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Sitting on your uncle's porch - wines of Balaton from Tihany to Balatonfőkajár

Do you want to have an uncle near Balaton to sit down with him from time to time? He would pour a glass of wine and tell you about his sailboat and recent news and share pieces of funny local gossip with you. He exists and awaits you on the North Shore of Balaton, on the terraces of the wineries between Tihany and Balatonfőkajár. Let's see the map.

Hungary has six different wine regions and Balaton is one of them. The Balaton wine region in turn also consists of six sub-regions. It used to be one big area a few hundred years ago, but nowadays it is the most divided region in Hungary - however it's not obvious at all, when you're wandering around Balaton. The Tihany - Veszprém - Balatonfőkajár triangle is located in the Balatonfüred - Csopak wine (sub)region. This north-eastern corner of the Balaton is close to the capital, so it draws in impatient Budapestians exactly like the sirens did with the crew of Odysseus. Hearing its tempting song after a busy working week, the tired city-dwellers hit the motorway rightaway, then leave their car behind as soon as they can.

Stopping here is quite reasonable if we look at this region's wine offer. The Balatonfüred - Csopak wine (sub)region's 6000 acres from Zánka to Balatonfőkajár contains prime and excellent vineyards mostly. The ground contains red sandstone, marl and dolomite on these hills which are often labelled as mountains among Hungarians despite the fact that they should grow a bit more to be able to compete with Mont Blanc. Even the Romans knew about this land's gift: they drank wine from the silverware of the legendary Sevso hoard, found somewhere in this region. The Christian Church recognized the possibilities too, since the priests needed fine altar wine for the masses. No wonder that the Bishop of Veszprém and the Tihanyi Apátság were already active here 1000 years ago. János Ranolder was one of these bishops, but his name has not become well known due to his unique sermons. Still, his name has become a part of history, because streets and wines still hold Ranolder's name on Balaton's Northern Shore.

The bishop's legacy: a white and a red cuvée from the Jásdi wines, named after János Ranolder. Photo: Krisztina Bordács - We Love Balaton If it wouldn't be enough, Balatonfüred was acknowledged as an 'International City of Grape and Wine' in 1987. The wine makers of Csopak created Csopaki Borkódex (Csopak's Wine Code) in order to maintain their wines' quality. The regulations are so tight though, sometimes even their wines are unable to follow their rules. Balatonfüred is the land of full, complex, heavy wines and accordingly rich, tasty food. Towards Csopak the light-bodied rieslings take the field with similar dishes. Choosing Olaszrizling (welschriesling), rajnai rizling (riesling), rizlingszilváni (Müller-Thurgau) in the cool of the wine cellars could all work out just fine, but we recommend the tramini (gewürztraminer), the sauvignon blanc and the zweigelt as well.

Béla and Bandi, Jásdi, Tamás, Figula, Feind - if you're a fan of Hungarian wines these names will be quite familiar, no matter where you come from. They are always here waiting for visitors. The party is always good at István Jásdi's terrace in Csopak, even at the time of siesta. The view is gorgeous, the wines are perfect and your host is the kind of person who will never bore you. He has tons of stories about wine makers, vineyards, Balaton, and sailing. Don't be surprised if he suddenly breaks out in a song. Sometimes he does that. He is like a rarely seen uncle who fills you up with a huge dose of stories, information and good wine every time you see him. On special occasions, his son Attila cooks a brilliant menu - according to those lucky ones who have already tasted it.

Tamás Pince is right next to Jásdi Borterasz. This winery produces mostly rieslings as well, but they specialize in organic farming and ferment their wine in wooden barrels. You can run into Tamás pince's other specialty in many restaurants around Balaton: the fruit syrups. Figula Családi Pincészet has many vineyards, (Balatonfüred, Balatonszőlős, Pécsely, Csopak and Tihany), but their wine cellar is found on Balatonfüred's Meleghegy, in the middle of the area. An ancient mug was found somewhere around here with the Latin saying on it, 'Da bibere.' Fortunately, the Figula family hold sit as a ground rule, because it means: 'Give me a drink.' Mihály Figula, who made the family's wine famous, passed away a few years ago. His wife and his two sons Mihály and János are taking care of the business and the father's legacy too. You can taste Figula's wine in their cellar, or in the recently opened Figula borbár on the promenade in Balatonfüred. Béla Fodor and Bandi Fodor are famous for their tractor, and you'll find them on Gella, Száka, Hajagos, Málnás or Baricska-dűlő in Balatonszőlős or Balatonfüred. It won't be difficult to find them, just follow the sound of the tractor, because they love to ride it - they even have it on the label of their wines. It may sound a bit strange, but Balatonfőkajár is not exactly part of Balaton, but its wines belong to the family of the wines of Balaton.

The Feind family, Lajos Feind and his son Peter are the local big guns when it comes to wine making. The two Feinds offer popular rosé and premium goods as well in their shop located in the centre of Balatonfőjakár. The original "Feind-feeling" is on their wine's label: grapes, leaves, waves, sun. We don't want to forget about Szent Donát Pince either: this winery was named after the patron saint of Csopak's wine makers. They not only produce wine here, the owners also founded an art project, called terroArt. First-class wines, vineyards, grapes and art result in a combination which is always worth a try. Szent Donát has a renowned restaurant with exclusive cuisine and a covered terrace which offers an amazing panorama.

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