneous fermentation the wine stayed on lees for 3 months.

RED WINES

PINOT NOIR | 2015 13%. Destemmed. Fermented in both stainless steel and upturned 500-litre oak barrels with one end knocked out. Further oak aging for a small part of the blend for 5 months.

PIROS BAKATOR | Fluidy, sappy, nice clean natural wine at the Real Wine Fair May 2017.

ACCOMMODATION

Guesthouses in a “modern-rustic” style.

CONTACT

Bencze Csaladí Birtok, Szent György-hegy, Hegymagas, 1045/18, Hungary | www.benczebirtok.hu

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Real Wine Fair 2017, Tobacco Dock, London 7th May