Szászi Cellar, Nyári Cellar and countless smaller cellars – all of them are connected to St. George’s Hill, more specifically Hegymagas. Backpackers visit this teeny-weeny village by Lake Balaton primarily for the wine, but the natural wonders of the area are just as alluring as a glass of rosé.
A small village with great winemakers – the secrets of Hegymagas
Accommodation in the Balaton Uplands National Park?
Mayor Barbara Sallee-Kereszturi is understandably biased when it comes to Hegymagas, which becomes apparent when she takes us on a tour, showing us every corner of this 300-strong village. The oldest township in the Balaton Uplands, Hegymagas is surrounded by a two-thousand-year-old cultural landscape, which is part of the Balaton Uplands National Park, explaining why it is so popular among backpackers.
Tending the surroundings of their houses is an integral part of the everyday lives of Hegymagas “natives”. “Luckily, holiday home owners that move into the area are aware how important this is. When a tourist comes here, their first impression will be how tidy everything is. If they post one of their photos of the village online, perhaps other potential tourists will take note of the beauty of Hegymagas.”
Backpacking through vineyards
Apart from the great hiking opportunities and spectacular natural attractions, such as the basalt columns close by, wine is what draws the most tourists to Hegymagas. Wine cellars of various sizes line the hillside, where 47 kinds of grapes are grown due to the exceptional microclimate. The Szászi estate, which includes a guesthouse, a wine tasting terrace and the family home, stands out even among the most prominent wineries. You can spend hours here, sitting with a glass of wine or two and admiring Lake Balaton as it peeks through in the distance like a coy mistress.
The wine tastings, with selections containing five, seven or ten varieties, are complemented with cold cuts platters and a couple of stories about the Szászi family, who lead their everyday lives on the estate. There is a wide range of wines: you should not miss the Badacsony Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé from 2013 and the Badacsony Welschriesling, even if you are trying to save some energy for visiting other cellars as well. Szászi wines make great gifts, with the elaborate wine labels being a testament to the imagination and skill of Endre Szászi’s wife.
Nyári Cellar is not far off from Szászi Cellar, and it is worth a visit, too. Their various wines win prizes at local and national wine contests every year. The traditional wine sorts of the cellar include Welschriesling, Chardonnay and Szürkebarát, but in the past few years they have also started cultivating Cserszegi fűszeres, Rheinriesling, Kéknyelű and Pinot gris.
If you are open to experimenting with small, lesser-known local wine cellars, you should definitely come in the spring for the St. George’s Day celebrations, when all the big and small wineries of the region put their vintages on display.
Hegymagas has also made a conscious effort to promote art. The last weekend in July has been reserved for JAZZmagas Festival for four years straight: everything is about good wine and jazz this time of year. While nearby Szigliget is the haunt of writers, the artists’ colony located among the Hegymagas vine rows is the summer meeting place of painters. Ghymes Festival, traditionally taking place at the first weekend in July, attracts thousands to Hegymagas every year.