This is the 2nd week of september and the grape harvest has already begun in Villany , the village which gave its name to one of the 20 wine regions of Hungary . The village, located
south of the country near the croatian border, has one main street along wich virtually all the houses are used to make and/or sell wine . As elsewhere in Hungary, you don't just walk in one of the many family estates along the street and taste the wine for free : you will pay a fee for each (full) glass that you choose , starting at 100 Forints (0,44 Euro) and up depending of the wine . Unlike many villages in the country, Villany's main street houses have been recently repainted, it has neat sidewalks and its wine-tourism prosperity is visible at first glance .
Never take only one pair of shoes when travelling far away . I was ruining my shoes walking in the greasy mud along the vineyard rows to get near the group of harvesters I spotted at the foot of the hill . My feet were spongy but that is a scene no wine lover wants to miss , and the people there were friendly . As I was looking to this family harvest and took a few pics ,
the man in charge greeted me with a glass of last year's wine and we took shelter from the rain while exchanging a few words in german . He said that this year was awful for the weather conditions , with lots of excess in rainfall . This was the weekend and younger people, probably their children, had come to help the older generation in the harvest . I thought I had taken note of the grape variety here , but can't find anything about it . I think this is probaly a Hungarikum variety , like Kekfrankos or Kekporto . Hungarikum varieties are authentic indigenous varieties that you will not find anywhere but in Hungary . There are quite a few of them, white and red, like also Furmint, Kadarka, Harslevelu, Keknyelu...
As I drove back to the village later in the day and walked down the street, I had the surprise to see the same man who offered me a glass in the vineyard, he was shovelling the grapes to the crusher along a house on main street, and he showed me how he stirred the lees in the open barrel . He served me another glass as I looked on the wide-open trap leading to his seemingly deep and cold cellar . The vinification is very simple , no use of advanced technology here, just basic traditional wine-making .
Some wine regions of Hungary are disconcerting at the first glance : Several of them are located on the plain, in a monotonous landscape of fields and bleak grey villages composed of one story houses wich make you think you are still in the socialist era . The ground seems as muddy and greasy as in ordinary farmland . But deep under , the loess in which the cellars are dug provide special qualities to this soil in which the vines grow . I guess the Hungarikum grape varieties they use have also adapted to this soil and the local conditions .
The Hajos and the Kunsag regions are two such regions where the vineyards can seem out of place when you are used to see poor , stony soils which make the vines suffer . Yet, they have an old tradition in wine making , even if we are dealing here with everyday wines . During the socialist era, viticulture was mostly in the plains , where the "kombinatts", some sort of kholkozes here, could work easier with a high yield philosophy for a mass scale wine production to the Soviet Union and the other Comecon countries . Still, I guess local people were allowed to keep their individual vineyard and so never lost the tradition of winemaking . I took this picture in the Hajos district, this was on sunday, this man and his family had harvested the previous day and he was quietly pressing his grapes in his house . You can see the small crusher in the front of the house . As always in hungary, you can reach the cellar through a trap door in the chai-room
. I took this second picture as he was pressing manually his grapes , collecting the precious juice in a plastic jug . Here again we communicated in german . In such occasion you really experience that making wine in Hungary is both very widespread, and often very artisanal . This makes good potentialities for quality .